Results and turnout at the May 2017 Wales local elections

Introduction

This report provides analysis on the participation and administration of the local government elections in Wales, held on 4 May 2017. For this, data was collected from Returning Officers and Electoral Registration Officers in Wales. This comprised the Form K ‘Statement as to Postal Ballot Papers’ and an additional data form, which included data relating to electoral registration, turnout, absent voting and rejected ballots.

Local elections were scheduled in 852 wards across all 22 local authority areas in Wales. Of the 1,254 seats available, 1,161 were contested and 92 candidates were returned unopposed. Elections were postponed in two wards and one seat in Powys had no candidates standing for election.1

Electorate 2.3 million
Turnout 

Ballot box: 42.0% (895,943 votes)

Postal vote: 69.7%

In-person: 36.3%

Rejected ballots

Ballots at the count: 0.5%

Postal votes: 3.2%

Proxies appointed

2,873 (0.1% of the electorate)

167 emergency proxies


 

Electorate

The elections gave over 2.1 million registered electors the opportunity to vote.2 Since December 2016, this is an increase in electorate size of 1.0% across Wales, ranging from an increase of 4.2% in Flintshire to a decrease of 3.2% in Wrexham.

More than 20,000 electors (0.94% of the electorate in contested wards) were added to the electoral register during the weeks leading up to the election. As a proportion of the electorate, this was highest in Gwynedd, where additions represented 2.6% of the electorate in contested wards, and lowest in Rhondda Cyon Taf, where additions represented 0.3% of the electorate in contested wards.

A total of 25,587 applications to register were received in the weeks leading up to the election.3 Almost a quarter of these (22.5%) were recorded as duplicates. At a local authority level, duplicates were reportedly as high as 43% in Denbighshire and 41.4% in Swansea.

In addition, 31,003 individuals applied to register to vote after the registration deadline. This is likely to be attributable to the announcement of the general election, which came after the deadline for registration for the council elections. Based on data from 14 local authorities, 187 individuals were recorded as trying to vote on election day despite not being registered.4

Votes were cast at 2,254 polling stations as well as by post.
 

Turnout

The measure of turnout referred to in this report, ‘ballot box turnout’, includes all valid votes cast (‘valid vote turnout’) and votes rejected at the count. ‘Total turnout’ refers to valid votes cast, votes rejected at the count, and those rejected at the postal ballot verification stage before the count. Table 3.1 confirms that only a small fraction of voters try to vote but fail to do so successfully.

Table 3.1: Turnout

 ElectorateValid vote turnoutBallot box turnoutTotal turnoutDifference
valid vote –
total (pp)
20172.28 m41.8%42.0%42.4%0.6
2012/1352.31 m38.7%38.9%39.4%0.7
20082.11 m43.7%44.0%44.5%0.8

Ballot box turnout was 42.0%, which is higher than the 38.9% turnout at the 2012/2013 local government elections in Wales but still lower than the 2008 elections. 

Turnout ranged from 36.3% in Caerphilly and Newport to 53.0% in Ceredigion, and increased across all local authorities with the exception of Anglesey. At a ward level, turnout ranged from 17.2% in Treforest (Rhondda Cynon Taff) to 69.6% in Bethel (Gwynedd).

Table 3.2: Turnout 2012/2013 – 2017

Local authority2012/132017Change (pp)
Blaenau Gwent37.7%40.0%2.3
Bridgend34.4%39.9%5.5
Caerphilly36.0%36.3%0.3
Cardiff38.0%42.8%4.8
Carmarthenshire44.5%46.8%2.3
Ceredigion46.8%53.0%6.2
Conwy38.0%41.5%3.5
Denbighshire39.1%42.4%3.3
Flintshire36.9%38.5%1.6
Gwynedd48.3%52.1%3.8
Isle of Anglesey50.5%45.9%-4.6
Merthyr Tydfil37.3%37.7%0.4
Monmouthshire38.1%46.7%8.6
Neath Port Talbot39.4%42.3%2.9
Newport33.9%36.3%2.4
Pembrokeshire45.8%47.5%1.7
Powys46.7%47.2%0.5
Rhondda Cynon Taf36.1%39.9%3.9
Swansea36.5%38.1%1.7
Torfaen37.2%37.5%0.4
Vale of Glamorgan39.3%46.1%6.8
Wrexham34.2%40.0%5.9


