Senedd elections could be delayed for six months if COVID-19 poses a serious threat to voters
Plans are under way to create a draft Bill which will allow next May’s Welsh Parliamentary election to be delayed by up to six months if the COVID-19 poses a serious threat to voters.
First Minister Mark Drakeford has outlined plans to ensure that the people of Wales can vote safely in the 2021 Senedd election which are planned on 6 May 2021.
The elections will be the first elections to be held under laws made in Wales, and for the first time there will be 16 and 17 year olds, as well as foreign nationals having the democratic right to vote.
But the coronavirus pandemic has created significant challenges in ensuring the security and integrity of the election.
The First Minister established the Elections Planning Group in June to consider the impact of the coronavirus and, in particular, what legislative adjustments might be required as a result.
The group has agreed a number of measures to improve the flexibility and robustness of electoral operations, reflecting public health advice on how best to ensure the safety and welfare of all participants.
- Measures to encourage vulnerable voters and others to consider applying for a postal vote and to apply early where possible;
- Providing greater flexibility in nominating candidates, as well as in postal and proxy voting;
- Measures to ensure the safe operation of polling stations and count locations. The Welsh Government will do whatever is appropriate to help Returning Officers make the necessary arrangements;
- Ensure that the coronavirus regulations do not hinder voting.
The Welsh Government is also making contingency plans, in case the coronary virus pandemic poses such a serious threat to public health that it is not safe to hold the election in May next year.
Preparations are underway to create a draft Bill that will allow the President of Parliament to adjourn the election for up to six months if necessary.
That would enable Ministers to lay the required legislation before Parliament in January, should the post-Christmas situation suggest that this is likely to be necessary as a last resort.
Addressing the Senedd, Prime Minister Mark Drakeford said:
“I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that the Government’s clear intention is that the Parliamentary election should take place on 6 May next year. We are also determined to do everything we can to ensure that people can vote when the election is held.
“I think we have to look at all options to enable people to exercise their democratic right against the coronavirus.
“A lot of communications work is planned to encourage people to vote by post, and to emphasize that polling stations will be safe for Covid.”
The First Minister added:
“I would like to thank again the members of the Elections Planning Group for their work in helping us prepare for next year’s Parliamentary elections.
“This year has been a remarkable year, and this has been a remarkable Fifth Parliament. Let us now work together to make sure that the people of Wales, including those who have just got the right to vote, can safely use their democratic right. ”