On 6 May 2021 the people of Wales will vote to decide who their Members of the Senedd are going to be for the next five years.
Elected Members will form the Welsh Parliament, or Senedd Cymru in Welsh, in total there are 60 Senedd Members. The Senedd’s role is to hold the Welsh Government to account by overseeing its work, making and scrutinising laws and agreeing Welsh taxes.
The election will also decide who forms the next Welsh Government which is responsible for public services like hospitals, schools and transport in Wales.
The Welsh Government is formed from the party or parties holding the most seats in the Senedd and is led by the First Minister. If a single party wins more than 30 seats, it will be able to form a government. Otherwise, the largest party can either form a minority government or enter into a coalition with one or more parties.
Who can vote?
A person can vote in the Senedd elections if they are:
- Registered to vote
- 16 or over on the day of the election;
- living in Wales; and
- not legally excluded from voting.
This will be the first election where 16 and 17 year olds and foreign citizens legally resident in Wales can vote after the Senedd passed the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Act 2020. To assist new voters, the Senedd Commission and the Electoral Commission have created resources to help young people understand what to expect in the upcoming elections.
Further information on who can vote is available on the Electoral Commission website.
How do you register?
You can register to vote:
- online, the deadline to apply is midnight on 19 April 2021, or
- by contacting the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) for your local area. You can find their details using the postcode search on the uk website.
How can you vote?
There are three different ways you can vote, these are:
- in person at a polling station;
- by post; or
- by proxy (arranging for someone you trust to vote on your behalf).
However, contingency measures passed by the Senedd mean there is flexibility for some voters to apply for emergency proxy voting up until 5pm on election day itself. This must be for something that a person wasn’t aware of before the normal proxy vote deadline, such as unexpectedly needing to self-isolate under coronavirus regulations.
Anyone who would for any reason prefer not to attend a polling station, can apply for a postal or proxy vote.
How does the voting system work?
During a Senedd election, the people of Wales have two votes: one constituency vote and one regional vote. The voting system means you’re represented in the Senedd by five Members. One for your constituency and four for the region of Wales where you live.
The first vote on the ballot paper will be for the person you want to represent you and your local area, known as your constituency. Wales has 40 constituencies, and every constituency sends a Member to the Senedd.
These Members are elected using the first-past-the-post system. This means that the constituency candidate with most votes is elected.
The second vote on the ballot paper is for who you want to represent your region of Wales. Wales is broken up into five regions and each region sends four members to the Senedd:
- South Wales East;
- South Wales Central;
- South Wales West;
- Mid and West Wales; and
- North Wales.
This means there are 20 regional Senedd Members. They are elected using the Additional Member System which helps to reflect the support for each party across Wales.
Over the coming weeks the Senedd is hosting free online sessions which are open to anyone to discover more about the role of the Senedd and voting in the 2021 election.
When will we know the results?
The results will take longer this year because counting will not be held overnight due to the pandemic. The Wales Electoral Co-ordination Board anticipates the verification and count process will take longer to ensure a COVID safe environment but all counts should be completed two days after the election.
Will polling day be different under coronavirus restrictions?
The Welsh Government is making £1.5 million available to ensure a COVID-secure Senedd election this year. This will include hand sanitiser stations, screens, and social distance markings inside and outside polling stations.
Voters must wear a face covering, unless exempt, and are advised to bring their own pen or pencil. But clean pencils will be available for those who forget to bring their own.
For further information, the Welsh Government has published guidance with advice and arrangements specifically for the Senedd 2021 election.
Article by Megan Jones, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament