Click HERE to download the Policy Bulletin presenting some matters from the party manifestos for the Welsh Assembly elections. Please feel free to forward to your networks.
ELECTIONS IN WALES 2016 – A HANDY GUIDE
On the 5th of May 2016, the Welsh electorate will be greeted by two separate elections, three different electoral systems, and three different electoral boundaries. Here’s a quick guide of what to expect.
Registering to Vote
In order to vote in May’s elections, it is important to make sure that you have registered to vote. If you have not registered to vote, you won’t be able to vote. Ensuring that you are registered to vote is especially important this year due to a recent reform by the UK Government, leading to everyone having to register individually (rather than through family, University Halls, and so on). If you have registered to vote, you should receive an email from your Local Authority noting this, otherwise it is quick and easy to register either online or through the post – note that you will need your National Insurance number to do this. Whilst registering to vote you will also get the option to apply for a postal vote. If you have registered to vote, you should receive a Polling Card a few weeks before the election which will note the polling station where you will be able to vote on polling day. You do not have to take this card with you to the station.
Qualifying citizens from the Commonwealth, as well as citizens from the European Union are able to vote in the elections for the National Assembly and for Police and Crime Commissioners. For any further queries in regards to registering to vote, go to www.gov.uk/register-to-vote or contact your Local Authority. The deadline to register to vote in these elections is Monday 18th April 2016.
Election for the National Assembly for Wales
Since its establishment in 1999, the National Assembly for Wales has developed significantly, now holding law-making powers in a variety of fields- including Health, Education, the Environment and Housing. In the past, Assembly elections have been held every 4 years. However since the last Assembly election 2011, this has been changed to every 5 years to avoid clashing with Westminster elections. 60 members are elected to the Assembly, through a mixed member proportional representation electoral system. 40 constituency members are elected through a first past the post system, and 20 regional members are elected through the Additional Member electoral system. Voters will therefore receive two ballot papers for the Assembly elections on polling day.
First past the post
This is the same electoral system that is used for Westminster elections. Elections are held in each of the 40 Welsh constituencies, with the voter expected to place a cross next to their singlepreferred candidate. The candidate in the constituency who has received the most votes will be elected to the Assembly. The majority of a successful candidate can vary significantly under the first past the post system. For example, in 2011, Labour won the Cardiff Central seat by only 38 votes, but in Blaenau Gwent the party boasted a healthy majority of over 9,000 votes.
Additional Member system
Wales has 5 electoral regions – North Wales, Mid & West Wales, South Wales West, South Wales East and South Wales Central. 4 Assembly Members are elected for each region.
The Additional Member system is used for Assembly elections in an attempt to achieve an element of proportionality. It rewards political parties which have won a significant number of votes, but not enough to win many constituency seats. For example, in 2011 the Liberal Democrats won only 1 constituency seat, but won 4 regional seats through the Additional Member System. The vote is often referred to as the ‘party list’, as voters usually vote for a party rather than an individual. If a voter wishes, it is possible to ‘split’ their ballot – thus voting for a different party on the constituency and regional ballot papers. Or they can vote for the same party twice. Traditionally, more parties contest the regional election that the constituency elections.
The regional vote isn’t a ‘second preference’ vote – constituency and regional votes are counted separately, with both votes contributing towards the final election result. The regional seats are awarded according to the d’Hondt system (See notes at the end for details). This system tends to result in parties that have won a number of constituency seats in a region being less likely to win many regional seats. For example, in 2011 Labour won 5 constituency seats within the North Wales Region, but none of the regional seats.
Each party will have their own list of candidates, who are elected to the Assembly according to their position on the list. There is an exception to this, as candidates can stand in both a constituency and a regional seat. If the candidate wins the constituency seat, the regional seat is passed down the party list. For example, in 1999, Cynog Dafis (who was in second place on Plaid Cymru’s Mid & West Regional list) was elected to the Assembly, as Plaid’s first placed regional candidate (Helen Mary Jones) had won the Llanelli constituency seat.
Police and Crime Commissioners
The third ballot paper will be for the election of a Police and Crime Commissioner. Police and Crime Commissioners were introduced in England and Wales in 2012, replacing local police authorities. The Police and Crime Commissioner is responsible for holding the Chief Constable and police force to account on the public’s behalf, for budget management and for appointing the Chief Constable.
Wales has 4 Police and Crime Commissioners: North Wales, Dyfed-Powys, South Wales and Gwent. The boundaries of these regions are different from the National Assembly regional areas.
Police and Crime Commissioners are elected through a Supplementary Vote system. Under this system, there are two columns on the ballot paper – one for the voter to mark their first choice and one in which to mark a second choice. Voters are not required to make a second choice vote if they do not wish to do so. All of the first choice votes are counted first. If a candidate has over half the votes, he or she is elected. If no candidate has a majority, the top two candidates go through to the second round, while the other candidates are eliminated. The second-choice votes of every voter whose first choice has been eliminated are then counted. Any votes for the remaining candidates are added to their first-round totals. Whichever candidate has the most votes after these second-preferences have been counted is declared the winner.