Electoral reform needed; system not strong OR stable!

“… In the end, we have a system that only recognises the geographical location of a voter and nothing else. It is where voters are – rather than how many are backing whom – that matters. This must change if we are to restore legitimacy to our political institutions.

But the real question for our politicians is this: if the two main parties can gain over 80% of the vote for the first time in decades, in a system designed for two parties, and yet both still lose – when will they show the leadership the country so desperately needs and fix our voting system?

Doing so would send a message that far from being in it for themselves, parties can make brave and bold decisions to revitalise our democracy. If there’s anything this last few years have shown, it’s that people feel alienated from politics and are struggling to be heard. Let’s find positive ways of making that happen.”

Read the full report here:

https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/the-myth-that-westminsters-voting-system-is-strong-and-stable-has-been-bust-for-good/

The “hold your nose” General Election – 20 million votes “wasted”

“Twenty-two million votes were “wasted” in June’s election and had no impact on the result, a study reveals today.

Nearly seven out of 10 ballots made no different to the outcome, which stripped Theresa May of a Commons majority, the Electoral Reform Society report claims.

It brands the 2017 poll the ‘hold your nose’ election, estimating 6.5 million people voted tactically because they knew ticking the box for their favourite party or candidate would have no influence.

Other findings include that if just 0.0016% of voters chose differently, the Conservatives would have won a majority; the rise of very marginal seats, with 11 seats won by fewer than 100 votes; and the second highest voting volatility since 1931, with people switching sides at “astonishing” levels.

The ERS also blasts Britain’s first-past-the-post system, which is designed to avoid hung parliaments – but, for the second time in three general elections, left no party with a majority.

Chief executive Darren Hughes said: “The vast majority of votes are going to waste, with millions still stuck in the electoral black hole of winner-takes-all – a diverse and shifting public having to work around a broken two-party system.

“The result is volatile voting and random results in the different parts of the UK.

“There are a wide range of systems where votes are not thrown on the electoral scrapheap.

“We need to move towards a means of electing our MPs where all voices are heard and where people don’t feel forced to hold their nose at the ballot box.”

The ERS’ ‘Volatile Voting – Random Results’ report says while Labour secured 29% of votes in the South East it got just 10% of seats.

In the North East, the Tories netted 34% of votes but scooped just 9% of seats.

Meanwhile, the SNP continued to be over-represented in Scotland, as was Labour in Wales, while Northern Ireland voters were “forced into two camps”, according to the report.

Researchers discovered the Conservatives benefited most from the mismatch between votes and seats, winning 46% of English votes but 56% of seats.

Mr Hughes said: “June’s election has shown first-past-the-post is unable to cope with people’s changing voting habits – forcing citizens and parties to try and game the system.

“With an estimated 6.5 million people ‘holding their nose’ at the ballot box, voters have been denied real choice and representation.

“This surge in tactical voting – double the rate of 2015 – meant voters shifted their party allegiances at unprecedented rates, with the second highest level of voter volatility since the inter-war years.”

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/tens-million-votes-wasted-general-11020317

Do we have ANY statistics on votes at elections? Seems unlikely

It would appear that someone or some agency appears to ask for this information regularly – wonder how many local authorities register the replies that EDDC registers?

“Verification statements for the 2017 general election count

Date submitted: 19 July 2017

Summary of request

1. For each of your constituencies, a copy of your full verification statements for the 2017 general election count, including

(i) for each polling district separately, (a) the number of electors; and (b) the verified number of ballots
(ii) for postal votes,
(a) total postal ballots issued; and
(b) total postal ballots received

2. The same information as in 1), but for the 2015 general election

3. The same information as in 1), but for the 2016 EU referendum
(Note: Some of you sent us this information for the 2016 referendum in response to our survey last year seeking other referendum voting details; if you are one of the authorities who already sent us this, there is no need to send it again, please simply confirm this has already been sent).

4. Please also let us know if the boundaries of any polling districts have changed between the 2015 general election and the 2017 general election. If so, please indicate which polling districts were affected and when the change took effect

Summary of response

1. For each of your constituencies, a copy of your full verification statements for the 2017 general election count, including

(i) for each polling district separately,
(a) the number of electors; and
(b) the verified number of ballots –
This information is not recorded

(ii) for postal votes,
(a) total postal ballots issued; and
(b) total postal ballots received –
This information is not recorded

2. The same information as in 1), but for the 2015 general election –
This information is not recorded

3. The same information as in 1), but for the 2016 EU referendum –
This information is not recorded

(Note: Some of you sent us this information for the 2016 referendum in response to our survey last year seeking other referendum voting details; if you are one of the authorities who already sent us this, there is no need to send it again, please simply confirm this has already been sent).

4. Please also let us know if the boundaries of any polling districts have changed between the 2015 general election and the 2017 general election. If so, please indicate which polling districts were affected and when the change took effect –
This information is not recorded.

