Electoral Reform

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  • Apr.30.2018: Public more politically engaged but not satisfied. Our new Audit of Political Engagement, published today, shows that people’s intention to vote is at the highest level ever recorded in the series of 15 annual audits. 62% say they are certain to vote in the event of an immediate general election, 11 points higher than in the first audit in 2004. 44% of those aged 18-24 say they are certain to vote; this too is the highest score recorded in the audit series, and 16 points higher than in 2004. There are several plausible hypotheses that may explain it. Ruth Fox, Hansard Society, The Times.
  • Mar.05.2018: More votes but fewer seats? Surely you’re joking? Electoral Calculus, which regularly projects the results of future elections in the UK, has just projected a ‘wrong winner’ election after analysing the latest polling. It shows that in a fresh election, the Conservatives could win 40.5% of the vote and 297 seats, whereas Labour could win 279 seats on 40.7% of the vote. Systems such as Britain’s, which have one-person-takes-all outcomes, are especially likely to produce ‘wrong winner’ elections. The reason for this is that votes can accumulate geographically in ways that harm a party. Put simply, if a party wins huge majorities in constituencies – such as the 77% majority for Labour in Liverpool Walton in 2017 – then those additional votes above and beyond the nearest challengers do not help a party win any more seats. So, the most ‘efficient’ thing to do under Westminster’s voting system is to win constituencies small and lose big. The result is a huge amount of votes going to waste and not counting towards the national result. Electoral bias is where a voting system fails to treat all parties equally. A system with no bias would mean if two parties win the same number of votes, they should get the same number of seats. Darren Hughes, Electoral Reform Society.

Total Representation

Proportional Representation

  • Oct.12.2010: Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, Question for referendum on the system for electing MPs. The majority of MPs voted not to include an option allowing people to express a preference for voting systems expected to result in proportional representation during the referendum on the system used to elect MPs. The majority of MPs voted against a proposal by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas which suggested first asking if the system should be changed at all, then moving on to ask voters to rank the alternative vote, the additional member system, and the ‘single transferable vote’ system with multi-member constituencies, in order of preference. IOW, the referendum was a sham. The Public Whip.
  • Jul.20.2016: MPs reject bill to change Britain's voting system to proportional representation. Green MP Caroline Lucas proposed the the Electoral Reform Bill to make elections fairer. The Bill received cross party support but was ultimately voted down by 81 votes to 74. Wes Streeting, one of a number of Labour MPs who backed the bill, said after its defeat: “I believe our electoral system is broken and young people should be given vote at 16, so couldn't abstain on this Bill as requested.” Other Labour MPs to back the bill included Jonathan Reynolds and Stella Creasy. The Liberal Democrats and Ukip have also long supported proportional representation. Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell earlier this year called for Labour to adopt proportional representation as a policy; there has so far been no official change, however. Jon Stone, The Independent.

Affiliated Groups

Boundary Changes

  • Jun.03.2018: DUP boundary changes switch may swing next election. The Democratic Unionist Party, whose 10 MPs hold the parliamentary balance of power, signalled last week that it was reversing its opposition to constituency boundary changes that would, if in place last year, have delivered Theresa May a small majority. The changes, stalled since 2013, would reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and ensure all seats, except a handful of islands, would contain between 71,000 and 78,000 voters. That would help the Tories, because Labour seats tend to be smaller, meaning more would be merged as the number of MPs was reduced. But the means by which the Tories appear to have won DUP support are proving controversial: a massive change to the original boundary proposals in Northern Ireland. The initial plans, published in 2016, enraged the DUP because they would have made Sinn Fein the province’s largest party, with an estimated 9 of the proposed 17 Westminster seats. The DUP would have fallen from 10 seats to 7. Earlier this year, however, the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland published a revised blueprint, which has now won DUP support. The unionist-voting east and north of the province got several seats back. The likely new tally of Westminster seats will be 10 DUP, Sinn Fein 6 or 7 — much as now. Francie Molloy of Sinn Fein called it “gerrymandering” and an “appalling denial of equal representation”. The key to the change was a rule unique to Northern Ireland. Rule 7 allows Ulster constituencies to be smaller or larger than those permitted on the mainland. The Boundary Commission decided not to apply Rule 7 in its initial proposals. But for the second set, it changed its mind. The new proposals include 5 constituencies with fewer than 71,000 voters. Andrew Gilligan, The Sunday Times.
  • Oct.17.2017: Electoral boundary changes may force MPs like Boris Johnson to fight for new seats. Other big name politicians including Priti Patel and David Davis will be forced into tough re-selection battles under plans to reduce number of MPs by 50. However the planned Boundary Review — that would reduce the number of MPs by 50 to 600 — faces a choppy Parliamentary ride if it is to become law. A slew of Tory MPs are against the plans, along with all of the opposition parties. The Democratic Unionist Party, whose 10 MPs prop up the Tories in the Commons, are unlikely to support moves which could see their representation at Westminster cut. Last night electoral experts estimated the new map would see the Tories number of seats slump to around 305 to 310. But Labour would lose 22 MPs and plummet to 250. The latest version of the proposed changes will be subject to an eight-week consultation, lasting until December 11. The plans — subject to further changes — are heading for a Commons showdown in September next year. However Mrs May is likely to face a revolt within her own Cabinet if they are not drastically changed. Constitution minister Chris Skidmore said: “A boundary review is needed to ensure fair and equal representation for the voting public across the United Kingdom by the next general election. “Without any boundary reforms, constituencies would be based on data that is over 20 years old. This would disregard significant changes in demographics, house building and migration.” Harry Cole, The Sun.

Voter ID

  • Feb.13.2019: Voter ID trials are dangerous. That’s why I’m taking the government to court. In May, I will be asked to show ID to vote in local elections in Essex. This discriminatory plan risks undermining democracy. Braintree district council, my local authority in Essex, is one of 10 boroughs across England taking part in the govt’s pilot scheme, before it plans to roll out voter ID at the next general election. At first glance, these measures could appear reasonable, fair and innocuous. But on closer inspection, voter ID discriminates against people who are unable to provide identification with the ease that ministers, civil servants and most people take for granted – and naively think we all possess. 3.5m electors (7.5% of the electorate) do not have any photo ID. Voter impersonation is an incredibly rare event. In 2017, 28 allegations were made - and one person convicted, out of 44+ million votes cast. The govt often refers to Northern Ireland as an example to defend the rollout of voter ID - but they also took all possible steps to mitigate the discriminatory effects, by introducing a free, easy to obtain photo-identity card. Neil Coughlan, The Guardian.
  • Nov.21.2018: Want to make British democracy fairer? First make it easier to vote. Limiting access to the ballot box is part of the establishment’s power game – the manipulation must stop. The govt likes to claim it cares about equality – but it has its sights on making it more difficult for people to cast their ballots. In 2015, individual voter registration was introduced and 1 million people fell off the electoral register. In the local elections this year voter ID laws were trialled and 350 people weren’t allowed to vote just because they didn’t have the right form of identification with them. Evidence suggests if these plans were rolled out across the country it would affect poorer people and the already marginalised. While they find ways to game the system, establishment politicians parade around the importance of representation even though they have no intention of or interest in changing an economic system that thrives off low-paid work and gender and race pay gaps. Maya Goodfellow, The Guardian.

