May 2021 Local Elections: Registration and Participation

The hon. Member for City of Chester, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, was asked – in the House of Commons on 15th October 2020.

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Photo of Liz Twist Liz Twist Opposition Whip (Commons)

What steps the Electoral Commission is taking to ensure widespread electoral (a) registration and (b) participation in the May 2021 local elections.

Photo of Rachel Hopkins Rachel Hopkins Labour, Luton South

What steps the Electoral Commission is taking to ensure widespread electoral (a) registration and (b) participation in the May 2021 local elections.

Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson SNP Whip

The commission is experienced at driving voter registration across the UK and across demographics. That is delivered through paid advertising, the generation of media coverage, and partnership activity with local authorities, charities and others. Most recently, ahead of the 2019 general election, 2.6 million people were registered during the period of the commission’s campaign. Ahead of the next elections, the commission’s work will include additional public information communications to ensure that voters understand how their experience at polling stations may differ from normal, and the measures that will be put in place to ensure that they can vote safely.

Photo of Liz Twist Liz Twist Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Minister for the Constitution recently confirmed that no new funding will be available to local authorities for the running of the May 2021 elections. Is the Electoral Commission content that enough funding is available to put in place the necessary measures to ensure that the May 2021 elections are covid-secure?

Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson SNP Whip

The commission has been working with colleagues across the electoral community to consider the potential impacts of the pandemic on the delivery of polls in May 2021. It is also liaising with the relevant public health authorities to ensure that its work is informed by the latest analysis and advice. The commission is now preparing to deliver its core functions in relation to public awareness and information for voters, and the provision of guidance to ensure that electoral administrators and campaigners have what they need to ensure that the polls are delivered safely and efficiently.

Photo of Rachel Hopkins Rachel Hopkins Labour, Luton South

A key pillar of democracy is that everyone should have access to an equal vote without discrimination based on wealth, class or race. The Minister for the Constitution recently confirmed that no legislative changes would be put in place to enable more flexible forms of voting for the May 2021 elections in the context of covid-19, so what is the Electoral Commission’s view on introducing new innovative ways of voting to reduce queuing and ensure social distancing, such as early voting and drive-through voting, so that people do not have to choose between their health and the right to vote?

Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson SNP Whip

The commission will ensure that people understand the full range of voting options available that will enable them to participate safely in next May’s polls, including the process and timelines of how to appoint a proxy or apply for a postal vote. Its priority will be to ensure that voters have all the information that they need to make the right decision for their individual circumstances. Voters at local government by-elections in Scotland can now appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf if they require to do so following medical or Government advice to isolate or quarantine on polling day. The commission recommends that the UK and Welsh Governments should implement similar proposals for elections in May 2021.