Minutes: Wales Electoral Coordination Board 5 March 2018

Minutes: Wales Electoral Coordination Board 5 March 2018

Date: Monday 5 March 2018

Who was at the meeting

Meeting administration

The minutes of the previous meeting (9 November 2017) were accepted as a correct record.

All action points from that meeting had been dealt with and factored into the Forward Work Programme.

WECB Terms of Reference

RT explained that the following amendments had been made to the terms of reference following discussion at the meeting in November:

  • Differentiation between members and advisors
  • Adding mentoring and support of Returning Officers (ROs) and Electoral
  • Services Managers to the objectives
  • Requiring Regional Returning Officers (RROs) to designate a deputy to attend in their place when necessary

RT suggested that the deputy need not be from the same region and that RROs should be entitled to attend as an additional attendee if they wanted.

The amended terms of reference were agreed by the Board.

Action: Publish the amended terms of reference on the Electoral Commission website

RO and ESM Induction and Mentoring

CU distributed copies of the mentoring guide which would be sent to newly appointed ROs/EROs. The new appointee would be assigned a
mentor, who would be an experienced RO, and also offered a meeting with MJ and RT. A low key launch of the guide was planned.

Action: Electoral Commission to send a briefing note/press release to relevant organisations about the launch of the induction and mentoring scheme

CU said that the Wales Electoral Practitioners Working Group (WEPWG) had discussed the induction and mentoring scheme at their meeting in December and thought that an extension of the scheme to new ESMs would be useful.

RT said that new ROs had recently been appointed and that mentors had been identified for them.

CE said that there was nothing to stop an RO from appointing a Deputy and they should be encouraged to do so. Councils should also consider this when appointing/inducting new ROs. The Board agreed that this would make the process more resilient and robust.

RT said he felt that the EC guidance could reflect this more clearly and that he would look into how this could be done. 

Action: WECB to encourage ROs to formally appoint a deputy

Action: Electoral Commission to review current guidance on appointing Deputy Returning Officers to encourage ROs to formally appoint a deputy

Action: CE to contact new RO at Wrexham to explain the induction and mentoring scheme

Action: CE to provide contact details for new RO at Denbighshire

Action: Electoral Commission to send a copy of the induction and mentoring guide to all ROs in Wales

CE explained that he was currently developing a capacity self-assessment survey for ROs which looked at capability and succession.

With reductions in local government, some local authorities may have lost staff from other departments who had worked on elections. The survey included a risk assessment and action plan.

Action: Flintshire and Neath Port Talbot to complete survey as a trial

Action: CE to send survey to all ROs in April / May and encourage completion over the next six months

Updates

Electoral Commission

CU said that the Commission had held a seminar in February which was the first in a series of events designed to provide a platform for partners to discuss democracy and electoral reform in Wales. The seminar featured the Welsh Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services, Alun Davies AM who spoke about his vision for local government electoral reform.

RT said that the Commission had plans to hold more seminars during the year and would like to hold an event with the WECB.

On 27 February, representatives from the Commission's legal, guidance, policy and Wales teams had delivered training to Welsh Government lawyers and policy officials on the Commission's work and electoral law. This was in connection with the proposed changes being made to local government elections in Wales.

The Commission had responded to the Welsh Government’s consultation on local government electoral reform and was preparing a response to the Assembly Commission consultation, “Creating a Parliament for Wales”.

The Commission had recently published a report on the Analysis of cases of alleged electoral fraud in the UK in 2017. UK police recorded a total of 336 cases of alleged electoral fraud relating to offences under the Representation of the People Act in 2017. Two cases in Wales were referred to in the report.

The Commission had published guidance relating to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which comes into force on 25 May 2018, replacing the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998. The Commission had developed a factsheet which was published in Bulletin 208 to support ROs and Electoral Registration Officer (EROs) in meeting their obligations.

The anonymous registration scheme had been changed to make it easier for domestic abuse survivors to register to vote. The Commission had produced updated guidance for refuge managers which would be published on the website.

Welsh Language Legislation Advisory Group (WLLAG)

BM said that the group’s priorities remained the same and that they hoped to conclude by September. The Electoral Commission was producing a comprehensive glossary based on source data. WLLAG were meeting again on 14 March.

AEA Wales

RG said that John Turner had retired as Chief Executive of AEA on 1 March. Peter Stanyon had taken over as Chief Executive with Laura Lock appointed as Deputy.

