Kudos to the Deputy Governor’s Office for launching a draft code of conduct for elections.

As the campaign season looms, we hope that the document will be finalised and put into effect as soon as possible.

The code, after all, has been a long time in coming: The elections supervisor has been recommending one for more than a decade.

She is absolutely right to do so. Previous campaigns have too often descended into the gutter, with candidates choosing mudslinging, ridiculous promises, slander and other disreputable tactics over productive dialogue designed to clearly communicate their plans.

To our reading, the draft code is a fairly sound document that should help bring needed reforms. It rightly prohibits practices like discrimination, defamation and others, as well as more serious offences like bribery.

By setting such guidelines, the code aims to promote a “climate of tolerance in which electioneering activity may take place without fear or coercion, intimidation or reprisals.”

Those are lofty and important goals.

However, we would caution about one point. The current draft notes that the existing Elections Act “outlines penalties for certain illegal practices at elections,” adding, “It has been suggested that penalties be included for non-compliance to the code.”

We’re not sure what this passage means exactly, but we would caution against any attempt to criminalise code violations.

While some practices it bans are already illegal — such as vote-buying and the like — other stipulations are essentially unenforceable.

How, for example, would prosecutors determine whether a candidate had violated the code’s requirements to “be truthful about the past and present socio-economic state” of the territory, or to “avoid raising unfulfillable expectations and making unrealistic promises”?

Those goals are certainly important, but they are far too subjective to be enforced with any sort of legal penalty.

Instead, candidates could be required to agree to the code, and a body could be established to probe alleged breaches and issue a public censure if needed. Voters will know what to do from there.

In the coming days, we hope that election candidates, political operatives and other residents will thoroughly review the draft and weigh in with their opinions by the Nov. 12 deadline. After that, the code should be included as promised in a schedule in the amended Elections Act 2018 as soon as possible.

The code is certainly not a panacea, but it is a big step in the right direction.