Select Committee told STV could improve voter engagement

The electoral reform movement owes a great deal to the 21 witnesses who gave written evidence to the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee that the Single Transferable Vote (STV) could help to improve voter engagement.

The Electoral Reform Society’s first and main object is “To secure the adoption of … STV …” but, sadly, the Society was not one of the witnesses who recommended STV. It made only a fleeting reference to electoral reform and did not mention STV at all.

One of the questions of the Select Committee’s enquiry into voter engagement was “To what extent could electoral reform … improve public engagement and voter turnout?” All 39 witnesses who addressed this question recommended electoral reform. Twenty-one (54%) of them recommended STV, one suggested AMS and the remaining 17 did not advocate any particular system.

STV Action gave supplementary evidence to draw the Committee’s attention to the large amount of evidence in favour of STV.

The roll of honour contains the following 17, who made the introduction of STV their sole or main recommendation:

• Michael Meadowcroft
• Brian Wichmann
• A E L Davis
• Canon Michael Hodge
• Colin Buchanan
• Arthur James
• Keith Underhill
• STV Action
• Make Votes Count In West Sussex
• Anthony Tuffin
• Dr. David Hill
• Tim Ivorson
• Richard Lung
• Ian Sheppard
• Thomas Gray
• Malcolm Morrison
• David Smith

The following 3 advocated STV among other measures:

• John Strafford (paragraph 1.1.7)
• Keith Best (especially paragraph 5)
• David Green (his 9th proposal)

The prestigious British Academy mentioned PR favourably and suggested STV should be considered.

A common view was that, although STV alone might not improve voter engagement, nothing else was likely to help without it.

As Keith Underhill wrote, “Changing the voting system will not immediately mean that we will jump to European levels of turnout, there are other reasons for low turnout like the perception that politicians are all the same, but it would be a step forward and would give us all a say, not just the ones in marginal seats!”

Colin Buchanan commented, “Giving it [a fair voting system] priority also enables the quest to set aside as largely irrelevant the large number of red herrings dragged across the path. They are not only no substitute for addressing the justice issue, but by posing as real answers they greatly hinder attention to this prime question.”

Dr David Hill had an interesting and constructive perspective, “.. a start should be made on local government (possibly allowing STV as an option..). That would be a worthwhile change in its own right, as well as a suitable experiment to give evidence that could be taken into account in future enquiries into turn-out.”

A E L Davis agreed with David Hill on that and also recommended the Committee to consider the experience of STV in civil society.

We shall have to wait and see what the Committee makes of the evidence. It is difficult to see how any fair-minded body of people could ignore the weight and quality of the evidence in favour of STV but, at least, that evidence is now all in the public domain. Journalists and the public will be able to judge for themselves how fairly the Committee treats the evidence.

The written evidence is available at http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/political-and-constitutional-reform-committee/inquiries/parliament-2010/voter-engagement-in-the-uk/?type=Written#pnlPublicationFilter.

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