Wales politics

Senior Welsh Tory MP against compulsory assembly voting

David Davies

A senior Welsh Tory MP has said he would oppose any plans for compulsory voting in assembly elections.

Debating plans for further devolution to Cardiff Bay, Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns suggested AMs would have powers to force people to cast their ballot.

But Welsh Affairs Select Committee chairman David Davies told BBC Wales he would be "wary" of any such moves.

He said: "If politicians can't persuade people to come out and support someone, the fault lies with us not the public."

Mr Davies, MP for Monmouth, added: "Trying to convince ourselves that we're all relevant and popular by forcing people to vote and punishing them in some way is not the answer in my opinion."

Although there are no indications they are planning to do so, AMs would be able to introduce compulsory voting under UK ministers' plans to devolve further powers to Cardiff Bay, including control of assembly elections and income tax varying powers.

The devolution proposals, contained in the Wales Bill, were debated by MPs on Tuesday.

Labour Cardiff Central MP Jo Stevens told BBC Radio Wales she had "always been a fan of compulsory voting".

Speaking on the Good Morning Wales programme she said: "I consider it a bit like jury service - you know, it's your duty as a citizen."

"Provided there are options for people who don't want to chose a particular party, or can just term up and register the fact that they've arrived at the ballot box and not register to vote, then I'd be in favour of it."

Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, said compulsory voting would be a "major change, moving voting from a civic right to a civic duty".

"I'm not entirely convinced that's the way to do it," he said.

"What we should be looking at is electoral reform, that's a necessity."

In April, Labour Welsh Government minister Ken Skates said compulsory voting should be considered to boost assembly election turnout and he was "personally in favour" of it.

Labour has previously rejected the idea, as have the Conservatives, Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP.

Eleven countries enforce participation in elections - including Australia, which issues fines - and a dozen more have some kind of mandatory voting legislation that is not enforced.

Turnout in May's assembly election was 45.3%, the highest since the first election in 1999.

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