Posted: Thu 11th Jul 2024

Concerns raised over postal votes and photo ID law impeding Welsh democracy for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area

Questions have been raised over postal votes in Wales, and issues of some unable to take part in democracy due to Photo ID law.

Welsh Conservative Joel James MS said, “Trefnydd, as you will be aware, there’s been considerable concern among some residents in my region about the way that postal votes were issued for last week’s general election.

“Delays in issuing postal votes for many constituents meant not receiving them in time for their holidays or work commitments, and, sadly, some residents didn’t receive postal votes at all and were unable to collect them from council offices.

“On election day itself, I was also informed—and I don’t know if this is true or not—that council officers were out knocking on the doors of people who hadn’t received their postal votes and asking them to fill them out there and then. Though I do not suspect any foul play here, if true, you can imagine that this opens up the door to accusations of fraud in the voting system, and it seriously diminishes confidence in the postal voting system.

“With this in mind, Trefnydd, can I ask for a statement from the Government, explaining how they intend to improve confidence in the postal voting system and ensure that postal votes are received in a timely manner ahead of future elections? Thank you.

Trefnydd Jane Hutt MS replied, “I know there will be an analysis—there always is—to look at, with electoral returning officers, the implementation of all of the rules, regulations, procedures and policy relating to the last election.

“I think, across the parties, we know there was an issue with Royal Mail in terms of postal votes, and, I think, earlier questions as well about accessibility, all of which we are certainly addressing in terms of our electoral powers.

“I’m sure that the Counsel General, as we move forward, I hope, with Stage 4 of the Bill this afternoon, will also be responding to these points—not this afternoon, but in terms of his future roles and responsibilities.” asked Wrexham Council if there were any issues reported locally regarding postal votes, and was told no.

Heledd Fychan MS also spoke to election issues, “A number of constituents have been in touch saying that they faced barriers in voting. Obviously, we know that photo ID was a barrier to some, but the accessibility of polling stations remains to be problematic. Some people physically couldn’t get into the polling stations in order to be able to place their votes.

“So, can I ask if the Welsh Government can work with each authority in Wales to ensure that there is no barrier in place by the Senedd elections, so that we understand what went wrong this time? Because, obviously, everybody should have that democratic right to vote, and to hear that there are still barriers in place now is hugely concerning for all of us, I’m sure.”

Jane Hutt MS replied, “On barriers to voting, it is really important, because I, certainly, like many, knocked the doors of people who said, ‘I cannot vote because I have no voter identification.’ There were a couple who had no driving licence, no passport, and—let’s face it—a lot of people are in that position, particularly young people and families on lower incomes.

“So, thank goodness we have control, anyway, over our electoral systems in Wales. I look forward to the Stage 4 debate on the Elections and Elected Bodies (Wales) Bill this afternoon, because that is going to be helping us to address many of these things. On accessibility of polling stations, again, it’s very much that we need to feed back across the Chamber on experiences that our constituents had in terms of accessibility to polling stations.

“I know that there were some improvements in my constituency, and I’m sure that’s reflected more widely. But also, it’s very interesting to see what can be a polling station. I think we need to just learn from—. Each election, we tend to, perhaps, not learn as much and then go straight into the next one, but really important points—diolch yn fawr, Heledd.”

(Top pic: The ballot paper in Wrexham)

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