Date: 17 October 2018
- Dave Beecham, South Wales East (DB)
- Amanda Bebb, Mid and West Wales (AB)
- Rhys George, Chair AEA Wales (RG)
- Rebecca Light, South Wales Central (RL)
- Glynne Morgan, Vice Chair AEA Wales (GM)
- Alison O’Hara, South Wales West (AO)
- Lynn Phillips, North Wales (LP)
- Rhydian Thomas (RT)
- Catherine Uphill (CU)
- Laura Ward (LW)
- Anna Daniel, Assembly Commission (AD)
- Matthew Redmond, Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales (MR)
- Gareth Thomas, Welsh Government (GT)
- Angharad Thomas-Richards, Welsh Government (ATR)
- Clare Sim, South Wales West - Alison O’Hara attended as deputy
The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed as a correct record.
CU explained that most actions from the previous meeting had been completed. Guidance on conducting local government polling district reviews alongside Parliamentary polling district reviews was currently being considered; a representative from the Youth Parliament would be invited to the January meeting and the introduction of an induction and mentoring scheme for new Electoral Services Managers (ESMs) would be discussed by WEPWG in future meetings rather than by a sub-group.
Action: Invite Youth Parliament Officer to January meeting
Presentation from Matthew Redmond – Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales
MR provided an update on the work of the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales (LDBC). LDBC had published an Electoral Reviews: Policy and Practice document in 2016 which set out the procedures and methodology for electoral reviews and explained how
they would consider the appropriate number of elected members identified for each council.
Reviews commenced in January 2017. 16 reviews have commenced to date with two completed. Welsh Government would need to make the
relevant Orders for proposed changes to be implemented.
Following the 2018 review, the Parliamentary Boundary Commission proposed 29 constituencies in Wales. They recognised that not all were
ideal with only 11 new constituencies falling wholly within one local authority area. If an Order was made adopting these proposals, the new
boundaries would apply at the next UK Parliamentary general election.
The next review would start in 2021 using the December 2020 electoral registers. This would be on the current ward basis and those that had
Orders made on the reviews at that point. LDBC would be requesting additional data from local authorities on that basis.
National Assembly for Wales boundaries were currently uncertain.
Elections could become more difficult to administer as boundaries move further away from each other. This could be confusing for electors.
Cabinet Office previously had a power of interim review to make an Order to align the boundaries. This power had been removed so the National
Assembly boundaries are fixed.
There was a proposal to review all community councils across Wales. A previous review had taken eleven years to complete as Orders were
made during the process and boundaries would keep shifting away from each other.
Welsh Government had asked for an analysis of extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds. This was currently being considered by Welsh
Government and LDBC, but it did not seem as though this would have much impact on the boundaries.
Parliamentary constituency reviews were in sync with the fixed-term Parliaments. The unscheduled UK Parliamentary General election had
caused them to be out of sync. The 2022 reviews would be conducted before there was an election. This would be difficult to explain to voters.
Discussion about examples of initiatives that make electoral services as accessible as possible
CU said that the Commission was currently looking at improving access to elections and sharing good practice. The UK Government had asked for
views in September 2017 and the Commission had published its Elections for Everyone report as part of this call for evidence. A number of actions
had been identified including actions for Returning Officers (ROs). The Commission was attempting to identify how it could assist ROs in this
respect and was hoping to share good practice examples of polling station staff training and equipment used in polling stations.
RT said that there had been a good history of working with accessibility groups in Wales. The Commission had produced a number of resources
with partners and some of these partners had attended WEPWG meetings in the past.
RG said that Cardiff had created short videos showing how to use the tactile devices provided in polling stations which were used for polling
station staff training.
Action: Regional chairs to collate good practice examples on accessibility from ESMs in their regions and submit to the EC
Update from AEA
RG provided an update from the AEA Wales branch meeting held in September. There had been presentations from the LDBC and Royal
Mail, and Laura Lock (AEA Deputy Chief Executive) had provided an update on AEA national work.
