Election during pandemic

Election during pandemic

Welsh Government introduces emergency coronavirus elections Bill

Published 27/01/2021   |   Last Updated 27/01/2021   |   Reading Time minutes

The next Senedd general election is scheduled for Thursday 6 May 2021.

On 27 January 2021, the Welsh Government introduced the Welsh Elections (Coronavirus) Bill to the Senedd.  The Bill proposes to introduce contingency measures solely for the purposes of the 2021 Senedd election.

Our Bill Summary explains the background to the Bill and includes a comprehensive analysis of its provisions. 

What does the Bill do?

The Bill does three key things:

1. Provides a power enabling the Llywydd to postpone the election for up to six months;

  • This does not automatically change the date of the election;
  • The process is triggered by the First Minister proposing a postponement relating to coronavirus;
  • The Llywydd then has discretion to fix a new date which must be the earliest date considered reasonably practicable; however
  • Any date must be approved by the Senedd in a vote where ‘not less than two-thirds of the total number of Senedd seats’ vote in favour. This is known as a ‘supermajority’ vote.

2. Reduces the Senedd’s dissolution period to seven days, starting on 29 April 2021

  • Dissolution is the official term for the end of a parliament;
  • Without the Bill, the Senedd would be dissolved on 7 April 2021;
  • When the Senedd is dissolved, Members can’t be recalled to debate or pass legislation as they stop holding office on dissolution;
  • The changes under the Bill means that Members can be recalled to debate coronavirus regulations or postponing the election up to a week before the scheduled or postponed election date.

3. Provides flexibility for proxy voting

  • Voting by ‘proxy’ is when someone arranges for another person to vote on their behalf;
  • The Bill adds flexibility to current rules by allowing people to vote by proxy if they cannot reasonably be expected to vote in person due to complying with coronavirus legislation (for example, self-isolating);
  • Applications to vote by proxy due to coronavirus can be made up to 5pm on the day of the election itself.

Bill Timetable

On 26 January, the Senedd agreed to treat the Bill as an Emergency Bill.  The Senedd has streamlined legislative processes for scrutinising Emergency Bills which enables urgent legislation to be enacted quickly.  Our Emergency Bills Guide outlines this process.

Under the Welsh Government’s proposed Bill timetable , it is scheduled to complete all four Senedd scrutiny stages by 10 February 2021. 

Article by Gruffydd Owen, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament