No digital postal vote application service before May elections

Written by Sam Trendall on 22 January 2021 in News
News

Government considering launching online tool – but not in time for upcoming polls

Credit: PA

A digital service through which citizens can apply for a postal vote will not be made available in time for the local elections scheduled to take place across the UK in May, a minister has announced.

Elections for local authorities around the country were due to take place in May last year, but were postponed by 12 months due to coronavirus.

With the UK back in full lockdown for the foreseeable future, it has begun to appear increasingly uncertain whether they can go ahead as planned. The Telegraph reported this week that prime minister Boris Johnson has decided that, come what may, they will go along – although some in the local government community continue to express doubts.

If the elections are held in May, it seems inevitable that, as a result of the coronavirus crisis, the process will rely far more than usual on postal votes.


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However, there is currently no digital process through which to apply for a postal ballot. According to Chloe Smith, minister for the constitution and devolution, the government is considering introducing such a service – but this will not happen in time for the local government ballots.

“We are looking at this,” she said. “But the government will not introduce digital postal vote applications ahead of the May 2021 local election.”

As it stands, citizens wishing to apply for a postal vote can download a printable form from the GOV.UK website – but this then must be filled out manually and returned in hard-copy form to the relevant local electoral registration office.

Smith, the MP for Norwich North, was answering a written parliamentary question from Labour MP Cat Smith.

 

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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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