Articles

  • Apr.23.2019: New report says Britain’s voting system is boosting ‘extreme voices’. Supporters of the UK’s first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system often claim it “prevents extreme politicians” from gaining power. But a new report has rubbished this claim, insisting that the system is failing to keep extremism at bay. The Constitution Society, an independent thinktank, released The Electoral System and British Politics on 23 April. Author David Klemperer shows no sympathy to any particular political party; but he’s clear in his criticism of Britain’s current electoral system. FPTP’s backers often claim it leads to “moderate, accountable single-party governments”. But as Klemperer stresses, it “is no longer delivering its claimed benefits” and is “increasingly dysfunctional”. It cannot accurately reflect “the social and political divides of Britain today” – especially in the wake of the Brexit referendum. This means “our political debate now occurs as much within the main parties as between them”. And this in turn “reduces their coherence, and leads to unstable governments and a lack of clear choice for voters at general elections”. Ed Sykes, The Canary.
  • May.22: Interesting Twitter thread, suggests that Cameron allowed the Ref to take place precisely because AV is a shittier option: https://twitter.com/GrayanOne/status/996893938245095425
  • Apr.22.2018: Tories in new race row over identity checks for elections. Government plans that will force people to prove their identities at polling stations in May’s local elections risk disenfranchising members of ethnic minority communities, according to a leaked letter to ministers from the equality and human rights watchdog. the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has written to the Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, raising its serious concern that the checks will deter immigrants and others from participating in the democratic process. Jeremy Corbyn said the plan for compulsory checks was more evidence of the kind of “hostile environment” that Theresa May’s govt wanted to create for people who had come to settle in Britain. Under the new govt voting rules, being trialled in several local authorities at the May.03 local elections, people will be asked at polling stations to produce documents proving their identity – such as a passport or driving licence – before casting their vote. Currently, no such proof is required. Ministers say the pilot projects are being run – with a view to adopting them nationwide if they are successful – in response to concerns about electoral fraud. But in a letter to Lidington, and leaked to the Observer, the EHRC says evidence of supposed fraud is minimal and warns that there is a real risk that legal residents who might not have a passport or driving licence – or might be reluctant to produce them at polling stations – could be disenfranchised as a result. Investigations show that the plan to force landlords to check the immigration status of tenants, known as the “Right to rent”, was fiercely opposed before its implementation by Eric Pickles, former communities secretary. Immigration: Amber Rudd / Brodie Clark, the former head of the UK Borders Agency who resigned after being criticised by May in 2011 for relaxing passport checks to reduce immigration queues, condemned the decision to blame officials and pointed to a “political desperation” to reduce immigration. The National Landlords Association, the Residential Landlords Association and the lettings agents’ body ARLA Propertymark are all pushing for the “right to rent” policy to be dropped amid warnings that it is causing landlords to discriminate against people with foreign names or non-UK passports. The policy was piloted from Dec.2014 and rolled out across England in February 2016. A Downing Street spokesman said: “It was a Labour govt which, in 2008, introduced the labour market test so that people had to evidence their status. Toby Helm, The Guardian.
  • Apr.09.2018: Government announces ID required at polling stations in five areas for local elections. In March, the government announced plans to change electoral law to require voters to bring photo IDs to polling stations. The Guardian reported this as “a Tory ruse” to disenfranchise young and poor voters, and reduce votes for Labour. The Independent claimed that this could stop 3.5m people from voting. Now, less than one month before the May.03 local elections, the govt has quietly announced ID requirements for five ‘pilot areas’. If you live in Swindon, Woking, Watford, Gosport or Bromley, you will need identification to vote on May.03. The new voter requirements do not affect the postal vote. The Canary.
  • Apr.03.2018: A handful of hereditary peers are trying to stifle reform – they are on the wrong side of history. ... Chief among these archaic practices is the continued presence of 92 hereditary peers in the HoL. Their role is not just ceremonial. They are entitled to amend draft legislation and challenge the govt of the day. And yet the people who their decisions affect – that’s the 66m people – have absolutely no say in who fills these positions. The same goes for life peers who currently sit in the HoL too. But what distinguishes the 92 is that they have not been appointed: they are eligible to sit simply because of the aristocratic families into which they were born – ‘elected’ from a tiny pool when the former hereditary peer passes away. For the 2nd time, Lord Grocott has brought forward draft legislation which would scrap hereditary peerage ‘by-elections’ once and for all. But the Earl of Caithness and Lord Trefgarne used delaying tactics - 60 trivial amendments - to ensure the bill would run out of time. Jessica Garland, Electoral Reform Society.
