Helping you understand Welsh law

The right to vote in elections

Eligibility to vote at Welsh local government elections

The franchise governs entitlement to vote at elections.  Section 2 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 (the 1983 Act ) sets out the basic franchise for local government elections

A person is entitled to vote as an elector at a local government election in any electoral area if on the date of the poll the person is:

  • registered in the register of local government electors for that area
  • not subject to any legal incapacity to vote (age apart)
  • a Commonwealth citizen, a citizen of the Republic of Ireland or a relevant citizen of the Union
  • of voting age (that is, 18 years or over, except in Scotland)

The person is registered

Entitlement to be registered as a local government elector is set out in section 4(3) of the 1983 Act .  It provides that a person is entitled to be registered in the register of local government electors if on the relevant date the person:

  • is resident in that area
  • is not subject to any legal incapacity to vote (age apart)
  • is a qualifying Commonwealth citizen, a citizen of the Republic of Ireland or a relevant citizen of the Union
  • is of voting age.

Section 4(5) deals with when a person can be entered onto the register in the case of those who are under voting age at the time of registration (often called “attainers”).

For further information about registration, click on the registration topic on the right .

The person is not subject to any legal incapacity to vote

Sections 3 and 3A of the 1983 Act  sets out some categories of person who are not entitled to vote by reason of a legal incapacity.  These sections disenfranchise serving prisoners from parliamentary and local government elections (section 3).  It also disenfranchises offenders who are detained (or who would be detained but for being unlawfully at large) in hospitals for the treatment of psychiatric disorder under enactments listed in the section, such as the  Mental Health Act 1983 or under the Criminal Procedure (Insanity) Act 1964.  

Persons guilty of corrupt or illegal practices under the 1983 Act are incapable of being registered to vote (and therefore are ineligible to vote).  

The person is a qualifying Commonwealth citizen, a citizen of the Republic of Ireland or a relevant citizen of the Union

Section 202 of the RPA 83 defines a “citizen of the Union”.

For the purposes of adding a person to the register, section 4(6) RPA 83 defines a “qualifying Commonwealth citizen”.  

Voting age

The voting age for Welsh local government elections is currently 18.  Scotland have reduced the voting age for Scottish local government elections and elections to the Scottish Parliament to 16 year of age (see the Scottish Elections (Reduction of Voting Age) Act 2015).  

Franchises linked to the local government franchise

Other franchises are also tied to the local government franchise.  

Elected mayors for local government in Wales

The Local Government Act 2000 establishes a regime for Welsh local authorities to operate under executive arrangements.  Where a local authority seeks to adopt a mayor and cabinet executive model, with an elected mayor, a referendum is required for such proposals (see section 27 of the Local Government Act 2000).

A person entitled to vote in a referendum of local electors to determine whether there should be an elected mayor is a person who on the day of the referendum:

  • would be entitled to vote as an elector at an election of councillors for an electoral area within the authority’s area, and
  • is registered on the register of local government electors at an address within the authority’s area (see section 45 of the Local Government Act 2000).

Eligibility to vote at National Assembly for Wales elections

A person is entitled to vote at National Assembly for Wales’ elections (see section 12 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 ) if they would be entitled to vote as a local government elector and are registered in the register of local government electors at an address within the Assembly constituency.  

The National Assembly for Wales (Representation of the People) Order 2007  sets out further circumstances where a person is incapable of being registered, such as persons reported personally guilty of corrupt or illegal practices, see article 110 of the Order.

For details of who is entitled to vote at local government elections in Wales, click on the local government elections link on the right.  

Proposals to make changes to the National Assembly for Wales franchise

The Assembly Commission have introduced a Bill before the Assembly which, amongst other things, seeks to extend the Assembly franchise to 16 and 17 year olds (see the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill - Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill | National Assembly for Wales).  




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