Will we have only postal voting at Local Elections in 2021?
PUBLISHED: 13:22 18 September 2020 | UPDATED: 13:22 18 September 2020
Voters might have to vote by post at Local Elections in 2021 if the coronavirus pandemic is not under control in nine months, it was suggested at a recent council meeting.
At the meeting of Welwyn Hatfield full council on Thursday, the leader of the Labour group Cllr Kieran Thorpe said: “As we slowly head towards the end of an unprecedented year of uncertainty, does the leader agree that planning and preparing for universal postal voting in the 2021 local elections is a sensible preparation to undertake now to ensure elections can take place safely or at all in less than nine months time?”
In response, leader of the council Cllr Tony Kingsbury maintained that the council plans elections well in advance – which next year will involve borough, county and police and crime commissioner elections – but explained it was a responsibility of the government to make changes about elections laws.
Cllr Kingsbury added that Welwyn Hatfield has raised concerns around paper contamination but pointed out that the cabinet office has said elections will go ahead with measures to protect safety in place.
“They will not be changing legislation that will push back these elections and so authorities should not expect any kind of elections, including by-elections, to be able to take place before May 2021.
“Further they believe there is no necessity for significant changes such as imposing all postal votes or changing dates or times.”
There was some concern by the cabinet office, the leaders of Welwyn Hatfield explained, that only voting by post would increase the risk of fraud.
But Cllr Thorpe disagreed and said postal voting trials in Stevenage by the electoral commission had shown this was a successful way to conduct elections.
Cllr Kingsbury added that the government was not ruling out changes to election practices and an updated will be given councils soon.
A new scanner to cope with the “expected increase” in postal voting has also been purchased by Welwyn Hatfield to cope with demand, as voters are set to avoid the polls.
The Labour leader was also worried that canvassing, which usually takes place now by political parties, might also be a risk.
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