Wales extends council voting to 16-year-olds

29 Jan 18

The Welsh Government has confirmed it is to grant voting rights to 16 and 17-year-olds in local authority elections.

As part of wide-ranging reform of the Welsh electoral system to be launched this week, foreign nationals residing in Wales legally will also be given the vote in council elections.

A system of automatic registration will be set up to increase the number of people on the electoral register.

Councils are also to be allowed choose voting systems – either first past the post or single transferable vote – and councillors will be elected on five-year terms rather than the current four years.

Proposals to extend suffrage to prisoners will be taken forward, despite a consultation on electoral reform last year stating there was no “firm policy commitment” because of the legal complexities involved.

Alun Davies, cabinet secretary for local government and public services, said he wanted councils to test new voting methods to boost participation in elections. This could include digital voting and mobile polling booths at supermarkets, libraries, leisure centres and railway stations.

Local authorities will also be required to post policy statements from the candidates online.

Davies said: “I am concerned we are still seeing far too many people, particularly young people, disengaged from the political process.

“There are many reasons for this but we must do more to make the process more attractive, welcoming and transparent. The proposals we’re announcing this week will, we hope, help increase participation and improve the democratic process for everyone in Wales.”

Jessica Blair, director of the Electoral Reform Society Cymru said: “It is an opportunity for Wales to lead the way in creating a political system that works for everybody and it is particularly pertinent as we recognise the centenary of the first women getting the vote.”

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