Six months until voters go to the polls in Great Britain

Six months until voters to go to the polls

With six months until voters go to the polls on 6 May 2021, the Electoral Commission is sharing details of the preparations already underway for the first set of elections to be held across England, Scotland and Wales in Covid-secure conditions. 

The Commission is working with the UK’s governments, public health bodies and electoral administrators to ensure that on 6 May 2021, voters can participate safely and confidently, and campaigners and parties can put their case to the electorate.

Bob Posner, Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission, said: 

“While the public health situation raises challenges, everyone involved in organising the elections is committed to ensuring they are run safely. We are providing support to all participants – including, crucially, to voters – so that everyone involved can take part safely and confidently.” 

The Commission will continue to provide support to the electoral community to ensure all those who intend to participate understand how the elections in May will differ from previous polls. 

  • To support local authorities, the Commission will provide practical guidance on key aspects of the election process, such as polling station set up, absent voting and the counting of votes. 
  • Guidance is also being developed for parties, campaigners and candidates, to help their campaigning and understanding of how the political finance rules apply. 
  • The Commission is providing communication resources to local authorities and organisations who represent voter groups, to help voters be informed  about polling station safety measures for May, and to raise awareness of alternative voting options, such as postal and proxy voting. 
  • Early next year, the Commission will launch a series of public awareness campaigns to help voters understand their voting options and how to register to vote ahead of the polls.  
  • The Commission is closely monitoring comparable elections taking place in other countries during the pandemic to see what may be learnt from others’ experiences.
  • The Commission is working closely with the UK’s governments to ensure any necessary changes to the law are in place in good time and are well understood by local authorities and campaigners. 
  • In consultation with the governments, political parties and electoral administrators across England, Wales and Scotland, the Commission has identified a set of high-level objectives for delivering successful elections in the current public health environment. The objectives will be used to assess any proposed policy changes, identify and manage risks, and to evaluate the success of the elections. 

Bob Posner continued:

“Local authorities are already making arrangements to help voters stay safe at the polling station. If social distancing measures are still be in place next May, there will be changes to the way polling stations are set up. Voters can expect to see many of the measures we’ve all become used to over recent months in banks, shops and other indoor spaces, such as hand sanitiser, floor markings and face masks.

“And there are others ways for voters to have their say too, voting by post, or by appointing someone they trust to vote by proxy on their behalf. 

"However people choose to cast their vote in May, it is important they can do so safely.” 

It is not just the public health challenges making next year’s elections complex. Polls already due to take place in May 2021 are now combined with those rescheduled from May 2020, with some elections using different voting systems. Voters will elect representatives for the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments, the London Assembly and local councils, as well as police and crime commissioners. 

These are also the first elections to be held under new franchise rules in Scotland and Wales, which see 16 and 17 year olds able to vote for the first time in Wales, and foreign nationals newly enfranchised in the Scottish and Welsh parliamentary elections. 

Ends

If you are interested in discussing or covering preparations for the May 2021 elections, please get in touch with the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704 or press@electoralcommission.org.uk. We can offer background briefings, spokespeople for interview and facilitate introductions to local authorities undertaking planning for the polls.  

Notes to editors

Notes to editors

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 UK and Scottish and Welsh parliaments.

The Commission’s objectives for well-run elections in the current public health context, can be found on the Electoral Commission website

The following elections are taking place on 6 May 2021:

  • Senedd Cymru / Welsh Parliamentary
  • Scottish Parliamentary
  • English local government elections (includes polls postponed from May 2020), including elections to county, district and parish councils
  • Police and Crime Commissioners (polls postponed from May 2020)
  • Combined Authority Mayoral (includes polls postponed from May 2020)
  • Local Mayoral (includes polls postponed from May 2020)
  • Mayor of London and London Assembly (polls postponed from May 2020)

Voters can apply to vote by post at any time. We encourage those interested to apply early so that applications are processed early, and the postal vote can be sent more quickly once the candidate for the elections are confirmed.