  • Feb.20.2018: The plan to cut MPs looks suspiciously like a power grab. It turns out there has been a u-turn on the u-turn, with news emerging that the PM is set to reduce the number of MPs. That’s despite the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee warning that moves to cut numbers to 600 are unlikely to secure the backing of MPs. Parliament will gain more powers after Brexit yet will have less capacity to scrutinise legislation. At the same time voters lose their representatives in Europe. That places a greater burden on the Commons and a lack of capacity poses significant risks. The democratic dangers are clear. ERS research in 2016 showed that in a smaller, 600-seat Commons, nearly one in four (23%) MPs would be on the government payroll if the parties’ proportion of MPs – and the total number of ministers and whips – stayed the same – an all-time high, and up from the 21% at present (figures as of November 2016). There are problems with the boundary changes regardless of the cut in MPs. For a start, the new boundaries will be based on highly incomplete as well as out of date data. For example, people who registered to vote for the EU referendum won’t be counted for the new boundaries – skewing representation. Electoral Reform Society, Darren Hughes
  • Feb.19.2018: Seven reasons to cancel the cut in the number of MPs. In Sept.2017, it appeared that controversial changes to electoral boundaries were to be dropped by the govt. Now the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee wants the current proposals to be scrapped in favour of redrawn boundaries, which retain the current seat total while levelling out the number of electors. Yet the govt seems to have u-turned on plans to drop the cut. The problem is that the review has been undertaken on the basis of registered electors, rather than the actual population. Seven reasons to rethink: 1. Areas with the lowest levels of registration are often those that already have the least voice in politics. 2. The review is being undertaken on the basis of a register that dates back to February 2016. 3. The rigid 5% threshold. 4. The strict 5% difference threshold introduces the prospect of huge disruption every 5 years. 5. We have a growing unelected House of Lords – and a shrinking elected one. 6. If you reduce the number of MPs in Parliament without reducing the number of ministers, you increase the power of the executive. 7. The govt talks about the need to 'make every vote count' through these changes. Yet the best way to do that is to give us a proportional and fair voting system. Electoral Reform Society, Jessica Garland
  • Feb.19.2018: May defies MPs’ fears over plan to cut their number. Theresa May will resist calls to keep the number of MPs at 650 despite a warning today that moves to cut it to 600 have little chance of Commons support. The Boundary Commission for England and Wales is finalising a map of new parliamentary constituencies to reflect the reduction. Changes are needed in any case to account for shifting demographics so that each MP represents a reasonably equal number of constituents. Senior Tories say that Mrs May has grown more confident that she can win the vote in September. Bernard Jenkin wants a decision now. The DUP had said it would vote down draft proposals by the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland under which it was set to lose seats to Sinn Fein. A revised map presented last month suggests the party would be largely unaffected. The Times, Francis Elliott
  • Feb.14.2018: Local newspapers play a key role in our democracy and their decline is concerning. One-party dominated councils are at a 51% higher risk of corruption than competitive councils. The reform which would have the biggest impact on the ability of local authorities to scrutinise themselves would be a change to the voting system. Local councillors in England and Wales are elected via First Past the Post. If people's votes were fairly represented, under a proportional voting system, any given party which had control of a local authority would have to justify its decisions more frequently as a result of being monitored by a greater number of scrutineers who more accurately reflect the will of local people. This has been the case for local govt in Scotland where the Single Transferable Vote has been in place since 2007. Why not extend it to England and Wales too? Electoral Reform Society, Robert Cox
  • Sept.06.2017: Theresa May set to drop manifesto pledge on cutting number of MPs. Theresa May is set to abandon plans to cut the size of the Commons by 50 seats amid fears of a rebellion by Tory MPs. During the election campaign, the Conservatives gave a manifesto commitment to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 to make the Commons “similar to other western democratic chambers” and save £50 million over the five-year parliament. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) refused to sign up to support the boundary review; no other opposition party backs boundary reform. The DUP said that changing Westminster constituencies in Northern Ireland "would have the potential for far-reaching and negative political consequences for the constitutional stability". Four Belfast seats would merge into three, and the Unionists could drop a seat to Sinn Fein. The cost of an MP, including a £73,284 salary, office costs, staff, accommodation and travel, is approximately £200,000 a year. Keeping the 50 MPs across a 5-year parliament would cost approximately £50 million. Scrapping the recently completed existing boundary review on the basis of 600 MPs would cost about £10 million. The Times, Sam Coates
  • Jan.16.2017: 100 years ago, only 30% of the adult population were allowed to vote; 70% had no voice in general elections. Today, only 32% of voters have a vote that matters; 68% of votes had no impact on #GE2017. Demand Proportional Representation to #MakeVotesMatter Twitter, Make Votes Matter
  • Oct.2015: Bernie Sanders on Political & Electoral Reform. FeelTheBern,
  • May.05.2011: Elections and AV referendum polling day. Rolling coverage of the day's developments as as voters go to the polls in elections for local government, the devolved administrations and the AV referendum. The Guardian, Politics Live, Andrew Sparrow

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