Welsh Government refuses consent for Elections Bill which would ban those without ID from voting
The Welsh Government has refused to recommend legislative consent to the UK Elections Bill which would ban those without ID from voting in General Elections and PCC elections in Wales.
It will not impact council or Senedd elections as responsibility for both are devolved to Wales. But Counsel General Mick Antoniw said today that the Welsh Government is pushing for amendments to the legislation.
“The Welsh Government does not support the introduction of voter ID, the placing of unnecessary constraints on postal and proxy voting, or the extension of the overseas franchise,” he said.
“We are content that the Bill does not apply these to Wales, but we are concerned about potential unintended consequences such as voter and candidate confusion and complexity for administrators.”
He added that he was concerned with changes to the Electoral Committee and its relationship with the Llywydd’s Committee which scrutinises it.
“I cannot, therefore, currently recommend consent to the Bill. We are working with the UK Government with a view to seeking amendments to the Bill to reflect our policy position,” he said.
Jess Blair, Director of Electoral Reform Society Cymru (Wales), said that the Elections Bill makes “sweeping changes to our democracy”.
“It looks like UK ministers have barely engaged with Wales or Scotland so far,” she said. “This bill is being swiftly rammed through with little consultation, so it’s time for ministers to pause and rethink.
“Let’s be clear – this bill would ban anyone without ID from voting, while forcing over-stretched council workers to become bouncers at the ballot box, turning away potentially thousands of would-be voters each election. There is simply no need for this costly barrier to democracy. At a cost of up to £180m per decade, forcing this through is a strange priority for UK ministers right now.
“Moreover, the changes to the Electoral Commission represent a UK government power grab, with ministers given new controls over our elections watchdog. This is a dangerous and unprecedented move that the Welsh Government is right to oppose.
“This Elections Bill could lead to a ‘two tier franchise’ in Wales, with some elections banning those without ID, and others remaining open and free. Both the Welsh Parliament and Holyrood should use their powers to pause this power-grab bill, and secure changes to protect the right to vote.”
Holyrood is also likely to oppose the Elections Bill, with the SNP and Scottish Greens coming out strongly against the legislation in recent weeks.
Out of more than 350 legislative consent motions, consent has been denied just 13 times, according to the Institute for Government. UK bills have been redrafted previously when devolved administration consent has been withheld under the Sewel Convention.
Earlier this week 18 civil society groups and charities in Wales expressed their major concerns over the Elections Bill, in particularly plans to bar those without ID from voting. Read the full letter here.
Campaign groups handed in nearly 300,000 petition signatures to 10 Downing Street on Tuesday, calling for the government to scrap plans to ban those without ID from voting.