Minutes: Wales Electoral Coordination Board 11 October 2018

Summary

Date: Tuesday 11 October 2018

Who was at the meeting

Meeting administration

The minutes of the previous meeting (30 May 2018) were agreed as a correct record.

CU explained that most actions from the previous meeting had been completed with three still in progress. The Welsh Parliament and Elections (Wales) Bill was to be discussed at today’s meeting, a representative of WECB had been invited to attend the next Wales Advisory Board meeting on 28 November 2018 and the Electoral Commission had amended its guidance on Returning Officers appointing deputies but was unable to create a template letter to this effect.

Action: RROs to name representative to attend Wales Advisory Board meeting on 28 November 2018

Action: CE to draft a template Deputy RO appointment letter for RROs to circulate to ROs within their region

ECS congratulated CU on her recent appointment as Manager of the Electoral Commission in Wales.

Presentation by the National Assembly’s Llywydd, Elin Jones AM, National Assembly for Wales electoral reform

EJ provided an update on the introduction of the Welsh Parliament and Elections (Wales) Bill.

The Bill would change the name of the legislature to Senedd Cymru/Welsh Parliament, lower the voting age for Assembly elections to 16, amend the law relating to disqualification from being an Assembly Member and make other changes to the Assembly’s electoral and internal arrangements. The Assembly Commission intended for these changes to be implemented by 2021.

The Bill would be introduced in January 2019 and then subject to scrutiny by an Assembly committee who would consider the proposals and make suggested amendments before a final vote was put to all 60 Members.

Royal Assent was expected by January 2020.

It was proposed to create a common domestic franchise for local government elections in Wales and elections to the National Assembly for Wales. However, there could be some provisions in the local government Bill that were not included in the Assembly Bill, for example, extending the franchise to foreign nationals resident in Wales and prisoner voting.

The Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee would consider prisoner voting over the next year and provide guidance.
The Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform had recommended an increase in the number of Assembly Members and that they should be elected through a different electoral system. This, however, would not be included in the first phase of the legislation. If a consensus on this issue emerged in the next few months, legislation could be introduced to enable this for the 2021 or 2026 elections.

RG asked about the proposal in the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill to allow Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) to
automatically add individuals of all ages to the full registers of local government electors where the EROs believe they had all the necessary information to do so. The Higher Education and Research Act 2017 provided guidance for EROs in England to compel higher education institutions to provide the necessary information. However EROs in Wales did not have this same capacity. Automatic registration would be difficult in Wales under the current arrangements.

ATR said that Welsh Government were working on the arrangements in both Bills. This issue would be flagged and practical options to compel would be sought. If this was not possible, they would think about ways to work with higher education institutions to ensure that EROs received the necessary information.

CE said that consistency across Wales on this would be important and that help would be sought from the Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA) on this.

GM said that he welcomed automatic registration but noted that there were contradictions with the principle of individual responsibility under Individual Electoral Registration (IER).

EJ said that greater clarity on this issue would also be beneficial for universities in Wales.

RG highlighted the potential for different franchises for local government elections and elections to the National Assembly for Wales. This would require changes to be made to the election management software systems. He asked whether Welsh Government and the National Assembly would be engaging directly with the software suppliers as Cabinet Office had for the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration (IER). He added that funding would also be required for software development.

CU said that electoral administrators would require training and the time available for this would be limited.

Votes at 16

GM said that he and Ian Westley had attended the Electoral Commission’s seminar during Eisteddfod week on Votes at 16. They had then invited representatives from different council departments and the Electoral Commission to attend a Pembrokeshire Youth Assembly meeting to discuss how young people could be engaged in the process of lowering the voting age.

The Youth Assembly had decided that it should be involved and that it was important to engage with young people aged 14+ rather than 16+.

They felt that it was best to do this through online information, social media, youth groups and by appointing Voting and Democracy Champions in schools. They had asked for representatives from Welsh Government and the Electoral Commission to attend their next meeting.

Action: Representatives from the Electoral Commission and Welsh Government to attend the Pembrokeshire Youth Assembly meeting on Votes at 16

Action: GM to provide a further update on Pembrokeshire’s work on Votes at 16 at the next WECB meeting

CE said that there should be a national campaign for Votes at 16 focusing on electoral registration and voter participation. This was an opportunity to engage young people in democracy as a whole, and not just on electoral registration.

AD and ATR said that work had begun on identifying key stakeholders, the key questions to be asked and who was best able to support this work. They would be looking at how to support the introduction of Votes at 16 in every local authority and how to deliver a potentially complex message. Discussions had also been held with counterparts in Scotland.

Invitations to a workshop in January would be issued in the next few weeks to all EROs, interested groups and other stakeholders.

CU said that she had asked RROs prior to the meeting for information about youth engagement work in their area. The Vale of Glamorgan Council had submitted feedback which would be circulated to WECB members.

Action: Electoral Commission to circulate information from Vale of Glamorgan Council about youth engagement work in their area to WECB members

WECB resources

RO mentoring and induction scheme

MJ provided an update on the Returning Officer (RO) mentoring and induction scheme. All new ROs had been matched up with a mentor.

