William Eichler 16 April 2019

Brexit deadlock reveals need for ‘fairer’ voting system, campaigners say

Electoral reform campaigners are urging politicians to re-start the conversation about proportional representation ahead of the local elections.

In order to mark the 50th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act tomorrow, the Electoral Reform Society is calling for a discussion on making the franchise fairer.

Scotland and Northern Ireland use the single transferable vote (STV) to elect local councillors, and Wales is planning on moving away from the first-past-the-post system.

The ERS argues the same should happen for elections to the UK Parliament.

‘Two-party First Past the Post politics is not working for voters or this country, as the current Brexit deadlock has highlighted,’ said Darren Hughes, chief executive of the ERS.

‘The existing system is meant to produce “strong and stable” Government – but the reality is that voters want to “shop around” more than ever, meaning the system is unable to cope.

‘The result is volatile voting leading to random results – and increasing disillusionment among voters.

‘A proportional voting system would not only give voters real choice but would encourage parties to work together – helping to mend the huge fissures in our society.

‘Adopting the model for local elections in Scotland and Northern Ireland would ensure every vote counts and revitalise politics for good.’

Mr Hughes also argues that it is time for Westminster to join Scotland in giving the vote to 16- and 17-year olds.

‘On the 50th anniversary of extending the vote to 18-year olds, it is now time to learn from the success of votes at 16 in Scotland and embrace a fairer franchise for the whole UK,’ he said.

‘When they vote, 16- and 17-year olds actually have higher rates of turnout in Scotland than 18-24-year olds. In the 2014 Scottish independence referendum turnout among 16-18-year-olds was 75%, with 97% of those who voted saying they would vote in future elections.

‘Evidence has shown that they accessed more information ahead of the vote from a wider variety of sources than any other age group – showing that 16-year-olds are more than ready to engage in the democratic process in an enthusiastic and informed way.’

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