New law will remove barriers for voters and candidates in Wales
Written by Gavin on 2nd October 2023
The Welsh Government have introduced a bill today which paves the way for automatic voter registration in future Welsh elections.
The Elections and Elected Bodies (Wales) Bill will modernise the way local government and Senedd elections are run and confirms the Welsh Government’s intention to introduce automatic registration across Wales for those elections once a piloting programme has been completed.
Local authorities will be invited to take part in a series of trials focusing on the best way to collect data, including using data that already exists, to support automatic registration.
Currently people must register in order to vote, but under the new proposals local government will be required to register people to the local government register without the need for an application. This will make voting simpler – especially for young people and for those who have moved to Wales from another country.
The new legislation will also require Ministers to establish a fund to help disabled people standing for Welsh elections in the future with additional costs (e.g. mobility equipment and communication software). This follows a successful pilot of such a fund trialled in the May 2021 Senedd and May 2022 local government elections.
Another requirement contained in the bill is for an online platform to be set up by the Welsh Ministers containing information about Welsh elections for voters. This will make sure information on elections and candidates is readily available for everyone.
Mick Antoniw, Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution, said:
“The reforms in this bill continue the significant progress we have made in strengthening Welsh democracy in recent years, including extending the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds and qualifying foreign nationals. Our ambition is for changes to be in place in time for the next major devolved and local elections in 2026 and 2027, bringing us another step closer towards achieving our long-term vision for electoral reform.
“Ultimately this is about making it as easy as possible for people to vote and participate in democracy. Our actions to remove barriers are in direct contrast with the UK Government, which has denied some voters their democratic right by requiring photo ID in recent English local elections.”
Jess Blair, Director of Electoral Reform Society Cymru, said:
“The legislation introduced by the Welsh Government today will bring democracy in Wales into the 21st century. It is welcome that Ministers are looking at how to make voting easier for people, removing barriers that we know many people face.
“The move to Automatic Voter Registration will remove a hurdle for newly enfranchised voters and we hope it will lead to more information sharing between services so voters no longer face the hassle of updating their details when they move house. This move brings Wales into line with leading democracies across the world who automatically register voters as a matter of course.
“We welcome provisions to establish a new voter information platform. Having a one stop shop where information on democracy in Wales will be available will make it easier for voters to access resources which currently sit in multiple places.”