Our history

For over 130 years the Electoral Reform Society has been fighting for fairer votes and a better democracy.

When we were founded in 1884 it was already clear that our political system was failing to rise to the challenges presented by an emerging modern Britain.

First known as the Proportional Representation Society, the Society was established in 1884 by the Victorian naturalist, archaeologist and polymath Sir John Lubbock to bring like minded people to the cause of fair votes.

I trust that Great Britain, the mother of Parliaments, may once more take the lead among the great nations of the world by securing for herself a House of Commons which shall really represent the nation.

Society founder Sir John Lubbock, 1884

First gathering at 7 Clarges Street, Westminster, the group quickly snowballed, its founding members drawn from academia, the legal profession and 180 MPs, drawn in equal numbers from the Liberal and Conservative parties.

They were quickly joined by leading luminaries including C.P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian (now The Guardian), the Rev. Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll), and Thomas Hare (the inventor of the Single Transferable Vote).

The Irish government in 1958 and again in 1968 tried to abolish the use of STV in the Republic of Ireland and to revert to first-past-the-post. On both occasions, future director Enid Lakeman led the Electoral Reform Society’s successful campaign to retain the STV system. Enid Lakeman went on to be appointed Director of the Society in 1960 and was also instrumental in securing the adoption of STV in Northern Ireland in 1972.

Since then we have been at the forefront of political change, and remain the world’s oldest organisation concerned with elections and political reform, recognised by the United Nations for over 30 years.

From securing fair votes in Scottish local government to exposing the accident waiting to happen that was the Police and Crime Commissioner Elections, we have put voters first, highlighted problems and offered common sense solutions.

We know that every year that passes with our steam age political system still in place is a missed opportunity for the people of Britain. Our vision is a representative democracy fit for the 21st century.