Rhydian Thomas urges voters across Wales to register to vote by the deadline on Thursday in order to have their say in the local elections on 5 May.
This time last year, the Senedd elections were on the horizon.
This was a major event in the Welsh electoral calendar that marked not only the first national election in Wales since the pandemic, but was also the first opportunity for newly enfranchised 16-17 year olds and foreign nationals living in Wales to participate in a Welsh election.
This year we have local government elections taking place across Wales on Thursday May 5 and 16-17 year olds and foreign nationals will once again be eligible to vote.
Only around 50% of eligible newly enfranchised 16-17 year olds registered to vote ahead of the Senedd election.
Our report following the Senedd election found that further education and engagement is needed to support new voters to understand and participate in Welsh elections. Whilst our research found that the majority of people were satisfied with the processes of registering to vote and voting, some new voters found taking part more difficult than returning voters. Only around 50% of eligible newly enfranchised 16-17 year olds registered to vote ahead of the Senedd election.
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Here at the Commission, one of our key responsibilities is to make sure that eligible electors are able to register and vote, should they choose to do so. Over the past 18 months, we’ve developed education materials for teachers and learners to help young people better understand our democratic process, so they can participate in elections with confidence. In addition we’ve run our ‘Welcome to your vote’ registration campaign targeted at newly enfranchised voters, and worked closely with our youth voice partner The Democracy Box to ensure our messages and materials are reaching young people.
Alongside this work with new voters, we’ve continued to work with partner organisations, supporting other groups that may face additional barriers to registering such as some disabled people, those experiencing homelessness and survivors of domestic abuse to develop bespoke voter information resources. This year our partners in Wales have included RNIB Cymru, Llamau, Mencap, Welsh Women’s Aid and Gypsies and Travellers Wales.
In all of our outreach and partnership work we aim to show that politics impacts on everything in our communities and society, and participating in elections provides an opportunity to ensure that your voice is heard. On 5 May, for instance, voters will have a chance to choose local councillors, who will be making decisions on issues that directly impact their local area such leisure facilities, parks, roads and education services.
However, only registered voters will get the opportunity to have their say. So anyone voting for the first time in May, or that has recently moved house, should make sure to register before the deadline – 23:59 on Thursday 14 April.
Registering to vote is quick and easy, and can be done online. It only takes five minutes – the time it takes to read this article, simply visit www.gov.uk/register-to-vote and enter your date of birth, address and National Insurance number.
Once on the register, voters just need to think about how they’d like to cast their vote. They can vote in person, by post or by appointing someone they trust to vote on their behalf, which is known as a proxy vote. Visit our website more information on how to do this.
This May there will be flexible voting pilots in four South Wales counties* as part of the Welsh Government’s electoral reform agenda. Voters in these areas will have the opportunity to vote early in different locations to their usual polling station, in an attempt to make it easier to vote at a time and a place that is more convenient. We will be fully evaluating these pilots and reporting on lessons learnt, including providing recommendations to the Welsh Government.
However you’d like to vote this May, remember that registering is the only way to ensure you can participate in our democratic process and we encourage everyone in Wales to make sure they can have their say.
*Early voting pilots are taking place in Bridgend, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly and Torfaen only. For more information about the pilots, please contact the relevant Electoral Services team.
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