Early voting pilots in Wales were well run but more work is needed to reform voting

Early voting pilots in Wales were well run but more work is needed to reform voting

A report published today by the Electoral Commission shows that pilots of early voting held in May were well run. It highlights that while only a small number of people chose to vote early, they were satisfied with their experience of voting.

Ahead of this year’s local council elections in Wales, four local authorities trialled early voting as part of the Welsh Government’s framework for modernising the electoral system. The pilots were designed to make it easier for people to vote at a time and a place that is more convenient for them. Early voting took place in Bridgend, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly and Torfaen at a variety of locations and times in the week before polling day on Thursday 5 May. 

The Commission’s research and analysis shows that the opportunity to vote in-person ahead of polling day does not, on its own, boost turnout significantly. In Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen 0.2 – 0.3% of registered voters chose to vote early, while in Bridgend the proportion was slightly higher at 1.5%. Although turnout was low, the option was welcomed by those voters that took part, with 92% satisfied with the process of voting.

Rhydian Thomas, Head of the Electoral Commission Wales said:

“The successful delivery of these pilots is a testament to the dedication and hard work of Returning Officers and electoral administrators across the pilot authorities.

“The experience of the pilots provides some useful information on how advance voting could work in future, and an opportunity to explore areas of reform and ways to modernise elections. However, due to the small number of pilots we cannot determine what impact advance voting, if introduced, would have on turnout over time." 

The Commission’s evaluation has identified several specific areas that need to be addressed by the Welsh Government if further changes are considered.

Rhydian Thomas added:

“Any future changes need to deliver a likely benefit to voters, maintain the security and integrity of the system and be realistically deliverable by electoral administrators. The Commission stands ready to support the Welsh Government as they consider the reforms that are needed to modernise elections in Wales.”

The full report is available on the Commission’s website.

Notes to editors

1. The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. We work to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity by:

  • enabling the delivery of free and fair elections and referendums, focusing on the needs of electors and addressing the changing environment to ensure every vote remains secure and accessible
  • regulating political finance – taking proactive steps to increase transparency, ensure compliance and pursue breaches
  • using our expertise to make and advocate for changes to our democracy, aiming to improve fairness, transparency and efficiency

The Commission was set up in 2000 and reports to the Welsh, UK and Scottish parliaments.

2. The Welsh Government established a framework for electoral modernisation in Wales in July 2021. These pilots were one of the first initiatives under that framework. Welsh Government worked with volunteer local authorities to shape the pilots and agree the specific approach each area would take. The legislation required for the pilots was published in March 2022.  

3. Under the Representation of the People Act 2000 the Commission must publish an independent evaluation of the pilot scheme within three months of the election