Why don’t more people vote?

The House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee has invited evidence on  why so many people do not vote; i.e. why voter turnout is so low in most modern elections in the UK.

If you would like to give evidence to the Committee, please visit http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/political-and-constitutional-reform-committee/inquiries/parliament-2010/voter-engagement-in-the-uk for more details but note that the deadline is 1 May.

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2 Responses to Why don’t more people vote?

  1. Engage!

    Tom Gray has made a quite extensive response to this committee and has commented to us that many overlook one point.

    “The basic problem is that the voting population don’t believe they are represented by their MPs and MSPs. Part of this is of course that they didn’t vote for them in the first place, but even beyond that they don’t get any real relationship with their representative. What is missing then is any realistic attempt by the majority of MPs to engage with their population. STV makes it more realistic to elect an MP who comes closer to your way of thinking, but unless the so-called representative attempts to engage with you, you are not going to think it’s worth voting. A few MPs are engaging increasingly, using IT systems and social media. At present that does them little good at election time because people are voting along party lines, but it could in the long run – and with STV – work.

    So in short – MPs and MSPs need to be told to engage.”

  2. Voting turn-out

    We received the following comment from Richard Lung:

    A few weeks ago, the 38° team was called before parliamentary committee to discuss voting turnout.

    David Babbs gave a summary of thousands of their supporters views on what is wrong with politics.

    A Conservative MP walked out after 10 minutes. He couldn’t accept the complaint, that politics isn’t working for us, has become something like conventional wisdom.

    I remember how dismissive the House of Lords was of their colleague Helena Kennedy, chairing the Power report, despite her warning that they are killing politics in Britain.

    Yet falling turnout appears to be the politicians particular worry. I suspect that’s why the 38° mass movement has some leverage on Westminster. Because the 38° team is proposing to its supporters ways in which they might improve turnout.

    Nothing that hasn’t been tried by political parties. And nothing in the way of electoral reform that would be abhorrent to them.

    When British Columbia’s second STV referendum was held, there was also a determined campaign to stop the slide in turnout. It was a complete failure. And their turnout levels slipped to about American levels of some 50% or so.

    I come now to the pith of this comment which is to repeat that 50% turnout is what one would expect from a single member system (according to the logical possibilities of choice given by the binomial theorem).

    It’s a fair guess that we are heading that way in Britain and that pinprick to their legitimacy is worrying the Westminster bubble.

    If politicians and academics and all those responsible were really in earnest about increasing turnout, they would increase the effective choice that it depends on. That means nothing less than four member constituencies, ideally a minimum of five. (And of course the STV system that actually ensures voters can elect who they really prefer.)

    For over a century now, reformers have been watering down the original terms of Hares system. John Stuart Mill MP was actually flexible on this point, to get reform moving. Anyway, for over a century, reformers retreated into proposals for smaller and smaller constituencies.

    When HG Wells heard of a proposal for 4 to 7 member constituencies, he thought that was much too small.

    “The Wells formula” for electoral reform “proportional representation by the single transferable vote in large constituencies” is democratically justified.

    Yours sincerely,
    Richard Lung.

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