A gap had been identified in the training available for new ROs without any previous elections experience. He proposed that WECB could run core competency training once a year for ROs new to the role. This could also be opened up to new ROs in England. The training would involve scenario planning and real life experiences.

CE said that as a member of the Electoral Coordination Advisory Board (ECAB) he had been involved in moderating RO and ERO performance against the Electoral Commission standards. As part of this work he was aware of errors that had occurred in delivering elections and suggested that a training seminar could consider these cases and look at ways that these could have been avoided.

PD said that the AEA also provided training for ROs and that Cabinet Office would also be happy to be involved in any future seminars.

Action: CE, MJ and CU to arrange a programme of training for new Returning Officers

Capacity and capability assessment tool

CE said that this was a useful tool and that RROs should encourage ROs to use it.

Action: RROs to promote the Capacity and Capability Assessment tool and encourage ROs in their regions to complete it

Welsh Government update on Local Government Electoral Reform

ATR said that the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill was now in draft form and would soon be available to share with WECB.

The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill would extend the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds and qualifying foreign nationals.

Further consideration was being given to the practical implications of prisoner voting and Welsh Government would take into account the
outcomes of the work that would be undertaken by the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee. The mechanisms for
extending the franchise would largely be included in the Welsh Parliament and Elections (Wales) Bill rather than the Local Government and
Elections (Wales) Bill.

Action: Welsh Government to circulate draft Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill

Survey of WECB Members

CE said that there had been 14 responses to the survey and that the results demonstrated that the work of the WECB had started well And
there had been positive suggestions for what could be done in future. This included consideration as to how the work of the WECB should be communicated more widely.

There were some interesting suggestions for future external speakers and CU would be adding some of the suggested activities to the Forward Work Programme.

GC asked how the discussions and actions of the WECB meetings should be cascaded.

CE suggested that RROs disseminate a brief communication from the WECB following each meeting.

Action: Electoral Commission to draft a briefing on the key discussion points from each meeting for RROs to cascade to ROs in their regions.

Updates

Update from Electoral Commission

CU provided an update from the Electoral Commission. CU and Rhydian Thomas had met with four of the new recently appointed ROs and would be meeting with the fifth in November. Several of the ROs had asked whether any training is available in addition to the mentoring pack.

The Commission had held a seminar on Votes at 16 during the Eisteddfod with the Llywydd Elin Jones AM. The next seminar would be held in Caernarfon on 15 November looking at women’s participation in Welsh politics. There would also be a seminar in January when Sir John Holmes, Chair of the Electoral Commission would speak about the state of our democracy.

In November, the Commission would be publishing a report on the recall petition in Northern Ireland.

The Commission’s Modernising Electoral Registration project was progressing well and the feasibility study had been completed on the better use of (non-local) data sources by EROs. The Commission was building on this study by examining other areas of reform, including the feasibility of integrating electoral registration into other public service transactions and more automated or enable systems of registration. The feasibility studies should be completed by the end of the year and the findings would be shared with WECB.

The Commission would be responding to the UK, Scottish and Welsh Government's policy statement on canvass reform in 2020. The proposed reforms were intended to enable EROs to target their resources more effectively. The proposals included using data matching at the start of the canvass to identify properties where it was likely that the occupiers would remain the same. Where this was the case, EROs would be able to run a lighter-touch canvass.

Update from the Welsh Language Legislation Advisory Group

CU said that the Glossary of Electoral Terms produced by the Welsh Language Legislation Advisory Group (WLLAG) had received very positive feedback. The Group had written to Royal Mail about the lack of a bilingual MailMark product but had not yet received a response.

A review of voter facing forms was ongoing and WLLAG were working with Cabinet

Office to ensure that the changes were incorporated into legislation.

Action: Circulate dates of upcoming events

Potential and unscheduled electoral events

A discussion was held on contingency planning for future electoral events.

Action: Gareth Chapman to provide information to Electoral Commission about Merthyr Tydfil cross boundary issues

Any other business

ECS suggested inviting Dame Sue Bruce, Electoral Commissioner for Scotland, to the January meeting to share experiences on Votes at 16 in Scotland.

Action: Invite Dame Sue Bruce (Electoral Commissioner for Scotland) to attend WECB meeting in January to discuss experiences on Votes at 16 Scotland

CU reminded members that the deadline for responding to the Commission’s paper on advice to EU citizens wishing to vote in the European Parliamentary Elections in 2019 was the following day.

LW reminded members that the deadline for responding to the Commission’s consultation on its electoral observer scheme was 31 October.

PD said that Cabinet Office were looking at which PAROs were still in post from the 2016 Police and Crime Commissioner elections and starting to prepare for the 2020 appointments process. Local authorities in Wales did not have an opportunity to engage in the ID pilot scheme in 2019 but suggested that Wales might want a representative on the reference group.

Cabinet Office is seeking views on proposed changes to electoral law aimed at improving political debate in its consultation “Protecting the Debate: Intimidation, Influence and Information”. The closing date is 28 October.

Action: Electoral Commission to circulate potential dates for January meeting

Last updated:
Next review: 25 November 2020