Welsh Government plans to give prisoners right to vote

Prisoners will be allowed to vote in council elections under plans announced by the Welsh Government.

The changes would see around 1,900 adults and 20 young people who normally reside in Wales being given the right to vote if serving custodial sentences of less than four years.

On Sunday the Welsh Government published details of their amendments to the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill which is making its way through the Senedd.

Under the plans, UK-based prisoners and young people in custody would have to demonstrate a connection to an address in Wales in order to register to vote, but would not be able to use the address of any of Wales's five prisons.

The Welsh Government said arrangements would be made to give prisoners access to candidates, election literature and Welsh media in order to make informed choices, and said it would work with the UK Government to enable access for prisoners being held elsewhere in the UK.The amended Bill would first have to be voted through by Assembly Members in the National Assembly for Wales, and would first apply in the May 2022 local elections.

It would see Wales become the most lenient country in the UK on prisoner voting. Scotland extends voting in local and Scottish elections to prisoners serving a sentence of less than 12 months.

Credit: PA

Local Government Minister Julie James said the changes "struck the right balance" between sending a positive message to criminals and acknowledging the gravity of their offending, and that the four-year custody cap meant the most serious offenders could not take part.

She said: "Respondents to the consultations cited the human rights and citizenship of prisoners, alongside the rehabilitation benefits of enfranchisement, as reasons why the vote should be extended.

"However, we are not extending the right to vote to all prisoners and young people in custody.

"I believe our policy strikes the right balance between sending strong and positive messages to prisoners that they continue to have a stake in society and acknowledging the nature, gravity and circumstances of the offending."