Report: How the 2017 Welsh local elections were run

About this report

On 4 May 2017, elections were held across all 22 local authority areas in Wales. The Electoral Commission, in its statutory capacity of over-seeing and reporting on elections, has written this report to highlight key findings on how the elections were run, and to bring forward recommendations to government(s) and electoral administrators for future elections.

As with previous election reports in Wales, we have taken into account the views of key partners, including Returning Officers (ROs) and their staff, political parties, candidates and agents, and voters.

Key findings

A total of 2.28 million people were registered to vote in the May 2017 local elections in Wales, a small decrease from the previous local government elections in 2012 and 2013.

A total of 895,943 votes were cast, representing a turnout of 42.0% of the eligible electorate, a slight increase in turnout compared with the elections in 2012 and 2013. Turnout ranged from 36.3% in Newport to 53.0% in Ceredigion.

The 2017 local government elections were well run. However election rules remain complex and outdated. The need for change is underlined by Electoral Commission recommendations in this report, as in our previous reports. The UK’s Law Commissions have also made recommendations to simplify and reform electoral law. Most recently the Welsh Government has published a White Paper suggesting reforms that are required to improve elections in Wales.

Our public opinion research with voters found that 82% of respondents were generally satisfied with the procedures for voting, up slightly from 80% in 2012. The research also showed that:

  • 95% thought that the ballot paper was easy to complete
  • 96% of polling station voters were satisfied with the process of voting at a polling station.
  • 100% of postal voters were satisfied with their experience
  • 89% were satisfied with the electoral registration system, up from 84% in 2012. 18 to 34 year olds were the most satisfied group (95%).
  • 81% were confident that the polls held on 4 May were well run, up from 77% in 2012


Recommendation 1

The Welsh Government should continue to participate in the Wales Electoral Coordination Board. It should also consider how the role of the Board could be developed in the medium to long term to support Welsh Government’s overarching electoral modernisation programme. This might include, for example, considering if the Board should become a statutory group, as is the case in Scotland.

Recommendation 2

We recommend that the Welsh Government and The National Assembly for Wales Commission should implement the Law Commissions’ recommendations, in so far as they apply to Welsh local government elections, and National Assembly for Wales’s elections, when law-making powers for these elections are devolved in 2018.

Recommendation 3

We recommend that the Welsh Language Legislation Advisory Group undertake a review of relevant legislation, to ensure ballot papers and any necessary accompanying materials are scrutinised and any improvements identified. This review should be completed in time to enable the Welsh Government and Assembly Commission to make any legislative amendments to deliver these improvements, and ensure they are in place at least six months ahead of the next scheduled elections.

Recommendation 4

We want to work with the UK’s governments, including the Welsh Government, to consider how to incorporate more automatic checks into the online application service, for example to highlight if an applicant is already registered or has recently submitted an application.

Recommendation 5

We recommend that the Welsh Language Legislation Advisory Group and other related partners work to create resources to encourage the continued development of bilingual elections in Wales.

Recommendation 6

We recommend that the Wales Electoral Coordination Board consider how turnout data should be properly collected and published at the 2022 local government elections.

Recommendation 7

We continue to recommend that governments should amend the law to enable candidates to use any of their given names, such as their middle name, as a commonly used name, not limiting commonly used names to only those which are different from any given forename or surname.

Last updated: 6 August 2019
Next review: 19 June 2020