Working in coalition with fellow campaigners in the democracy sector is a key part of how we will win change. By teaming up we can bring different strengths and campaigning strategies, ensuring that our impact is greater than the sum of our parts.
We are working in collaboration across all our campaigns including pushing for House of Lords reform, automatic voter registration, changes to campaign finance, transparency, women in politics and devolution.
Convening fellow organisations working on achieving PR for the Commons has been a major focus for us this year. We have brought together PR campaigners to understand how we can work effectively together in our campaigning and to share insights and research.
We continue to support the work of the Democracy Network which was established two years ago to provide a place for organisations working on democracy issues to come together collaborate, share and network to increase our campaign’s strength. We are involved in many of the Network’s activities and currently co-chair the steering group.
We also continue to work with the organisations that came together to form the Democracy Defence Coalition in response to the Elections Bill. This year we focused on raising awareness of voter ID in advance of the local elections in England with major events at parliament and in the news.
ERS Scotland has had hugely positive one-to-one meetings with over 25 different community groups as we strive to make our New City Assembly project in Dunfermline (a proposed standing assembly of Dunfermline citizens that would help govern and plan the future of the city) truly community-led.
We were pleased to develop our long-term relationships and support of electoral reformers in North America. We hosted a successful visit by Fair Vote USA founder and president Rob Richie in September. Darren Hughes and Dr Jess Garland have worked on the challenge to First Past the Post using the framework of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Sort the System
We were also part of a coalition of democracy organisations that ran a mass lobby of parliament in May calling for proportional representation. The ‘Sort the System’ lobby saw hundreds of activists descend on Westminster demanding MPs of all parties take action in support of proportional representation.
The lobby, which saw hundreds of voters from across the country from constituencies as far afield as Suffolk Coastal, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Blyth Valley and South East Cornwall met with MPs from every region of the country and every party in Parliament.
Supporters of electoral reform also attended a rally in the Emmanuel Centre to hear from a cross-party platform of speakers about the need to reform Westminster to deliver a system in which all votes count equally. Speakers included Clive Lewis MP (Labour), Cllr Hina Bokhari AM (Liberal Democrats) and Zack Polanski AM, Deputy leader of Green Party (England & Wales).
The Elections Act introduced voter ID for local elections for the first time this year. We fought the worst aspects of the bill with Unlock Democracy, Fair Vote and Open Britain, raising awareness of the change and highlight our concerns to parliamentarians.
ERS research was also used this year to create briefings for each stage of the Election Bill’s progress, and in March, create a giant map outside Parliament demonstrating the potential number of voters without ID. This intervention provided an opportunity to meet with parliamentarians to share our concerns ahead of the local elections.
In April, we joined together with Unlock Democracy and Open Britain to hand in nearly 119,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street. The majority of the 118,759 signatures came from the ERS’ own petition which has seen thousands of you call on the Government to scrap these new ID laws.
Our campaign was supported by the writer Armando Iannucci, who gave us the message:
“I share with the many thousands who’ve signed the petition the desire to see these measures scrapped.”
“This is an expensive, unnecessary and democratically damaging move. How can the Government on one hand say they want more people to take part in the democratic process and then put this additional barrier in the way?”.