2023 at the ERS: Our research making the case for reform

Electoral Reform Society,

Posted on the 27th November 2023

Each year we write an Annual Report which looks back at our achievements across the last 12 months, and explains how our team have campaigned towards securing our vision for a democracy fit for the 21st Century.

By using our voice in the media, developing in-depth research and policy, campaigning and influencing and making the case online we’ve led the charge for reform in 2023.

Read the full Annual Report for 2023: Our Year Campaigning for Change

Why research is so important to our campaign

Across this year, our research team has continued to conduct independent, in-depth and timely research into the state of our political system. Conducting high-quality research is key to achieving our strategic goals as it provides the evidence base for our policy and campaigns. Findings are fed into government consultations, presented to select committees and quoted in parliament as well as shaping and driving our commentary in the media.

Understanding public opinion on electoral reform

As we move towards a General Election, it has become increasingly important to understand the attitude of the public towards proportional representation, what the public understand about the term and how best we as a campaigning organisation can speak to the public, and other stakeholders, about PR. This year the research team engaged in qualitative and quantitative work to inform the ERS and sector-wide communications strategies; developing a fresh approach and new language to talk about proportional representation in the lead up to the next general election.

How proportional representation helps improve diversity

We have also undertaken a research project to explore the most effective ways to increase diversity via changes to the electoral system. Our latest research explores the relationship between electoral systems and gender parity in elected bodies in different countries around the world. This piece of research found that elected bodies which use proportional representation are more likely to have larger numbers of women in their elected bodies than countries which use majoritarian systems.

On Lords reform

At the end of last year, the Labour Party’s Commission on the UK’s Future, chaired by Gordon Brown, published its long-awaited proposals for constitutional reform. Having engaged with the process we were very pleased to see a range of ERS policies contained within the final proposals on issues such House of Lords reform, devolution, local decision-making, and mechanisms for cross-nation working. The proposals commit to a smaller elected House of Lords which would take on an additional constitutional role. We have been researching how that chamber could be elected and composed to meet these ambitions and our report on these issues will be published at the end of this year.

Our in-depth research on local councils and constituency boundaries

In May 2023, English local elections took place with over 8,000 council seats up for election across district, metropolitan and unitary authorities – all of which were elected using FPTP. We took this opportunity to highlight the problems caused by First Past the Post voting, including identifying 34 council wards where 46 councillors were elected without a vote being cast, and highlighting councils where particularly disproportional results had occurred. We continue to make the case that local elections in England should be conducted using STV.

Throughout the year we have also been undertaking a piece of research that will be crucial for our pre- and post-general election output. The constituency boundaries for UK general elections have, after many years of delay, been updated to take account of changes in the size of electorates. As the 650 constituencies are the building blocks of the FPTP system, it is vital that we have an accurate understanding of this new set of constituencies and how they relate to previous ones. Over the year, we have conducted a detailed analysis of the 650 proposed new constituencies, down to ward level, so we fully understand how the new seats relate to the previous ones. This will enable us to conduct a range of new research pieces for the General Election, and gives us a good understanding of which seats are likely to be electorally significant under the new boundaries.

Support the ERS

As momentum builds for electoral reform, your support is more important than ever. Members support our work in parliament, in the press and at conferences like this one – making the case, and backing it up – for how we can fix Westminster’s broken system.

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