Nearly 130,000 Welsh residents denied a vote in local elections

By agency reporter
April 11, 2017

The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) estimates that 127,631 Welsh residents will be denied the vote in this year’s council elections (Thursday 4 May 2017) – with swathes of councillors already being elected before a single vote is cast.

Half of Wales’ local authorities are returning councillors without opposition. In the worst-affected council area, Gwynedd, 25,270 voters will be denied a choice of candidate in the local elections.

Across Wales, 92 councillors will be elected unopposed, meaning local residents will not be able to express an opinion on the future of key services and council tax levels. In one ward in Powys, Yscir, not a single person has put themselves forward as a candidate for election.

According to ERS analysis, Wales now accounts for the vast majority of uncontested seats in the UK – with Wales’ 92 uncontested seats figure comparing to just four for the whole of England in this round of elections.

Jess Blair, Director of Electoral Reform Society Cymru, said: “Local elections are one of the main opportunities for voters to have our say over services that affect our everyday lives. But with nearly 130,000 people across Wales having no choice at the upcoming elections, that opportunity is being taken away for many of us. Welsh residents are being denied a voice – to the detriment of our democracy and our services.  

“This is the symptom of a broken First Past the Post voting system – one which creates hundreds of safe seats, where other parties often don’t stand a chance of winning.

“But it’s also the symptom of wider issues of political engagement in Wales which need tackling head on – from introducing votes at 16 and decent citizenship education to moving towards automatic voter registration and fair funding for political parties.

“This will be the first vote since last June’s referendum, and with Article 50 triggered at the end of March, there has never been a more important time for people’s opinions about the future to be heard.

“It is vital that we remove the barriers to having an effective and representative democracy, and these figures are a damning indictment that the current system isn’t working."

She concluded: “We need to look at the way politics works in Wales – including reforming the voting system for local elections so that no one is denied a voice.”

* Electoral Reform Society http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/

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