Concerns were raised over the overlap of work with the electoral reform programme, boundary reviews and canvass reform. There would be a
national AEA response to the Commission’s consultation on the electoral observer scheme.
At the Wales Electoral Coordination Board (WECB) meeting the previous week, RG had raised the issue of students and automatic registration. In
England the Higher Education and Research Act compels universities to provide information to Electoral Registration Officers (EROs). There was
no such provision in Wales. He also commented on the crucial importance of discussing the proposed extensions to the franchise with the elections
Royal Mail had raised the issue of the Mailmark product and absence of a bilingual version.
RT said that the Welsh Language Legislation Advisory Group (WLLAG) had previously raised this issue with Royal Mail and Cabinet Office.
Action: Welsh Language Legislation Advisory Group to formally write to Royal Mail about the lack of a bilingual Mailmark product.
DB asked whether the Electoral Commission would be involved in the design of the forms to be used during canvass reform.
RT confirmed that this was the case. WLLAG would be looking at the forms and had ESMs as members who could contribute to this review. CU added that there would be user group testing of the forms.
Welsh Government update on plans for local government election reform
ATR said that Welsh Government would be introducing a Bill in February which would extend the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds and foreign
GT said that he had been working on the provisions of the Bill that would allow local authorities a choice as to which voting system was used to
elect members. They could continue with first past the post or could introduce the single transferable vote for principal county elections. The
detail would be included in secondary legislation at a later date.
GT sought assurance over whether legislation relating to the format of election documents could be included in the election rules rather than in
the Bill itself. The group agreed that this would be acceptable.
RT asked about the impact of local authority Welsh language schemes on the delivery of elections if the function of RO becomes part of the role of
the Chief Executive.
ATR confirmed that this issue was being considered.
RG asked whether the franchise would be extended to foreign nationals resident in Wales.
ATR confirmed that this would be included in the Local Government Bill but not the Welsh Parliament and Elections (Wales) Bill.
CU asked about the process and timetable for identifying what needed to be included in secondary legislation.
ATR said that there was a process in place to identify elements to be included in subordinate legislation and that they were working with lawyers on the timetable. They wanted to give people as much time as possible to deliver the changes. As soon as the Bill was introduced, they would start working on the secondary legislation.
Update from the Electoral Commission
CU said that the Commission had selected nine EROs to work with as part of the performance standards monitoring for this year’s annual
canvass. Several EROs were selected because they had been appointed recently. CU and RT had met with all new EROs apart from one (who they
would meet in November) to discuss their plans and conversations about planning had been held with all ESMs. The canvass data survey had been
sent to all EROs and the deadline to respond was Friday 17 November.
The Electoral Commission has recently published a report on Electoral Registration in Great Britain: 2017 and 2018 annual canvasses.
The Commission was currently consulting on its review of the electoral observer scheme. The deadline for responses was 31 October.
The Commission had responded to a UK Government policy consultation on Protecting the Debate and was preparing a response to a separate UK
Government consultation on proposals for reforming the annual canvass.
The Modernising Electoral Registration project was progressing well and has completed the first of the feasibility studies on better use of non-local
data sources by Electoral Registration Officers. 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 enabled systems of electoral
registration. The feasibility studies were expected to be completed by the end of the year and would be shared.
Work was continuing on the Modernising Guidance project with the next user group meeting on 26 October.
Update from Wales Electoral Coordination Board
LW provided an update from the WECB meeting on 11 October.
The key speaker at the meeting was the Llywydd Elin Jones AM, who provided an update on the introduction of the Welsh Parliament and
Elections (Wales) Bill. The Bill would change the name of the National Assembly to the 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. These changes were intended to be implemented in time for the 2021 Assembly elections.
The Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform recommended an increase in the number of Assembly Members and a change in the
electoral system used to elect them. This was not currently included in the Bill but if a consensus was reached in the next few months, legislation
might be introduced to enable this for the 2021 or 2026 elections.
