Senedd and Elections Bill to introduce Votes at 16
The National Assembly for Wales Commission has today (February 12) introduced the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill, which promises to give 16 and 17 year olds the chance to vote for the first time in Assembly elections.
As well as reducing the minimum voting age to 16 for Assembly elections, the Bill also proposes to change the Assembly 's name to Senedd, change the law on disqualification from being an Assembly Member and change some electoral and internal arrangements.
Twenty years after the establishment of the National Assembly for Wales, the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill aims to ensure a more effective and accessible parliament, fit for purpose in an evolving political landscape. The Bill comes following an Assembly vote in October 2018 which provided a mandate for the Assembly Commission to introduce the legislation.
The introduction of the Bill follows a lengthy consultation and engagement process with the public, political groups and wider stakeholders on electoral reform and takes forward opportunities presented in the Wales Act 2017 to strengthen Wales's parliament.
In introducing the Bill on behalf of the Commission as the 'member in charge', the Llywydd, Elin Jones AM said:
"I hope that the Bill will spark interesting and meaningful debate about our democracy and political engagement in Wales.
"The aim is to encourage Members, stakeholders and the wider public to participate in discussions on the future shape of our national parliament.
"The provision to lower the voting age to 16 will, I hope, engage young people in particular in the democratic process. The proposal to change the Assembly's name to Senedd will better reflect the institution's status as a parliament.
"After twenty years, this is a golden opportunity to renew our democracy and ensure that Wales's national parliament enables us to do our best for our constituents today and for future generations."
Recognising the need for political education that will enable young people to understand their political rights and to increase participation in elections, the Commission is already working with Welsh Government and other stakeholders to ensure this happens.
To kickstart the process, Elin Jones AM has written to every school council in Wales with an accompanying resource pack about young people's engagement with and debate around Votes at 16. The resources are available to all via the Hwb education platform.
The Bill will also change the Assembly's name to Senedd to reflect the institution's constitutional status and to improve public understanding of the legislature's role and responsibilities. The Bill contains a clause noting that the Senedd may also be referred to as 'Welsh Parliament' and the intention is that the change of name will come into force legally in May 2020 ahead of the Assembly election in 2021.
Elin Jones AM will make a full statement during Plenary on Wednesday (February 13). The Bill will undergo extensive scrutiny in the Assembly's committee sessions as well as by all Assembly members in Plenary. The Bill requires at least 40 members to vote in its favour to become law.
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