A voter would be able to apply for an emergency proxy vote where, in the period ahead of the poll for the next Senedd election, a voter or their already nominated proxy becomes unable to participate in person on the day of the poll because of a reason relating to coronavirus, such as the need to self-isolate, under an emergency Bill introduced by the Welsh Government.
The proposal is one of a number of measures contained in the Welsh Elections (Coronavirus) Bill introduced before the Senedd.
Other provisions in the Bill include:
- Allowing the Senedd to keep sitting for up to seven calendar days before the election (instead of it being dissolved 21 working days before the election as is usually the case). “This will allow the Welsh Government and Members of the Senedd to continue to deal with legislation related to the Covid pandemic and enable a postponement of the election should that prove necessary during the final month before the poll is held”; and
- Allowing for the postponing of the Senedd election for up to 6 months, to a date no later than 5th November 2021, if this is needed due to public health reasons. The postponement and the fixing of a new date for the election would be proposed by the Presiding Officer and would require the agreement of two-thirds of Members.
The Welsh Government said it was still its policy to hold the election on 6th May 2021 as intended, adding that electoral administrators had been asked to continue preparing for the election to take place on that date.
The Bill will apply only to the 2021 Senedd ordinary general election and not to any subsequent Senedd elections.
Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on every aspect of our lives over the last year. Families across Wales have lost loved ones to the virus, while many more have and still suffer from it. Given the unpredictable nature of the virus, there is significant uncertainty about what the public health situation will be like in May. That’s why we need to act now to respond to the potential risks to the election arising from the pandemic.
“Our priority is on ensuring the election can proceed and be conducted as safely a possible. The Bill we are introducing today will help ensure people can exercise their democratic right to vote in the election, but to do so in a safe and secure way. The Welsh Government appreciates the huge efforts being made by the staff who run our elections to ensure it can be held safely.”