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New figures suggest thousands of 16 and 17-years-olds missing from electoral roll ahead of the Senedd election

16 Apr 2021 3 minutes Read
A young person pondering their voting options.

Early registration figures for next month’s Senedd election have shown thousands of 16 and 17-year-olds are still not registered to vote – just days from the voter registration deadline.

Figures gathered by the Electoral Reform Society from six of Wales’ local authorities show a postcode lottery on voter registration, with an estimated 33% of 16 and 17-year-olds registered in Swansea compared with an estimated 65% in the Vale of Glamorgan.

With around 70,000 16 and 17-year-olds living in Wales and eligible to vote in the Senedd elections on 6th May, campaigners are urging young people to register to vote ahead of the deadline on Monday 19th April.

The Senedd election will be the first in Wales where 16 and 17-year-olds and foreign citizens resident in Wales will be able to vote. The deadline to register is Monday 19 April at 11:59pm.

Commenting on the figures Jess Blair, Director of ERS Cymru said: “The estimates appear to confirm fears that thousands of 16 and 17-year-olds are at risk of not having their say on 6th May.

“The Senedd elections represent a huge opportunity for young people to make their voices heard on a range of issues that affect their lives including education, health and the economy. The extension of the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds should be a historic moment for Wales, but to make that happen  16 and 17-year-olds need to register and turn out to vote.

“Everyone in Wales aged 16 and over should register and turn out to vote in a few weeks time.

“Local authorities need to be doing all they can in this final week to close the registration gap and ensure we have a level playing field, so all of Wales can be heard on May 6th. And the Welsh Government needs to stop this postcode lottery by using its power to implement automatic voter registration.

“Voting is a right, and you shouldn’t have to opt into that, or get caught up in bureaucracy each election. Let’s bring the system into the 21st century so everyone is able to speak up.”

‘Worrying’

Sophie, a first time voter from Nelson, said: “I’m a first time voter – I’m voting for the first time because I think that young people need to be heard.

“By every young person registering to vote by 19th April, the politicians will listen to our voices and change will happen. Go register to vote to make a difference.”

Róisín Jacobson, Peer Organiser at Make Your Mark 2021, said: “These figures suggesting a low rate of registration from 16 and 17 year-olds are worrying. This election is the first time 16 and 17 year-olds in Wales have been allowed to have their say. We understand that many young people are currently stressed out with exams, so we want to highlight how easy it is to register to vote.

“It only takes five minutes, and all you need is your National Insurance number, which you get around your 16th birthday. You can even register from the age of 14 without a National Insurance number.

“If you don’t know who to vote for, don’t worry. Find us on Instagram – @MakeYourMark21 – and we will tell you more about the parties soon. But please register to vote now so you can decide who to vote for on election day.”

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