Date responded: 27 July 2017″

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/access-to-information/freedom-of-information/freedom-of-information-published-requests/

Electoral Officers might – one day in the distant future – be fully accountable

The Freedom of Information (Extension) Bill is slowly (very, very slowly) wending its way through parliament and, as the title suggests, hopes to extend the reach of the FOI Act. The Statement of Purpose (in full here) sums up the aims:

‘The Freedom of Information (Extension) Bill will seek to make housing associations, local safeguarding children boards, Electoral Registration Officers, Returning Officers and the Housing Ombudsman public authorities for the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, whilst making information held by persons contracting with public authorities subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000…’

See:
http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2017-19/freedomofinformationextension.html

for the very, very, very slow timetable.

Make sure you are registered to vote says EDDC Electoral Registration Officer

And will those who don’t return their forms be canvassed for follow-up? Your guess as good as Owl’s since Mr Williams believes it isn’t necessary to follow up and told a parliamentary committee that phone calls (how you get the phone number is a mystery) will suffice:

http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/political-and-constitutional-reform-committee/voter-engagement-in-the-uk/oral/14118.html

“East Devon residents will soon receive a form asking them to check whether the information that appears on the electoral register about their address is correct.

East Devon District Council is asking residents in East Devon to look out for the form in the post and to make sure that they respond as soon as possible.

The aim of the form is to make sure that the electoral register is up to date and to identify any residents who are not registered so that they can be encouraged to do so.

Being registered to vote gives you the right to vote in elections and can also improve your credit rating

Mark Williams, Electoral Registration Officer at East Devon said: “It’s really important that residents respond as soon as possible, so we can make sure we have the right details on the electoral register for every address in East Devon. Simply check the form when it arrives and respond as soon as you can.”

If you’re not currently registered, your name will not appear on the form. However if you decide to apply to register, you will still need to complete the form and then send it back to us. The easiest way to get yourself registered is to go online to apply to register at

http://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

or we’ll send you information explaining how to do this in the post. You can also provide the information over the telephone.

It’s particularly important that anyone who has moved address recently looks out for the form and checks whether they are registered.

Research by the independent Electoral Commission indicates that recent home movers are far less likely to be registered than those that have lived at the same address for a long time. The research showed that across Great Britain, 94 % of people who have been at their property for more than sixteen years will be registered compared to 40% of people who have lived at an address for less than one year.

Any residents who have any questions can contact the registration team on 01395 517402 or electoralservices@eastdevon.gov.uk”

http://www.devonlive.com/residents-in-east-devon-urged-not-to-miss-important-voter-registration-information-in-the-post/story-30463309-detail/story.html

Tories being formally investigated by police for election offences

“Labour MP Wayne David revealed in Parliament this week that the police are “formally considering” investigating the Conservative Party’s 2017 election campaign for illegal activities following a Channel 4 investigation:

Mr David said the Electoral Commission had written to him confirming the police were “formally considering the allegations”.

An undercover investigation by C4 News, broadcast last month, claimed call centre workers may have been carrying out paid canvassing, banned under electoral law, as they promoted key Conservative messages to undecided voters in the weeks before the election. [BBC]
Channel 4 first aired the results of its investigations in June, which included an undercover reporter working at the call centre in question:

The Conservative Party contracted a secretive call centre during the election campaign which may have broken data protection and election laws, a Channel 4 News investigation has found…

These allegations include:

Paid canvassing on behalf of Conservative election candidates – banned under election law.

Political cold calling to prohibited [i.e. TPS registered] numbers
Misleading calls claiming to be from an ‘independent market research company’ which does not apparently exist.

Investigations into the Conservative Party’s 2015 general election campaign found repeated law-breaking, resulting in a record-breaking fine. In addition, a Conservative MP and two senior officials are currently being prosecuted for allegedly breaking the law.”

https://www.markpack.org.uk/150845/police-considering-allegations-conservative-2017-campaign/

Voting processes need tightening (and scrutiny) urgently

Why shouldn’t our council’s Scrutiny Committee check in its Electoral and Returning Officer’s procedures – even if the Monitoring Officer doesn’t like the idea because it MIGHT be considered political (by him)? A clean bill of health would reassure voters surely?

“The list of Brexit campaigners done for breaking the rules is getting lengthy.

Following the record £12,000 fine for breaches of spending rules, the pair of £1,000 fines for other offences, the company fined £50,000 for illegal text messages and the 11 anti-EU campaign groups struck off for breaking referendum rules, there’s now another £1,500 fine on a different Brexit campaigner:

The Electoral Commission has fined Mr Henry Meakin, a registered campaigner in the EU referendum, £1,500 for failing to submit his spending return on time. It is an offence not to deliver a spending return by the due date.

Though Mr Meakin reported spending of £37,000 in the campaign, the return was received more than 5 months late.”

https://www.markpack.org.uk/150816/henry-meakin-european-referendum-fine/