Electoral Commission hires FH to run PA study

The Electoral Commission has appointed Fishburn Hedges to undertake a sweeping ‘public affairs scoping study’.

According to director of policy Nicole Smith, at the heart of the brief lies the tricky task of balancing the commission’s promotion of its modernisation agenda with its regulatory responsibilities.

It wants the Government to change the law to improve the way elections are run, while ensuring all political parties comply with rules for disclosing funding sources.

‘Parties need to tell us what money they spend and receive and yet we need to get them on side to back our changes,’ Smith said.

The commission is due to publish two reports this spring, proposing a new voting age and a minimum age at which one can stand for parliament. A report into the funding of political parties is due to follow in the summer. It is also pushing for the introduction of an electronic register and the standardisation of polling hours for all elections.

The study also tasks FH with assessing whether the commission needs longer term external PA aid – which could result in it recommending an extension to its own contract – as well as the need for a larger in-house team.

FH prevailed in a four-way pitch against Hill & Knowlton, Connect Public Affairs and Weber Shandwick GJW. FH director Martin Le Jeune is leading the account.

The brief excludes its ongoing voter awareness programmes, which are handled by several agencies on a regional basis.

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