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Emergency Proxy Voting

Volume 627: debated on Thursday 20 July 2017

3. What assessment the commission has made of the suitability of the rules on emergency proxy vote applications for people who have suffered a family bereavement. (900614)

The commission has recommended changes to the qualifying circumstances for appointing an emergency proxy since 2011. It recommends extending the qualifying circumstances to include those who have unforeseen caring responsibilities or who have experienced the death of a close relative. In its September 2016 response to the commission’s statutory report on the 2015 general election, the UK Government confirmed that they had no plans to extend the qualifying circumstances for appointing an emergency proxy.

I thank the hon. Lady for her answer. My constituent Ruth Jones was unable to vote at the recent election following a family bereavement. She was attending her grandmother’s funeral at the time. However, had she been called away for a work emergency, she could have qualified for an emergency proxy vote. Can the hon. Lady reassure me that the Electoral Commission will continue to push for changes to enable a family bereavement to be seen as having the same impact on a voter as a work emergency?

I am sorry to hear about the circumstances that the hon. Gentleman described, and the way in which they affected his constituent. I can assure him that the Electoral Commission is still of the view that there is a gap in the emergency proxy provision, and remains concerned about the need to enhance the accessibility of the process by extending the qualifying circumstances. I am sure that the commission would welcome any support that he could offer in that regard.

Rules and procedures on proxies, emergency proxies and postal votes are good only if they are followed. What action is the Electoral Commission taking to address the shambolic handling of the general election in Plymouth, which resulted in 1,500 postal votes not being sent out, and 6,500 votes not being included in the declaration on the evening of the count?

The commission is collecting information from returning officers about their experience of the 8 June general election. I am sure that it would also welcome the views of my hon. Friend, should he wish to share them with representatives of the commission, either in writing or through a meeting, which I am sure they would be happy to attend.

Bearing in mind the questionably massive amount of proxy votes used in some constituencies in Northern Ireland, including Foyle, will the hon. Lady outline the steps being taken to stop the alleged abuse by some parties of this vital voting mechanism, which I, too, believe could be compassionately extended to grieving families?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that different arrangements relating to identity are in place in Northern Ireland. However, any concerns about possible criminal activity would be a matter for the police force, and I suggest that he encourages anyone with evidence of criminal activity to report it to the police.