politics

Local elections in England under threat from Covid-19 with plans 'under review'


Local elections due to be held in May could be postponed for a second time, Boris Johnson has hinted.

The Prime Minister said the fate of crucial local and mayoral elections would be kept “under review” amid soaring coronavirus rates.

Voters are due to go to the polls on May 6 – after local and mayoral elections were pushed back by 12 months in the first wave of the pandemic.

But sources have suggested that ministers are discussing whether they should delay these elections once more due to Covid fears.

Elections are also due to be held for the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly this year, but these will be determined by the devolved administrations.



A woman exits a polling station
The elections watchdog is examining how to ensure voters can make it to the polls safely

It comes as England entered its third national lockdown, with nationwide restrictions also in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

There are concerns that Covid restrictions could limit campaigning and prevent voters from getting to the polls.

Labour MP Bambos Charalambous challenged Mr Johnson in the Commons to guarantee the polls would go ahead in England this year, following examples of successful elections in the US.

Mr Johnson replied: “Of course, that is what the law provides for – though, obviously we’ll have to keep it under review.”

The PM’s official spokesman also failed to rule out postponing elections.

The spokesman said: “The primary legislation states that the local elections will take place in May.

READ  More than 70% of health workers say the government is putting them at risk

“But as you’d expect we will work closely with the electoral and public health bodies to make sure everybody will be able to cast their vote in a safe and secure way.

“But as the PM said, this is of course being kept under review.”

He declined to give a date on when a decision would need to be taken on whether elections can go ahead.



A Fulton county worker looks over ballots at State Farm Arena on November 6
US presidential elections were held during the pandemic

The elections watchdog is looking at ways to ensure the polls can go ahead safely, including raising awareness on postal voting and casting ballots by proxy.

It is also studying elections held in other countries, such as the US presidential elections in November.

An Electoral Commission spokeswoman said: “Voters should be able to participate in the polls, campaigners and parties be able to put their case to the electorate, and electoral administration staff be able to run the polling stations and count centres, safely and confidently.

“Elections have managed to proceed where practical in democracies around the world during the pandemic and our preparations allow for a range of restriction levels in May.

We will continue to monitor the public health situation and to work closely with public health bodies to ensure planning for the polls is informed by the latest advice.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Legislation provides that the elections will go ahead in May 2021.

“We continue to work closely with the electoral community and public health bodies to resolve challenges and ensure everyone will be able to cast their vote safely and securely – and in a way of their choosing

“Measures are planned to support absent voting at short notice.

“Guidance will be published in good time ahead of the polls and this matter will be kept under review.”





READ SOURCE

Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.  Learn more