William Eichler 03 March 2020

Young people and foreign citizens keen to get involved in Welsh politics, study shows

Young people and foreign citizens are more interested in voting in local government elections in Wales than some already enfranchised adults, new research shows.

The research on renewing democratic engagement was commissioned by the Welsh Government to inform reforms that will affect who can vote in Senedd Cymru and local council elections.

The Welsh government, through its Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill, is extending the right to vote at local elections to 16 and 17 year olds and all foreign citizens legally resident in Wales.

Those groups will also have the right to vote in Senedd elections from 2021, under the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Act 2020.

The research on democratic engagement in Wales found that a lack of knowledge and general disillusionment with politics were key barriers to engagement.

It also found that some non-EU/non-Commonwealth participants were frustrated that they could not vote in any Welsh elections.

Participants also tended to be unclear as to how to raise an issue about their local community, the research revealed.

To begin addressing the issues identified, the Welsh government has committed £800,000 to support new and existing voters in understanding their democratic rights and engaging with the democratic processes.

‘The Welsh Government is committed to doing everything it can to encourage people in Wales to play a full and active role in our democracy,’ said local government minister, Julie James.

‘The findings of this research will inform our on-going work to ensure people of all ages and backgrounds feel part of Welsh society.

‘We want to ensure people understand how and want to take part in our democracy by for example, voting, standing as an elected representative, starting a petition or being a community representative.’

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