Glynne Morgan had agreed to act as Vice Chair for AEA Wales branch and Rebecca Light had been appointed as regional Chair for South Wales Central branch. All other regional Chairs remained the same.

The AEA Conference was held at the beginning of February with electoral reform in Wales high on the agenda. Frank Cuthbert had delivered a keynote speech on this issue and received a great deal of interest from local authorities in England who were keen to see how electoral reform developed in Wales.

AEA had responded to Welsh Government’s consultation on electoral reform in local government in Wales and were deciding whether to 
respond to the National Assembly consultation “Creating a Parliament for Wales.

Electoral Coordination Advisory Board (ECAB)

CE said that at the last ECAB meeting he had explained how the WECB and the national network in Wales provided support, advice and collaboration. He had also informed the Board about the RO mentoring scheme and capacity self-assessment process that was currently in development, both of which had generated a keen interest.

Preparatory discussion for following item

CE set out how the WECB could assist in Welsh Government’s programme of electoral reform.

He suggested that the WECB role would be to develop, risk-assess, plan, test and evaluate changes of electoral policy and practice. This could only be done when there was something firm and purposeful to consider, and that the Board could advise on undeveloped policy ideas and concepts but not act on them.

Three priority areas where the WECB could assist would be :

  • broadening the franchise
  • development of an all-Wales register
  • weekend or multiple day voting

The Board agreed that these areas were worthy of further consideration by the Board and fitted in with the Cabinet Secretary’s emerging proposals.

Presentation by Alun Davies AM, Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services on Plans for Local Government Electoral Reform in Wales

ADav said that Welsh Government hoped to be in a position to publish a Bill in the late autumn with possible Royal Assent in November 2019.

Once the legislative process had been completed they would then look at the guidelines and regulations needed. The National Assembly for Wales Committees would seek advice and comments on the legislation prior to publication and would invite people to attend and give evidence.

He added that the Electoral Commission’s seminar in February had provided a good opportunity to discuss some of the issues and to highlight that the priority would be to look at the franchise. Other issues such as voting on different days or on weekends and electronic counting would be considered after this.

With regard to the franchise, he made the point that an electronic register opened up other possibilities. Welsh Government would look at who should hold such a register and how it would enable voters to exercise their rights in different ways.

CE noted that any changes to the franchise would require public awareness work and that time would be needed to undertake this.

CE questioned if speed and accuracy were the objectives behind introducing e-counting. He said that this should be considered carefully as the e-counting process was less transparent than the manual counting system.

WG suggested that there could be opportunities to test new ideas outside elections , e.g. City Referenda. 

Presentation by Anna Daniel, Assembly Commission consultation on Creating a Parliament for Wales

ADan said that the Assembly Commission had launched its consultation on 12 February and it would close on 6 April. The consultation asked what we wanted our Parliament to look like. The Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform had made a number of recommendations on electoral reform in December which had provided the basis for the consultation.

CE said that clarity was needed over boundaries and responsibilities. The current constituency boundaries for Assembly elections would form a good basis for this work.

CE said that a duty of care was owed to ROs given that the reputation of an RO does hang on the success/failure of an election.

RT said that the Electoral Commission would be responding and suggested that it would be useful for the WECB to respond. It could be
helpful to include a timeline showing when legislation would need to be in place for elections scheduled in 2021.

CE suggested that the WECB’s response to the consultation should cover the following :

  • a respected and trusted process should not be put at risk
  • the voter should be put first
  • a pragmatic approach would be welcomed
  • regional changes could not be piloted;
  • the NAW election was a single and important electoral event that could not risk being experimented with
  • simplicity/clarity for the voter;
  • education – small window of opportunity
  • legislation would need to be in place six months ahead of canvass in 2020

Action: WECB to respond to National Assembly for Wales consultation on Creating a Parliament for Wales including a timeline

Forward Work Programme for 2018

The draft Forward Work Programme was accepted and would remain live and be updated by the secretariat as necessary.
It was agreed to hold further meetings of the Board in June and October 2018.

Action: Electoral Commission to ask for dates for upcoming meetings

RT said that it had been a year since the WECB had been formed and that it would be useful to obtain feedback on how the Board was operating.

Action: Electoral Commission to circulate survey on the first year of the WECB

Last updated: 27 August 2020
Next review: 25 November 2020