NEWS13 March 2020

Electoral Commission recommends delaying May polls

Covid-19 News Public Sector UK

UK – The government should postpone the May local elections until autumn because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Electoral Commission has recommended.


The risks of the outbreak “raise serious concerns” about the local and mayoral polls going ahead on Thursday 7th May as scheduled, the regulator said.

The polls include London’s mayoral election.

In a letter addressed to Chloe Smith MP, minister for the constitution and devolution, Electoral Commission chief executive Bob Posner said: “Any decisions to delay elections which are due is significant and would not normally be desirable; however, we are in unprecedented times.

“The risks to delivery that have been identified are such that we cannot be confident that voters will be able to participate in the polls safely and confidently, nor that campaigners and parties will be able to put their case to the electorate.”

It is recommending that the government delays the 7th May polls “until the autumn”.

The Commission has been working with bodies including the Association of Electoral Administrators and government officials to assess the risks involved with Covid-19. Its concerns are over local authorities’ ability to run polling stations while also focusing on managing the impacts of the outbreak.

Additionally, “significant numbers” of voters could be unable to vote because of illness, and increasing access to postal and proxy voting would create additional pressures on the system, the Commission said, while “many types of campaigning may not be possible”.  

Chloe Smith, in response to a written parliamentary question, said on Thursday: “The government continues to assess the impact of Covid-19 and is reviewing any implications for the delivery of public services on an ongoing basis. Our approach has been, and will continue to be, guided by the evidence and latest advice from medical experts, including the chief medical officer.

“We are currently working to facilitate the local, mayoral, and police and crime commissioner elections on 7 May going ahead as planned.”