International Day of Democracy 2018: The changes desperately needed to give a voice to all

Lizzie Lawless, Membership and Digital Officer

Posted on the 15th September 2018

Millions across the globe are celebrating International Day of Democracy, established in the hope of inspiring people to find ways to “invigorate democracy.”

Questions over the state of our democracy are as relevant now as they’ve ever been: they are present in the debate surrounding Voter ID and how to achieve fair constituency boundaries.

Here we look at the reforms desperately needed to ensure everyone has a voice.

1. Fixing Westminster’s broken voting system

With each constituency having just one MP to represent it, a key problem arises.

It means all votes cast for losing candidates are discarded. Additionally, all votes for an MP above what they need to win are wasted too – they do not count towards the final result.

In the 2017 General Election there were 22 million wasted votes – or 68% of the total. The result is that a party’s support is often wildly misrepresented in the number of Commons’ seats won.

[bctt tweet=”In the 2017 General Election there were 22 million wasted votes – which is a staggering 68% of the total cast. ” username=”electoralreform”]

But the system does not have to be this way.

Voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland are used to the idea of the seats in parliament matching how they vote. They rank the candidates with numbers rather than putting one X.

Votes aren’t thrown on the electoral scrapheap and you don’t have to second-guess your fellow citizens by settling for a ‘lesser evil’.

2. Reforming the House of Cronies

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

None of the peers currently sitting in the House has 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.

[bctt tweet=”We need a dedicated revising chamber which is fully elected to both hold the government to account and be accountable to the people.” username=”electoralreform”]

3. Creating an equal franchise

There is a democratic anomaly in the UK.  In Scotland – and soon Wales – 16 and 17-year olds have the vote for their elections. But they, and over a million in the rest of the UK, remain disenfranchised as they are denied a vote 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.

4. Eradicating the political gender gap

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

But currently there is no official information on the diversity of those standing for election at any level of government.

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. It’s vital that they do.

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

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