There was also an update from Welsh Government on the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill. A draft copy of the Bill would
hopefully be shared with the WECB soon and this would be discussed at the next meeting in January. There might be some provisions in the Local
Government Bill that were not included in the Assembly Bill, such as extending the franchise to foreign nationals resident in Wales and
GM spoke about the work that Pembrokeshire County Council had started on Votes at 16. The Pembrokeshire Youth Assembly had recently
discussed Votes at 16 and invited representatives from different council departments and the Electoral Commission to discuss how to engage
young people on the lowering of the voting age. The Vale of Glamorgan Council had also started work on this and the WECB were encouraging
ROs to start thinking about what they could do in their areas to promote awareness and engagement.
WECB has developed a Capacity and Capability Assessment Tool for ROs to assess whether or not they have sufficient resource to deliver registration and election activities. The toolkit was based on a plan from Flintshire County Council with the input of AEA Wales. The WECB would
be recommending to all ROs that they complete this plan and review it regularly.
Mark James (Regional Returning Officer for Mid and West Wales) gave an update on the WECB’s recently launched mentoring and induction
scheme to support new ROs and EROs. All new ROs had been matched with a mentor who was an experienced RO who can offer them practical
advice and support. They also received a guide explaining their roles and responsibilities. To supplement this the WECB had decided to set up a
training event for ROs in the forthcoming year.
GM suggested that as WECB were encouraging ROs to appoint deputies, the new deputies should also attend the training.
MR requested that ESMs share any data they had through their work on Votes at 16.
RL said that the Vale of Glamorgan were establishing a network and looking at the best ways to disseminate information. They would create a
package of options for schools to choose from although they had been difficult to engage with. They were also working with social services and
GM added that this was an opportunity to engage with young people not just on Votes at 16 but democracy as a whole.
RG asked whether the Commission would be producing public awareness resources for Votes at 16 as these were very useful to use locally.
RT said that there would be national campaigns run by the Commission and other organisations. It was a good idea to establish these networks
now and find out what young people want and how to work with them.
RL said that although automatic registration could capture a lot of young voters, it misses the opportunity to talk to young people and educate them
about democracy and voting.
Action: Include Votes at 16 as a standing item for future meetings
National Assembly for Wales update on plans for Assembly electoral reform
AD said that the National Assembly for Wales had agreed to allow the Assembly Commission to introduce the Welsh Parliament and Elections
(Wales) Bill which would change the name of the Assembly, reduce the voting age and make changes to the disqualification laws. Discussion
were still ongoing on the size of the Assembly and the voting system.
The Bill would not extend the franchise to include prisoners or non-EU nationals resident in Wales which meant that there may be a slightly
different franchise to local government elections.
The Bill would be introduced at the end of January 2019 when there would be an opportunity to give evidence and allow committee scrutiny
until July. It was anticipated that the legislation would be passed by the end of 2019 so there was a tight timescale for everything to be in place for
the 2020 canvass.
The Assembly Commission had met with WECB the previous week and would share the draft provisions with them.
Automatic registration would apply to Assembly elections but this would be included in the Local Government Bill. They were working closely with
Welsh Government and both Bills would need to be considered together.
The Assembly Commission were looking at how they could make sure that young people were aware of the changes and what it meant to vote in
Assembly elections. There would be a session with Welsh Government on this in January. The Welsh Youth Parliament would start meeting at the
same time and there would be good connections with schools and other groups. Citizenship education was important and a greater emphasis
needed to be placed on this. It could be built into the curriculum.
RT said that resource was an issue. Welsh Government and the Assembly Commission needed to balance the expectation of work
expected to be done locally against how much it would cost.
AD said that there has been an assessment of the costs and where those costs would fall. This would be published alongside the Bill and could be
challenged at that time. They were aware of the implications on local authorities and the Electoral Commission.
MR asked whether an interim boundary review could be added to the legislation.
RG added that electoral boundaries falling out of alignment made running elections more complex and increased the risk of errors.
Any other business
Next meeting to be scheduled late January or early February, avoiding the AEA Conference 3-6 February.
Action: Circulate potential dates for next meeting