Local Government Election reforms

Wednesday 30th May 2012

Mark Drakeford: A wnaiff y Gweinidog ystyried ffyrdd o wella cyfranogiad mewn etholiadau llywodraeth leol yng Nghymru

[Will the Minister consider ways in which participation in local government elections in Wales could be enhanced.]

Carl Sargeant: The Welsh Government will continue to work with stakeholders to encourage participation in local government elections. However, we all have a responsibility to try to increase participation, whether by encouraging turnout at the ballot box or more candidates.

Mark Drakeford: The way that we run elections in this country has not made it to the twentieth century, let alone the twenty-first. We choose inconvenient locations that are far from people’s homes, we expect them to turn out, we direct them to these places, they arrive and they have to vote using a stubby piece of pencil tied to a wall—circumstances that would be absolutely unimaginable in other aspects of people’s lives. When you look at participation, will you consider ways to move things so that, at least, people could vote at weekends, they could do so in shopping centres, where we could have mobile booths taking voting to people rather than the other way around? I am not suggesting that administration is everything in improving participation, but could we look forward to the day when the way in which we run elections is a help rather than a hindrance to democratic participation?

Carl Sargeant: I recognise the points that the Member raises. Of course, the stubby pencil did the Member’s party extremely well in May, and I was extremely encouraged by the stubby pencil response. However, this is a serious matter. Encouraging more participation and the voting franchise rests with the UK Government. I believe that this should be a duty of the Assembly so that we could look at the franchise and the way in which elections should take place. Should that power be received following the findings of the Silk commission, it is something that we could consider at the appropriate time.