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This guidance provides advice to the public and the electoral community on elections planned during 2021.

First published:
12 March 2021
Last updated:

Leaving home to vote

Am I allowed to leave home to vote?

Yes.

Leaving home to travel to vote in an election is considered a “reasonable excuse”. Whenever you leave home, you should try to minimise time spent outside of the home, and ensure you observe all other social distancing advice appropriate to the alert level at that time.

You must always check the latest guidance to confirm the alert level and what is and is not allowed.

Will the election go ahead on the 6th May?

The Welsh Government remains committed to holding the election on 6th May 2021 and preparations are in place for the election to take place on this date.

However, should the pandemic present such a serious threat to public health and the conduct of the election that it is not safe to hold the election at that time, the Welsh Elections (Coronavirus) Act 2021 provides a contingency power for the election to be postponed for up to 6 months. Such a decision will only be taken with the agreement of two-thirds of Members of the Senedd.

Polling stations

Will there be restrictions to the number of people allowed within a polling station at any one time?

Yes. Social distancing measures appropriate to the alert level will be in place such as 2m distancing, one-way systems, queue management and the use of clear safety screens designed to ensure the protection and safety of all stakeholders involved in the election process.

Will voters be allowed to bring their own pens/pencils to polling stations?

Yes. Voters are encouraged to bring their own pens/pencils with them to use in completing their ballot papers. However, pens/pencils will also be available at polling stations and will be subject to the appropriate sanitising procedures.

Will I have to wear a face covering to vote?

Yes. Face coverings must be worn inside a polling station, unless you have a valid reason for exemption. A supply of face coverings will be available to anyone entering the polling station without one.

Will the Test, Trace, Protect (TTP) measure of keeping records of staff, customers and visitors be in place when I vote?

No. TTP will not be applicable where a polling station is used for the sole purpose of voting. Similarly to retail, polling stations are not generally required to collect contact information as the focus is on higher risk settings where there may be close interaction between staff, customers and visitors over a sustained period of time.

Will physical distancing rules be in place at polling stations?

Yes. Social distancing measures appropriate to the alert level will be in place such as 2m distancing, one-way systems, queue management and the use of clear safety screens designed to ensure the protection and safety of all stakeholders involved in the election process.

Is it appropriate for tellers to carry out their role at polling stations given the current COVID restrictions?

Tellers play a vital and important role in elections. There should be no more than one teller at a polling station for each political party and candidate at any time for, though where polling stations provide separate entrances, it may be appropriate for there to be tellers at each entrance. They must follow all necessary social distancing measures and comply with any and all instructions of Returning or Presiding Officers present.

Will I have to provide proof of a negative COVID test to enter a polling station?

No. Voters will not be required to provide evidence of a negative COVID test to enter polling stations. However, you and anyone you live with should remain at home and self-isolate according to the guidance if displaying any COVID symptoms, or have tested positive or been instructed to self-isolate.

You will be breaking the law and could be fined if you do not stay at home and self-isolate if you have tested positive for COVID-19, or have been told to self-isolate by the NHS TTP service. If you are unable to attend a polling station, you can still vote.

Please visit the Electoral Commission website to explore your options before and on polling day.

Will election staff be prioritised for vaccination?

Not at this stage. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has set the prioritisation for vaccination and we are working to this guidance. All election staff who are invited to receive the vaccine as a result of being in one of the earlier priority groups are encouraged to attend their appointment.

Can I be accompanied to the polling station, for instance if I require a carer?

Yes, you can be accompanied by a carer to assist you with voting at a polling station or bring someone with you who is over 16, and eligible to vote in that election. You can also ask the member of staff in charge of the polling station to help you mark your ballot paper to vote.

Voters and voting

What arrangements are there in place to ensure that voters who have been advised to shield during the COVID-19 outbreak are able to vote?

The Welsh Government is working with partners and stakeholders to ensure that polling stations will be COVID safe environments. However any voters who do not feel comfortable voting in person have the option to apply either for a postal vote (deadline of 5pm on the 20 April 2021) or a proxy vote (deadline of 27 April 2021), whereby an individual nominates someone they trust to vote on their behalf. Provision has also been made for an emergency proxy application. If you think either of these options would be appropriate for you, follow the links above.

What if I or someone I live with display COVID-19 symptoms close to polling day and we can’t leave my house to vote? Will proxy voting rules enable those waiting for a test result or testing positive on the day of the election to vote via proxy?

Yes. Proxy voting rules would allow voters who are following government guidelines in respect of self-isolating to apply for an emergency proxy vote, without requiring a medical attestation (or amend their proxy vote if that person is following government guidelines) up to the day of the poll. More information regarding a proxy vote can be found at the Electoral Commission website.

Will postal votes be accepted at polling stations, or must they be returned through postal service to reduce an unnecessary visit to a polling station?

Yes, postal votes can be returned to a polling station within your constituency, but we encourage that where you are using a postal vote, you return it in good time via Royal Mail.

Can I vote online to avoid attending a polling station?

No, but you can apply for a postal vote or proxy vote if you cannot, or do not want to, go to a polling station. Polling stations will be COVID-secure, and it will be the responsibility of Returning Officers to ensure this. But the choice is yours.

I would like to apply for a postal vote but this requires me to physically print the form and I do not have a printer at home. Can I apply for a postal vote electronically?

No, but you can contact the electoral services team at your local council and ask them to post an application form to you and discuss the options for submitting the form. You should allow yourself plenty of time to meet the deadline to apply, which is 5pm on 20 April 2021.

You can find the website address and contact details for your electoral services team at the Electoral Commission website.

