Senedd Committee calls for extra protections for vulnerable voters to be added to Elections Bill
A Senedd Committee has called for additional protections for vulnerable people to be added to the Welsh Government’s Elections and Elected Bodies (Wales) Bill.
The Local Government and Housing Committee published their report on the Bill on Thursday (January 26) saying they were broadly happy with it.
However, the Committee also called for some specific changes.
They said automatic registration of voters for Welsh elections as proposed by the Bill was welcomed. But the Committee recommended that vulnerable people wishing to be registered anonymously on the electoral register should not have to renew their application annually.
Instead, the anonymous registration should stay in place until a person actively opts to change that arrangement.
The Committee also recommended that the process of applying for anonymous registration should be as simple and as flexible as possible and that the Welsh Government should consider not imposing a requirement to provide evidence when applying.
A new statutory body which will oversee the co-ordination of Welsh elections should be accountable to the Senedd not just the Welsh Government because “being part of a Welsh Government sponsored body could create a perception of not being truly independent.”
The Committee is also calling for the Senedd to be able to undertake pre-appointment hearings for the position of Chair of the Democracy and Boundary Commission Cymru which would provide enhanced transparency.
Commenting on the report, the Chair of the Committee, John Griffiths MS, said: “We as a Committee are happy with the Bill on the whole but there are important aspects we’d like to be changed.
“The ability for vulnerable people – for example, those fleeing domestic violence – to register themselves anonymously is incredibly important, and we do not think that people wishing to do this should have to renew their application annually.
“The whole process for applying for anonymous registration should be simplified. People with good reason to be on the register anonymously are likely to have many things going on in their lives and collating various documents and pieces of information for an application could be tricky. We do not think that people should have to provide evidence when applying to be on the electoral register anonymously.
“We’re calling for the Welsh Government to listen to our recommendations and amend the Bill as this legislation goes to the next stage.”
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