Challenging election results in the courts has recently had a higher profile in the United States, as seen in the many unsuccessful challenges to election results Donald Trump issued in the wake of his defeat at the polls by Joe Biden.
However, the UK legal system has a long history of scrutinising election results, and there is a wide body of jurisprudence that has accrued as a result. Elections in the UK are challenged using the mechanism of an ‘election petition’, lodged within 21 days of an election by a requisite number of electors or defeated candidates.
An election petition can be used to seek a court-ordered recount where there was a close result and suspicions that the true tallies may tip the election in favour of the candidate announced as having been narrowly defeated. Petitions can also seek the annulment of an election on grounds that the victor was guilty of corrupt or illegal practices. The success of a petition of this kind can also result in the purported victor held responsible for such practices being prohibited from standing for office for a number of years.
This is an extremely niche legal mechanism which very few law firms in the country have any experience whatsoever in handling.
Major election law cases
Gerald Shamash has been involved in most of the major election law cases in the past twenty years including: Fiona Jones MP (1999) Ahmed v Kennedy (2003), Knight v Nicholls (2004) and in the election petitions in Birmingham (2004), Slough (2008), Woking (2012), Oldham East (2013) and Peterborough (2018). He also acted in the landmark judicial review of the decision of the election court in Oldham East that re-stated the importance of freedom expression in the political sphere and in particular during elections. Gerald recently acted for then Labour MP Lisa Forbes, in the election petition brought by the Brexit Party candidate in respect of the Peterborough parliamentary by-election in June 2019. The petition was subsequently withdrawn.
If you or someone you know has contested, or is contesting, an election in which someone may have broken the law in relation to candidate conduct, please get in touch with our Parliamentary and Election Law team of specialists with decades of experiencing in representing candidates, agents and others in relation to allegations of breaching electoral law. Call 020 7803 3999 and ask for Gerald Shamash, Kevin Bonavia or Axel Landin.