‘Inaction’ on postal voting criticised by Labour

Labour has accused the government of undermining democracy and the country’s public health by failing to take steps to encourage people to sign up to vote from home by post in May’s bumper set of elections.

With stringent restrictions still set to be in place on polling day, Angela Rayner has accused the government of ‘burying their heads in the sand’.

The deputy leader has warned that government inaction risks creating a perfect storm of disenfranchisement, with dangerously crowded polling stations and long queues on election day, as well as undermining the government’s public health messaging that we must proceed with caution in lifting lockdown restrictions in order to avoid a further surge in infections, hospitalisations and deaths and a fourth national lockdown.

Labour is demanding ring-fenced funding for councils to support postal vote sign up efforts, warning that failure to take action to encourage voters to sign up to vote early and safely from home will disenfranchise millions of people who haven’t been vaccinated, as well as voters in older or more vulnerable groups who won’t have had their second vaccine dose by the start of May.

Rayner said: “Yet again ministers are burying their heads in the sand with voters set to go to the polls in the biggest set of elections we have ever seen outside of a General Election in just ten weeks’ time. The government has had nearly a year to sort this out and protect our democracy, but Ministers have once again been too slow to act. With ten weeks to go, we are yet to see a proper plan from the government setting out how these elections will be run safely, while councils face shortages of electoral staff, lack of venues, and funding uncertainty.”

“The government’s failure to take any action to encourage people to sign up to vote safely from home risks creating a perfect storm of the disenfranchisement of millions of voters and potentially dangerous crowds at polling stations.

“It is clear that fairly stringent measures will still be in place in May, so it is completely inexplicable that the government is not taking urgent action to get people signed up to vote from home by post, hugely undermining their own public health messaging emphasising the ongoing threat of Covid and the need to proceed with caution in lifting restrictions in order to avoid a surge in infections, hospitalisations and infections and a devastating fourth national lockdown.”

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