Local elections: How long till it takes place? Can I still register? Catchup on the latest news

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After a year of delay caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, there are 64 days until polling day for local elections in England and Wales. The public will elect individuals into local councils, directly elect mayors and elect 39 police and crime commissioners across England and Wales. 

There had been many, many.... many calls for the elections to be pushed back once more. A poll in January also highlighted the anxiety which existed among leading council figures about going ahead with the elections. However, the government confirmed last month that the election would go ahead, with exception to Sommerset

Firstly, the when: Local elections in England and Wales are scheduled to take place on May 6. 

The deadline for registration is midnight on Monday 19 April, while the deadline to apply for Postal Voting is Tuesday 20 April 17:00. Polling day (the day everyone heads out to vote in person) is 6 May.

Given the ongoing battle to manage the spread of the virus, the government is putting extra measures in place ahead of time to make sure things run smoothly in the lead up to the day. 

Last month they outlined a plan for the electoral process and how it should run. The plan reaffirmed a willingness to have the process run ‘as normally as possible’ but stressed that measures would be put in place to ‘protect against spread of disease and overcome practical challenges.’

One such measure is a change to the rules for proxy voting. Proxy voting occurs when an individual cannot vote due certain circumstances (I.e. being away for the day or a medical issue) so has somebody else cast their chosen vote. 

Members of the public are usually required to register to apply for a proxy vote ‘at least 6 working days before election day’, but new legislation will allow people that are self-isolating because of covid-19 to access an emergency proxy vote, until 17:00 on election day. This means that until 17:00 on May 6, individuals will still be able to apply for someone to vote on their behalf in the local elections. 

Another ‘safety’ measure has been to ask voters to bring their own pencils to reduce the chances of spreading the virus. Social distancing both inside and outside of voting venues will have to be adhered to, while masks must also be worn by both staff and voters.

Next Monday (8th March) also marks the date in which door-to-door campaigning will resume, although canvassers cannot enter people’s homes and are being made to respect the 2m social distancing rule.

Yesterday, Chloe Smith, the current Minister of State, revealed that an estimated £92 million would be provided to local authorities for the elections - £31 million of which would ‘directly address costs associated with making elections covid-secure’. Part of that £31 million will go toward installing plastic screens where possible, but it is hoped that part of that £91 million will be put toward doubling down on efforts to raise public awareness on postal and proxy voting to allow for the election to run as smoothly as possible.

The Government is working on finalising the funding allocations for the May 2021 elections, and Returning Officers and local authorities will be updated on their funding allocations for the Police and Crime Commissioner and local elections respectively by the end of March.

There will be an estimated £92 million of government funding that will be provided to local authorities for the elections; of this, £31 million is an uplift to directly address costs associated with making the elections covid-secure.

Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

Helen Hayes, the Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, had questioned Smith on this topic.

In 2017, about ⅙ (3.1 million) of the total votes during the local elections were made via post, an increase from 14.9% 4 years prior. 

The new measures from the government in addition to lingering fears over safety will probably contribute to record postal figures this year.

Mayowa Ayodele

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