In a month dominated by coronavirus and a second national lockdown in England as well as Brexit negotiations, democratic issues have still been in the news and we’ve continued to be at the forefront of calls to build a better democracy both here and abroad.
The US election
At the start of the month, the US elections dominated the headlines and we used the opportunity to turn the focus on some of our key issues drawing examples from across the pond.
Darren Hughes wrote a piece for i news calling for electoral reform in the US and UK – scrapping the warping effects of the electoral college in the States and Westminster’s broken FPTP system here arguing that ‘In both countries, it’s not who wins the most votes that matters for landing the top job – Prime Minister or President – it’s where they’re cast.’
We also used the election to issue a call to the government not to import US-style voter suppression laws to the UK in the form of mandatory photo ID – a call that was covered by the Daily Express and The Article.
Fair votes in Wales
We saw a big campaign win for ERS Cymru as the Welsh Senedd voted to revolutionise democracy in Welsh local government – backing votes at 16 and giving councils the option to ditch FPTP in favour of the Single Transferable Vote. The change was covered by LabourList, the Western Mail, Western Telegraph and localgov.co.uk.
Senedd member Julie James also took time to sit down with Josiah Mortimer to talk about the bill for an interview published by the Institute of Welsh Affairs and penned a piece heralding the changes for LabourList.
20th anniversary of the Electoral Commission
November saw the 20th Anniversary of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act which transformed our electoral law and created the Electoral Commission. We’ve been leading the defence of the Electoral Commission in the wake of continued calls for it to be scrapped or stripped of its powers as an independent regulator. At the start of the month, Darren wrote for politics.co.uk of the need to defend the Commission as well as the need to update our analogue-age election rules.
Our calls for beefed-up powers to meet the threat posed by the unregulated Wild West of digital campaigning were also covered in i news and politics.co.uk.
Ending the missing millions
Earlier in the month, we were at the front of efforts to force the government to adopt new measures to increase the number of 16- and 17-year olds on the electoral register. The proposals added as an amendment by the Lords to the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill 2019-2021, would have increased rates of registration and helped to bring in some of the missing millions to the electoral roll.
The government ultimately voted down the proposals but our call and the case for improving voter registration was covered by the Independent and LabourList.
Elsewhere, we hit back at the Prime Minister’s comments that devolution had been ‘a disaster’ with Willie Sullivan writing in i news that his comments ‘represent a total failure of imagination when it comes to devolution and the benefits of moving decision-making power closer to ordinary people’ arguing that devolution is vital to ensure any ‘levelling up’ agenda the government might have, is a success.
The ERS also led the media for the Scottish Alliance for Lobbying Transparency’s call for transparency for lobbying, urging ministers to bolster the Scottish lobbying register, which was covered in the Scotsman.