Campaigners call for clarity on whether May elections will go ahead
The Electoral Reform Society has called on governments to provide urgent clarity to voters and electoral administrators on the plans for May’s devolved and local elections.
Responsibility for elections is devolved to Wales and Scotland but it is thought more likely that the Welsh and Scottish parliament elections will be delayed if the English local elections are also moved to summer or autumn.
Some MPs in England have already said that delaying elections there is ‘almost certain’ but the official UK Government perspective is that they will go ahead there.
The UK Labour Party have already called for the UK Government to ensure May’s polls are covid-secure and safe for both voters and electoral administrators. However, in Wales they have drawn up plans that would allow the vote to be delayed by up to six months.
“The government needs to provide urgent clarity to voters and electoral administrators on the May elections,” Dr Jessica Garland, Director Policy and Research, Electoral Reform Society said.
“The public deserve openness and transparency over how any decision over a delay will be made. The current stream of confusing reports damages planning and public trust in the process.
“Ministers should set out plans for ensuring democracy can take place safely and securely and make clear when and how any decision over another delay will be made.”
Dr Jessica Garland said that authorities in Scotland and Wales had set out clear contingency plans, allowing debate and scrutiny about how the elections can happen safely, and how a delay might work.
“We should expect the same respect for voters in England,” she said.
“Elections are not a ‘nice to have’, they are fundamental to democracy and must be properly managed. It’s vital that electoral administrators are properly resourced.
“Over 100 elections have taken place worldwide since the pandemic began, including by-elections in Scotland. With the vaccine now being rolled-out, we should be doing everything we can to make sure elections take place fairly and safely.”
May’s elections, which include delayed elections from 2020, will see a bumper set of votes with elections due to be held for the Senedd, the Scottish Parliament, English councils, police and crime commissioners, the London mayor, the London Assembly, as well as regional mayors and local mayors in England.
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