Five New Year’s resolutions ministers should be signing up to

Lizzie Lawless, Membership and Digital Officer

Posted on the 31st December 2018

If 2018 has shown us anything, it’s that the debates over the state of our democracy are as crucial as ever.

From the Cambridge Analytica scandal to the controversial ID trials at the local elections, the question of how the voices of voters are heard, used and interpreted by the powerful has been centre-stage.

Here are five New Year’s resolutions ministers should be signing up to so that in 2019 voters’ voices are heard.

Fix Westminster’s broken voting system

Westminster’s voting system is well and truly broken. The 2017 General Election showed that for a third time in a row, the voting system failed to do the one thing it promised – produce a single party government with a workable majority.

Yet we still all paid the price of a House of Commons where the strengths of the parties don’t match their popular support.

It’s no surprise the politicians used to being handed power on a plate by the electoral system aren’t the best at negotiating their way out of the Brexit deadlock.

But the system does not have to be this way. Voters in Scotland, Wales, London and Northern Ireland all use proportional voting systems.

This is how we shake up the system and make politicians flight for our votes.

Sign our petition to make seat match votes

Reform the House of Lords

With over 800 members, the unelected House of Lords is now the second-largest chamber in the world.

None of the peers currently sitting in the House have been elected by the public – they are there because of the family they were born into, or the politicians they pleased.

From stories of peers leaving taxis running to claim their expenses, to failing to turn up for years at a time, the Lords makes a mockery of our democracy.

With yet another archaic hereditary by-election scheduled for the new year – a seat effectively reserved for a man –  it’s clear we need a dedicated revising chamber which is fully elected to both hold the government to account and be accountable to the people.

Sign our petition for an elected House of Lords

Extend the franchise

There is a democratic anomaly in the UK.  In Scotland – and soon Wales – 16 and 17 year olds can vote in their elections. But they, and over a million in the rest of the UK, remain disenfranchised in General Elections.

The experience in Scotland has revealed that 16 and 17-year olds embrace the responsibility to vote when they have it, with 75% voting in the Scottish Independence Referendum and 97% saying they would vote again.

If we want to fight the curse of low turnout, extending the franchise would be a good place to start.

Sign our petition to extend the right to vote

Eradicate the political gender gap

With women making up only 33% of local councillors and none of the new metro mayors, the issue of women’s representation extends well beyond the walls of Westminster.

For more women to win seats, more need to stand – but there is no official information on the diversity of those who try to stand for election.

Legislation already exists which would make this information transparent, requiring political parties to publish diversity data on candidates standing in elections to the House of Commons and devolved administrations.

The problem is that the government has yet to enact it. What are they waiting for?

Ask your MP to close the political gender gap

Protect the right to vote

On May 3rd 2018, 350 people were denied a vote in their local council elections. Their crime? Not possessing the right ID. The minister hailed these trials of mandatory voter ID a ‘success’. The government has a very worrying definition of success.

We’ve seen from the US just how dangerous strict mandatory identification laws are – they are used to deny already disadvantaged voters a voice. In the US it’s called voter suppression. Here in the UK, 9.5 million people stated they did not hold a passport and 9 million do not have a driving licence as of the latest census.

Evidence from around the world shows that forcing voters to bring photographic ID to the polling station just makes it harder for ordinary voters to be heard.

With trials already planned for 2019, we do not need more barriers to stop people taking part in our democracy. Help us stand up to these plans

Sign our petition to protect your right to vote

The Electoral Reform Society seeks to champion the right of voters and build a better democracy.

Make your New Year’s resolution to support our work.

Become a member of the ERS

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