When it comes to democracy and elections in Wales, Bills are coming like buses! Just two weeks after the introduction of the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill the Welsh Government laid it’s Elections and Elected Bodies (Wales) Bill before the Senedd on Monday. These new proposals will make voting easier and remove barriers that we know many people face, bringing Welsh democracy into the 21st century.
Modernising voter registration
The Electoral Commission estimated that there are up to 400,000 people not correctly registered at their current address in Wales, and when surveyed, polling staff say that people turning up to vote and not being registered is by far the biggest problem they encounter in polling stations.
The bill contains provisions for trials of automatic voter registration, to remove this unnecessary hurdle between would-be voters and the ballot box. This move would bring Wales in line with leading democracies across the world who automatically register voters as a matter of course.
Improving information for voters
Another hurdle is access to information. We welcome provisions in the Bill to establish a new voter information platform – something that Democracy Group Cymru has long been calling for. The platform will host candidate statements, information on how to vote and explanations of the powers, roles and responsibilities of the Senedd and local government in Wales. 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.
Senedd and local governments that reflect the diversity of Wales
We were also pleased to see that the Bill commits to increasing the diversity amongst candidates standing for Welsh elections, to ensure our elected bodies reflect the diversity of Wales. This includes reducing the barriers faced by candidates with disabilities through the continuation of the Access to Elected Office fund’s financial assistance programme, and a commitment to addressing the barriers faced by people with other protected characteristics through either services or financial assistance, ensuring a flexible approach that focuses on overcoming specific barriers rather than a broad one-size-fits-all solution.
Elections are changing in Wales
Elections in 2026 and 2027, which will be the Senedd and local elections for Wales respectively, will look very different to previous years. This modernisation is very welcome but central to these plans should be how the government communicates them to voters. It is vital that the Welsh Government engages us all on this new way of working for Welsh democracy.
As Wales moves forward with reducing barriers to voting, Westminster should follow suit and adopt these ideas across the UK.
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