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Call for major push to bring in ‘missing voters’ a week before Senedd election registration deadline

12 Apr 2021 3 minute read
Voting in Wales

Campaigners have called for a major push to bring in “missing” voters just a week before the 19th April election registration deadline.

Wales goes to the polls on 6 May in elections to choose the next Welsh Parliament as well as Police Crime Commissioners. Anyone over the age of 16 can register to vote in the former here.

Scotland will also see Scottish Parliament elections and there will be local elections all over England, as well as a Westminster by-election in Hartlepool.

But a “huge swathe” of the population is potentially being locked out of this May’s election due to a fragmented and outdated system, the Electoral Reform Society has warned.

Their analysis shows that areas with a high concentration of certain demographics – students, private renters, young adults, and some ethnic minority groups – are particularly in danger of having low registration numbers.

Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research at the Electoral Reform Society, said: “With just a week to go until the registration deadline, we need a massive push from public bodies and civil society to ensure everyone is signed up and able to exercise their right to vote on May 6th.

“Unfortunately, millions are likely to remain off the register, with many believing they were already signed up, or simply missing communications about the deadline. People often assume – quite fairly – that you shouldn’t have to opt in to your right to vote.”

‘Public good’

The ERS is calling for a package of measures to bring the UK’s “missing millions” into the fold, and update the “creaking, outdated” system. Recommendations include:

  • Allowing voters to check whether they are registered to vote online
  • Registering voters automatically or when engaging with public bodies
  • Trialling same-day registration so you can sign up on election day. The heat of an election campaign is when people get most interested in politics
  • Drawing boundaries on the basis of the total population of eligible voters – rather than just those who are already signed up

They are also calling for the UK Government to scrap plans to impose mandatory voter ID at Westminster elections, which could lock even more people out of democracy.

Arrangements for Senedd and local elections in Wales are decided by the Welsh Government and Welsh Parliament.

“Voting is a public good, and we need to pull out all the stops to ensure the system is fit for purpose,” Jess Garland said.

“Many countries automatically register voters alongside other government services. We should do the same. It’s a scandal that nine million people are missing from the roll – and it hits young people, renters and some BAME groups particularly hard.

“We need a major voting rights effort. Instead, the government seems intent on imposing mandatory voter ID, a costly policy that will exclude millions more still who lack ID. It would be a hammer blow to political equality, and ministers should think again.”

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