Plans to ensure the people of Wales can vote safely at the 2021 Senedd elections, and that they take place as planned on 6 May 2021, have been set out by the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford today.
The 2021 Senedd elections are already set to be historic – they are the first elections to be subject to laws made in Wales, and for the first time, 16 and 17 year olds, as well as qualifying foreign citizens, will have the democratic right to vote.
However, the Coronavirus pandemic has created significant challenges to maintaining the safety and integrity of the election.
The First Minister established the Elections Planning Group in June to consider the impact of Coronavirus and in particular, what legislative adjustments might need to be made as a result.
The group has agreed on a number of measures to increase flexibility and resilience of election operations, reflecting public health advice on how best to protect the safety and wellbeing of all involved.
- Measures to encourage vulnerable voters and others to consider applying for a postal vote and to apply early if possible;
- To provide greater flexibility around the nomination of candidates, as well as postal and proxy voting;
- Measures to ensure the safe operation of polling stations and count venues. The Welsh Government will do everything that it is appropriate to support Returning Officers to make the necessary arrangements;
- Ensuring Coronavirus regulations do not inhibit voting.
In addition, the Welsh Government is making contingency plans in the event that the Coronavirus pandemic presents such a serious threat to public health that it is not safe to hold the election in May next year.
Preparations are underway for a draft Bill to enable the Llywydd, the Senedd’s Presiding Officer, to postpone the election for up to six months, if that becomes necessary. This would enable Ministers to introduce the required legislation before the Senedd in January, if the situation after Christmas indicates that this is likely to be needed as a last resort.
Addressing the Senedd, First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Let me take this opportunity to once again state that this Government’s clear intention is that the next Senedd election should be held on 6 May 2021. We are also determined to do everything in our power to ensure people can vote when the election takes place.
“I believe we must pursue every option for enabling people to exercise their democratic right in the face of Coronavirus.
“Much communications activity is planned to encourage postal voting, and everything will be done to make polling stations covid secure.”
The First Minister added: “I would like to thank the members of the Elections Planning Group for their work to help us prepare for next year’s Senedd elections.
“This has been a remarkable year and a remarkable Fifth Senedd. Let us work together to ensure that the people of Wales, including those newly enfranchised, can exercise their democratic right safely.”