 

Rejected ballot papers

The proportion of ballot papers rejected at the count was 0.5%. This compares with 0.6% in the 2012/2013 local government elections.

At a local authority level, this ranged from 0.2% in Newport to 0.8% in Neath Port Talbot. At a ward level, two wards rejected more than 3% of ballots at the count and 52 wards rejected none.

The vast majority of ballots (70.6%) were rejected for reasons of being unmarked or wholly void for uncertainty. More than a quarter (26.5%) were rejected due to voting for more than one candidate. 
 

Postal voting 

The total number of postal votes issued for these elections was 387,909, representing 18.2% of all electors with a contested election in their ward. This compares with 17.4% at the 2012/2013 elections. At a ward level, this ranged from 6.3% in Cathays (Cardiff) and Treforest (Rhondda Cynon Taff) to 31.5% in Llandrindod East/Llandrindod West (Powys).

The proportion of postal voters returning their ballot papers always exceeds the turnout among ‘in person’ voters. This year, 69.7% postal electors used their postal vote compared with 36.3% who turned up to vote in person.

Table 4.1: Postal vote turnout vs in-person turnout

 Postal voteIn-person
201769.7%36.3%
2012/1368.3%33.3%
200871.4%40.0%

Postal votes accounted for 29.2% of all votes included at the count. This compares with 29.3% in 2012/13 and 22.2% in 2008.
 

Rejected postal ballots

Postal voting packs require voters to provide their signature and date of birth. These identifiers are then matched against those provided at the time of application. If the signature or date of birth does not match, the postal vote is rejected and is not included at the count.

Since 2014, Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) have been required to notify electors if their postal vote has been rejected. They can also request the elector to provide an up-to-date signature. 

Table 4.2: Rejected postal 

YearRejected ballots as % of envelopes returned
20173.2%
2012/134.4%
20084.8%

A total of 8,695 postal votes were rejected by Returning Officers across Wales. This represents a rejection rate of 3.2%, down from 4.4% in 2012/13 and 4.8% in 2008. The fall in the levels of rejected postal votes suggests that the new policy may be having a positive impact.

The most common reason for postal vote rejection, accounting for 43.3% of rejected postal ballots, is mismatched information. In almost a third of cases of rejection (31.8%), voters returned their postal voting envelopes but failed to include either the ballot paper itself or the verification statement or both.

Table 4.3: Reasons for postal vote statement rejection

  20172012/13Change (pp)
Missing informationSignature9.4%5.2%4.3
Date of birth9.6%4.3%5.3
Both5.9%15.7%-9.8
Mismatched informationSignature14.5%19.1%-4.6
Date of birth22.5%7.1%15.4
Both6.4%8.5%-2.1
Missing formsBallot paper14.4%13.4%0.9
PV statement17.4%26.8%-9.4

Proxies and waivers

The number of electors in Wales who appointed a proxy was 2,873 (0.1% of the electorate). This is consistent with 2012/13 and 2008.
The number of emergency proxies issued was 167. This is more than five times higher than in 2012/13 when 30 emergency proxies were issued.

A concession granted under the terms of the EAA 2006 was that postal electors who either had a disability, or were illiterate, or were unable to furnish a consistent signature could apply for a waiver to use their date of birth as their sole identifier.

A total of 2,717 voters were granted such a waiver for this election, representing 0.7% of postal electors. 
 

Appendices

Last updated: 6 August 2019
Next review: 4 July 2020