CORRUPT PRACTICES, a term used in English election law, as defined by the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act 1883, to include bribery, treating, undue influence, personation, and aiding, abetting, counselling and procuring personation. Bribery and corruption at elections have been the subject of much legislation, statutes for their prevention have been passed in 1729, 1809, 1827, 1842, 1854, 1868 and 1883.
By the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act 1883 (which incorporated the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act 1854, an act that repealed all former legislation) the following persons are to be deemed guilty of bribery: -
1. Every person who shall directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf, give, lend, etc., or offer, promise, or promise to procure, etc., any money or valuable consideration to or for any voter or any other person in order to induce any voter to vote or refrain from voting, or shall corruptly do any such act on account of such voter having voted or refrained from voting at any election.
2. Every person who shall similarly give or procure or promise, etc., any office, place or employment to or for any voter or other person in order to induce him to vote, etc.
3. Every person who shall make any gift, loan, promise, etc., as aforesaid to any person to induce such person to procure the return of any person to serve in parliament or the vote of any voter.
4. Every person who shall, in consequence of such gift, procure or engage, promise or endeavour to procure the return of any person or the vote of any voter.
6. Every person who before or during an election shall receive or contract for any money, etc., for voting, or refraining, or agreeing to vote or to refrain from voting.
7. Every person who, after the election, receives money, etc., on account of any person having voted or refrained, etc.
Treating. - Any person who corruptly by himself or by any other person either before, during or after an election, directly or indirectly gives or provides, or pays wholly or in part the expense of giving or providing any meat, drink or entertainment, or provision to or for any person in order to be elected, or for being elected, or for the purpose of corruptly influencing such person to give or refrain from giving his vote at an election, etc., shall be deemed guilty of treating, and every elector corruptly accepting such meat, drink, etc., shall also be guilty of treating.
Undue Influence. - Every person who shall directly or indirectly make use of or threaten to make use of any force, violence, etc., or inflict or threaten to inflict any temporal or spiritual injury, etc., upon any person to induce or compel such person to vote or refrain from voting, or who shall by abduction, duress, or any fraudulent device or contrivance impede or prevent the exercise of the franchise of any elector, or shall thereby compel, induce, etc., any elector to give or refrain from giving his vote, shall be guilty of undue influence.
Illegal, as distinguished from "corrupt," practices are certain acts and omissions in regard to an election which are now prohibited, whether done or omitted, honestly or dishonestly. They may be classified under the following heads: - (1) Acts which are illegal practices by whomsoever committed. These are as follows: Payment or receipt or contracts to pay or receive money for conveyance of voters to or from the poll, on account of any committee room beyond the number allowed by the act, or to an elector for use of house or land to exhibit addresses, etc., or for exhibition by him (otherwise than in the ordinary course of his business of advertising agent) of such addresses, etc.; payment of election expenses otherwise than by or through the election agent, and payment otherwise than to a candidate or election agent of money provided by any other person for election expenses; voting or procuring to vote of any person prohibited from voting, if the person offending knows of the prohibition; knowingly publishing a false statement that a candidate has withdrawn, or publishing with a view to affect the return of a candidate a false statement as to his character or conduct. (2) Acts and omissions which are illegal practices in the case of candidates and agents only, being breaches of duties specially imposed on them. These are the payment or incurring expenses in excess of the maximum authorized by the legislature, the omitting without lawful excuse to make a return and declaration of expenses in due time, and the payment by an election agent of any election expense amounting to 40s. not vouched by bill of particulars and receipt, of any claim for expenses not sent in in due time, or of any such claim after the time allowed for payment thereof. (3) Acts which are illegal practices when done by a candidate or agent, and are a minor offence when done by any one else. These are illegal payments, employment and hiring, and printing, publishing or posting a bill, placard or poster not bearing on its face the name of the printer or publisher. Illegal payments are knowingly providing money for prohibited payments or expenses in excess of the maximum, corruptly inducing a candidate to withdraw by payment or promise of payment (the candidate so induced being guilty of the like offence), paying or agreeing to pay for torches, flags, banners, cockades, ribbons and other marks of distinction (the receiver being guilty of the like offence if he is aware of the illegality). Illegal employment is the employment for payment or promise of payment of persons beyond the number allowed by the legislature or for purposes not authorized. The employé is guilty of the like offence if he knows of the illegality. Illegal hiring is the letting or lending, or the employing, hiring, borrowing or using to carry voters to the poll of stage, or hackney carriages, or horses, or of carriages or horses ordinarily let for hire, and the hiring of committee rooms in premises licensed for the sale of intoxicants, in a club (not being a permanent political club) where intoxicants are sold, in premises where refreshments are ordinarily sold, or in a public elementary school in receipt of a parliamentary grant. Personation and aiding, abetting, etc., of personation are felonies punishable with two years' imprisonment with hard labour. All other corrupt practices are indictable misdemeanours (in Scotland, crimes and offences) punishable with one year's imprisonment, with or without hard labour, or a fine not exceeding £200. Conviction of any corrupt practice also renders the offender incapable for seven years of being registered as an elector, or voting at any election, parliamentary or other, in the United Kingdom, or of holding any public or judicial office, or of being elected to or sitting in the House of Commons; and any such office or seat held by him at the time is vacated. In the case of a parliamentary candidate, if an election court finds that there has been treating or undue influence by him, or any other corrupt practice with his knowledge or consent, he becomes incapable of ever being elected for the same constituency, and incurs the like incapacities as if he had been convicted on indictment; if it is found by the election court that he has been guilty by his agents of a corrupt practice, he becomes incapable for seven years of being elected for the same constituency. Illegal practices are offences punishable on summary conviction with a fine not exceeding £100, and with five years' incapacity for being registered or voting as a parliamentary elector, or an elector to public office within the county or borough where the offence was committed. Illegal payments, employment and hiring, and printing and publishing of bills, etc., not bearing the printer's or publisher's name, are, when committed by any one who is not a candidate or agent, offences punishable on summary conviction with a fine not exceeding £100, but carry with them no incapacities. Where an election court finds that any illegal practice has been committed with the knowledge or consent of a parliamentary candidate, he becomes incapable for seven years of being elected to or sitting in the House of Commons for the same constituency. He incurs the like incapacity, limited to the duration of the parliament for which the election was held, if the election court finds that he was guilty by his agents of an illegal practice. A prosecution for any of the above offences cannot be instituted more than a year after the offence was committed, unless an inquiry by election commissioners takes place, in which case it may be instituted at any time within two years from the commission of the offence, not being more than three months after the date of the commissioners' report.
The law as to corrupt and illegal practices, as above stated, applies equally to parliamentary, municipal, county and parish council elections. Incapacities corresponding to those incurred by parliamentary candidates found guilty by an election court are incurred by municipal and other candidates in the like case, e.g. a municipal candidate found personally guilty of a corrupt practice is incapacitated forever, and a candidate found guilty by his agents is incapacitated for three years from holding corporate office in the borough.
See Rogers, On Elections, 3 vols.; Fraser, Law of Parliamentary Elections.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)