This is Anthony Tuffin’s supplementary evidence of 7 January 2015 on Voter Engagement to the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee:
The evidence supports STV – Many people will not vote unless they can see their vote can make a difference
1. I write again in response to the question “To what extent could electoral reform, rebuilding political parties or changes to party funding improve public engagement and voter turnout?”
2. I am not a member of any political party. My interest in electoral reform is to improve the voting system for voters and I believe that would help to increase voter engagement, which is the purpose of your enquiry.
3. My original evidence is referenced VUK0105. I urge you to re-read it and answer the questions I posed in it.
4. In passing I comment that changes, other than reforming the voting system, may or may not help to increase voter engagement but they will not tackle the fundamental truth that, in most constituencies with First Past The Post, there is little incentive either for electors to vote or for parties to campaign for votes.
5. Changing the voting system to the Single Transferable Vote (STV) would make most votes effective instead of ineffective. This would:
5.1. Provide some incentive to all electors everywhere to vote;
5.2. Encourage political parties and candidates to campaign vigorously everywhere to get out the vote.
6. You have not given proper attention in your interim report to the weight of evidence you have received in support of reforming the voting system, particularly to introduce STV.
Incentive to vote
7. There is self-evidently little incentive to vote in a safe seat, where one’s vote will not affect either the local or national result.
8. In paragraph 168 of your interim report, you refer to “get out the vote” campaigns “but noted that parties will always focus their campaigning in areas where increased votes are likely to provide an electoral advantage, rather than campaigning equally across the country”.
9. It would be political suicide for any party to change that practice so long as the present voting system, with safe seats, lasts. Therefore the voting system must be changed.
Independent expert opinion
10. Professor Vernon Bogdanor has explained some of the many faults of First Past The Post and its irrelevance to 21st century politics in the UK in his article of 4 January 2015 in the Financial Times: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8f0628f0-8220-11e4-a9bb-00144feabdc0.html?site….
The Committee’s treatment of evidence
11.In paragraphs 179 and 180, you cite several witnesses who advocated reforming the voting system mainly by introducing STV.
12. In paragraph 181, you dismiss that peremptorily by stating, “Westminster has a settled view on First Past the Post.” I have three comments on that:
12.1. If you are genuinely seeking the public’s view, Westminster’s view is not relevant.
12.2. You have not stated in what way Westminster’s view is settled. It could be that it is settled in favour of reform, but you imply that it is settled against reform.
12.3. You have not cited any evidence that Westminster’s view is settled and the evidence I have noted is that it is settled in favour of the principle of reform although not in favour of any particular system at present. Westminster has voted for:
12.3.1. Regional list voting for the European Parliament, except in Northern Ireland;
12.3.2. Single Transferable Vote (STV) for all elections in Northern Ireland except to Westminster;
12.3.3. Additional Member System (AMS) for the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and London Assembly elections;
12.3.4. Supplementary Vote (SV) for electing Mayors and Police & Crime Commissioners;
12.3.5. Allowing the Scottish Parliament to choose its own system for local government elections.
13. In paragraph 188, you state, “The recent referendum on independence for Scotland, where turnout was 84.6%, showed that there is clearly scope for greater levels of participation at the polls.”
14. Quite so; this was achieved without online voting, compulsory voting, increased postal voting, weekend voting “cast-anywhere” voting or a public holiday, which are among your recommendations. The high turnout in the Scottish referendum was because every vote was effective, everybody knew that every vote was effective and both campaigns had to work for every vote.
15. That does not happen with First Past The Post elections. You know it does not happen. It is why your parties have target seats.
The Committee’s interim conclusion
16. Although you have made several recommendations in Part 8 (Conclusion) of your report, you have ignored the elephant in the room. That is the need to change the voting system so voting everywhere can be effective and parties need to campaign for every vote.
17. You have also ignored the weight of evidence you received in support of changing the voting system, mainly to STV.
18. In paragraph 57 of your Conclusion and Recommendations, you state, “Throughout this inquiry we have made a particular effort to take into account the views of the public, and the evidence we have received from individual members of the public”.
19. That is not my perception. You have not taken into account the many views and much evidence in favour of changing the voting system, mainly to change it to STV.
20. Based on the evidence , I see no option for you but, in your final report:
20.1. To acknowledge properly the weight of evidence you have received in favour of changing the voting system, especially the evidence in favour of STV;
20.2. To recommend Parliament to introduce STV for all parliamentary elections or, possibly experimentally, for all local elections
21. If, despite all the evidence you have received on changing the voting system, you really cannot bring yourselves to recommend Parliament to legislate on this, you should at least recommend setting up a Citizens’ Constitutional Convention, not dominated by politicians, to consider the proposal.