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Written Statement - Increasing Electoral Registration in Wales

Leighton Andrews, Minister for Public Services

This Statement is to update Assembly Members on Welsh Government’s activities to maximise voter registration ahead of the May National Assembly for Wales’ elections.

The Assembly elections this year are held in combination with the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections and we have been working with stakeholders to boost registration levels, encourage voter participation and ensure the elections run as smoothly as possible.    

Welsh Government Officials have been working closely with officials from UK Government to ensure the joint poll is managed efficiently.  

The Returning Officers for Wales have agreed to synchronise the counting of votes across Wales. National Assembly for Wales’ votes will be counted first, overnight. PCC votes will be counted on the Sunday.  

Since the last Assembly elections, the UK Government has replaced the old system of household-based electoral registration with individual election registration (IER). Alongside the Electoral Commission, we argued to delay this change, as it risked the possibility that many eligible voters could be removed from the registers ahead of the Assembly election.  

Our concerns have been justified and the most recent figures show a significant drop in the numbers on the electoral register, of around 2% since December 2014/March 2015, and 5% since February/March 2014.

Electoral Registration Officers have been carrying out significant activity to increase registration.  To support this, I have provided funding towards the costs of sending out a Household Notification Letter.  This reminds voters of the new system and invites them to check that they are registered to vote before it is too late.   I have also commissioned the Behavioural Insights Team to work with a number of Welsh Councils to increase registration.

Students traditionally are less likely to vote than the general population. This is partly due to uncertainly about where to vote in their new area. I have therefore funded the National Union of Students, Wales working with the Democracy Club to develop an innovative web–based tool for students, to help them find their polling station. I am launching this tool today.