EXTENDING THE VOTE TO 16 AND 17 YEAR OLDS

Extending the vote to 16 and 17 year olds, electronic voting and proportional representation are just some of the proposals announced as part of a major shake-up of council elections in Wales.

The proposals, which form part of a 12 week consultation on electoral reform, are designed to make it easier to vote and easier to be entitled to vote. If enacted, they would amount to the biggest change to the Welsh electoral system since 1970 – when the voting age was lowered to 18. Under proposals set out in the consultation, 16 and 17 year olds in Wales would be given the right to vote in council elections – under powers transferred to the National Assembly for Wales under the Wales Act.

Dawn Bowden AM said:

“I have been a long standing advocate of the idea of extending the vote to 16 and 17 year olds and have argued for this in a number of debates in the Assembly and I welcome this consultation which I hope will be the first step in making this a reality”.

Different options to make it easier for people to vote and modernising the voting system are also laid out in the consultation. These include electronic voting at polling stations and remotely, mobile polling stations and voting at places other than polling stations such as supermarkets, local libraries, leisure centres and railway stations. The consultation also asks whether voting could take place on other days of the week rather than just Thursdays. Dawn Bowden added,

“I am also a supporter of looking at all ways in which we might be able to encourage more people to vote and therefore I am delighted that the consultation will also consider options for extending voting methods, and a change of polling day.”

Changes would also be made to the voting system itself, with each council being given the option of using a First-Past-the-Post or Single Transferable Vote system. Councils would have to consult with local residents before deciding which system to use.