Voters may need to wear face masks for next year’s Senedd election

Picture by the Welsh Government.

Voters could be required to wear face coverings when visiting polling stations at next year’s Senedd election.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt suggested that measures similar to those used to make retailers Covid-secure could also be used at polling stations and at counts in May.

Responsibility for both health and elections are devolved to Wales, so circumstances may differ here compared to local elections in England.

However, the First Minister Mark Drakeford has already said that everything will be done to make polling stations covid secure.

Speaking in the Commons, Cabinet Office minister Cat Smith had asked Penny Mordaunt: “Will voters be required to wear face coverings in polling stations and, if they are, will polling clerks be expected to enforce that and what resources will they get to do that?

“If they’re not required to wear face coverings, what protections will be put in place to protect staff in polling stations?”

Ms Mordaunt said: “Hopefully we will be in a happier place because of the vaccination programme when the elections arrive, but she has raised some very important issues.

“Just as our retailers, just as other settings, healthcare settings and so forth, have put in place measures to make them Covid-secure, whether they’re public health-related measures or whether they are about the enforcement that comes alongside and the policing of that, we will do the same at polling stations.

“We will do the same at counts and also to ensure that the transparency that people want through scrutiny and so forth can still take place.

“We also will be introducing some slight legislative changes as well to enable, for example, somebody who has to isolate very close to the election to still be able to cast their vote.

“We’re working through all of these issues with those organisations methodically and we will have those elections, they will be safe and they will still have integrity.”

 

‘Secure’

In November the Welsh Government said that they were drawing up plans to allow next May’s Senedd elections to be postponed by six months if it’s unsafe to hold them.

The draft Bill would enable the Llywydd, the Senedd’s Presiding Officer, to postpone the election if necessary.

This would enable Ministers to introduce the required legislation before the Senedd in January if the situation after Christmas indicates that this is likely to be needed as a last resort.

“Let me take this opportunity to once again state that this Government’s clear intention is that the next Senedd election should be held on 6 May 2021,” Mark Drakeford said at the time.

“We are also determined to do everything in our power to ensure people can vote when the election takes place.

“I believe we must pursue every option for enabling people to exercise their democratic right in the face of Coronavirus.

“Much communications activity is planned to encourage postal voting, and everything will be done to make polling stations covid secure.”

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