How does a proxy vote work?

A proxy vote is where you ask someone else to vote on your behalf. Full details regarding proxy voting can be accessed at the Electoral Commission website. The deadline for applying for a proxy vote is 27 April 2021.

If I have previously opted to vote in person, can I change my mind and opt to receive a postal vote?

Yes. Information regarding a postal vote, including details on how to obtain a Postal Vote Application Form, can be accessed at the Electoral Commission website. The deadline for applying for a postal vote is 5pm on 20 April.

As a result of the widening of the franchise for the Senedd election is it possible for me to vote if I turn 16 on polling day?

Yes, but this only applies to the Senedd election (not voting in the Police and Crime Commissioner election or any local government by-elections) and you must have registered to vote at least 12 working days before polling day.

What does the widening of the franchise for the Senedd election to include qualifying foreign citizens mean?

A qualifying foreign citizen means any person, 16 years or over, living in Wales who is not a Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of the Republic of Ireland and who has, or does not require, leave to remain or is treated as having leave to enter or remain in the UK.

Can I only vote in the polling station that is stated on my poll card?

Yes. Your name will only be on the Register of Electors in the polling station specified on your polling station. If you are unsure where you should go to vote contact your local council elections team. Contact details for your electoral services team can be found at the Electoral Commission website.

Can I travel to vote with other people?

You can travel with members of your household or those that you care for and are being cared by but in respect of people that you do not live with or provide care for you must always check the latest guidance to confirm the alert level and what is and is not allowed.

When will I hear the result of the election?

The Welsh Government is working with partners and stakeholders to ensure that counting venues will be COVID safe environments. The Wales Electoral Co-ordination Board has agreed that the count will not be held overnight. The verification and count processes will require more staff and take longer to perform and consideration will also need to be given to the space available to allow social distancing.

Political parties, campaigning and candidates

Are political parties, candidates or campaigners permitted to deliver election leaflets?

Yes. People undertaking election campaigning activities (“campaigners”) are allowed to deliver leaflets to private homes.

Collection of printed materials by campaigners should be organised on a one by one basis. Handling of materials should be minimised.

The number of campaigners operating together should be kept to an absolute minimum. Campaigners who do not live together should keep 2m apart from each other and other people not in their household or support bubble at all times.

Check the latest campaigning guidance to confirm what is and is not allowed.

Can political parties, candidates or campaigners engage in canvassing (knocking on doors)?

Campaigners are allowed to canvass electors. Campaigners who are canvassing are required to take all reasonable steps to minimise the risk of exposure to, or spread of, coronavirus, and to have regard to the campaigning guidance.

Check the latest campaigning guidance to confirm what is and is not allowed.

I need to obtain signatures to support my nomination as a candidate for election. Am I permitted to meet with others for this purpose?

Yes. This qualifies as a legal obligation for the purposes of the regulations.

When collecting signatures for nomination papers social distancing rules must be maintained. Prospective candidates should consider using postal services wherever possible. However, where this not possible, leaving your home to hand deliver nomination forms to signatories is regarded as a reasonable excuse for leaving your home. Both of these options should allow for signatures to be affixed safely and at a time convenient to the individual. Where there are restrictions in place for meeting people from other households indoors you should not enter someone’s home to collect a signature.

The Electoral Commission website provides comprehensive guidance on the nomination process, including the requirement for subscribers.

You must always check the latest guidance to confirm the alert level and what is and is not allowed.

Do I have to submit my nomination forms by hand for a postponed (or ordinary) local government by-election?

Yes, it is a legal requirement that you submit your nomination forms by hand if you wish to stand as a candidate in a postponed (or ordinary) local government by-election.

As such this will be regarded as a reasonable excuse for leaving your home. When handing in your nomination forms all the legal restrictions placed upon workplaces and individuals must be observed. You must maintain social distancing rules, and where required you must wear a face covering. Pre-submission checks of the nomination forms should be undertaken electronically where the Returning Officer is able to do so. Face-to-face checks of the nomination forms should be seen as a last resort and only take place when it is absolutely necessary.

You must always check the latest guidance to confirm the alert level and what is and is not allowed.

Are 10 signatures still required to support a nomination for a principal council by-election?

The requirement for 10 signatories in support of a nomination for a principal council casual vacancy remains in place in Wales. The regulations postponing local government by-elections make provision that these polls should take place between 1 March and 6 May 2021. The by-elections are largely taking place at town and community council level with a small number of principal council casual vacancies being filled. The geographic extent of these by-elections is small and very few authorities are holding more than one by-election on the same day.

Signatures should be collected safely and ideally using postal services. Candidates will need to consider whether there is sufficient time for them to do so utilising postal services. Where this isn’t possible social distancing rules must be maintained and direct physical contact with a signatory should be avoided. Returning Officers should take this requirement into account when setting the date for the local government by-election.

Are 10 signatures still required for a casual vacancy at town or community council to be filled through an election?

The requirement for 10 signatories in support of a by-election as a result of a casual vacancy at town or community council level in Wales remains in place. The regulations postponing local government by-elections make provision that these polls should take place between 1 March and 6 May 2021. A large number of town or community council vacancies will be filled through the co-option process, however where ten (or more electors) have supported the filling of the vacancy through an election this will be taken forward to the electoral timetable as set out by the Returning Officer.

When signatures are being collected, this must be done safely and within the current public health guidelines. Ideally signatures will be collected using postal services, but where this isn’t possible social distancing rules must be maintained and direct physical contact with a signatory should be avoided. Returning Officers should take this requirement into account when setting the date for the local government by-election.