Votes at 16 and Assembly name change reforms should be ‘just the start’

Posted on the 19th July 2018

Electoral Reform Society Cymru encouraged by proposed legislation, but warn other reforms must not be abandoned.

  • Statement from Electoral Reform Society Cymru in response to the Welsh Assembly Commission’s announcement on electoral reform.
  • Spokespeople are available for interview or further comment. Contact [email protected] or 07773 555 390.

A proposed law which would allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in Welsh Assembly elections has been welcomed by Electoral Reform Society (ERS) Cymru.

The campaigners have long argued for an extension of the franchise and it featured among the recommendations of the Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform. [1]

The proposed law would also see the Welsh Assembly renamed as the Welsh Parliament.

But it does not include several other of the Expert Panel’s recommendations including an increase in the number of AMs, to ensure the Assembly has sufficient capacity, and a new electoral system.

These reforms would be considered in a ‘second phase’ with further discussions to take place, according to the National Assembly for Wales Commission.

The key findings of the consultation on the Expert Panel’s recommendations have also been released today. [2]

Of the total responses to each question:

  • 59% (910 of 1,530) said the minimum voting age for Assembly elections should be 16.
  • 56% (1,030 of 1,830) said there should be more AMs. Of these 95% (980) said the total number of AMs should be between 80-90.
  • 54% (720 of 1,330) stated the Single Transferable Vote as the most appropriate system for electing AMs (of three options).

Jess Blair, ERS Cymru Director, said:

“16 and 17-year-olds have long sought fair representation in Wales and therefore we are delighted to see this legislation being brought forward.

“The current generation of school leavers are more clued up than ever and it is right to make this change now while working to enhance political education taught in our classrooms.

“It also complements the work being done to give this group a vote in council elections from 2022.

“This bill, however, must not be the end of democratic reforms in Wales but a springboard for further change.

“The Expert Panel’s recommendations on the size of the assembly and voting system changes, as well as recommendations on how to achieve better diversity, must not be kicked into the long grass.

“Increasing the number of AMs is long overdue and is vital to ensuring our elected politicians can properly manage their expanding workload.

“Meanwhile a more proportional voting system is needed to ensure the Assembly properly reflects the will of the people.

“It is great to see from the consultation findings that there is public support for electoral reforms.

“These are issues that whoever replaces Carwyn Jones as First Minister must not shy away from – the future of Wales is at stake.

“The next First Minister must be able to articulate the benefits of a better functioning Assembly for all citizens and tackle the challenges facing Welsh democracy head-on.

“In the meantime we call on politicians from all parties to engage in debate around all aspects of electoral reform to ensure this unique opportunity for change is not wasted.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

[1]http://www.assembly.wales/en/abthome/about_us-commission_assembly_administration/panel-elec-reform/Pages/Assembly-Electoral-Reform.aspx

[2]http://www.assembly.wales/en/abthome/role-of-assembly-how-it-works/Documents/Parliament%20for%20Wales%20summary.pdf

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