Make votes MATTER for women and men this centenary year

This is the centenary year of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which gave votes to UK women (over 30) for the first time.

But shouldn’t women’s (and men’s) votes matter wherever they live?

Wouldn’t it be nice if women’s (and men’s) votes in constituencies like Christchurch (the safest Tory seat) and Liverpool, Walton (the safest Labour seat) could actually affect the result? If only they could help decide who would represent the voters of those constituencies and contribute to the choosing of a Government. It would be really nice. It would be democratic. It would be about time. It’s long overdue.

Some would like to reduce the minimum voting age from 18 to 16. STV Action is neutral on that and our supporters are free to campaign for or against it, but we see little point in giving votes to 16 and 17-year-olds that would be worthless in all but marginal constituencies.

Let’s first make votes matter for all present voters everywhere and then consider whether to change the voting age.

It’s not only that so many votes don’t matter in the sense that they don’t contribute to the election of an MP or the choice of Government:

• Many voters are “represented” by MPs they didn’t vote for. Even in a very safe seat, where 70% voted for the winner, a large minority (30%) of voters are not represented by someone with political views like their own. In N E Fife, more than two-thirds of voters voted against the winner, who now “represents” them!
• The party leaders, workers and funds are concentrated mainly on marginal constituencies. Only the opinions of voters in marginal constituencies matter. The rest of us don’t count.
• Even in a marginal constituency, there is a very limited choice of candidates; usually the one candidate the Conservative Party selected and the one candidate the Labour Party selected, although some supporters may have preferred a woman to a man (or vice versa) or a candidate from a different wing of the party.
• It’s impossible to vote against a particular candidate (e.g a bad constituency MP or one with different views from one’s own on a non-party issue) without also voting against the party.
• Constituents have only one MP to approach with their problems. They either approach that one or no-one. Tory voters have to approach Labour MPs, Remain voters have to approach Brexit MPs, women have to approach male MPs and so on.

It doesn’t have to be like this:

• If you merge a few constituencies (say, five) together and elect five MPs together, voters have a choice of which to approach with their problems.
• If those five MPs are elected by a party proportional voting system, they will come from more than one party, so most voters should be able to identify with at least one of them and approach that one with any problems.
• Single Transferable Vote (STV) is a Proportional Representation system that can provide proportionality not only between parties but also between any other groups that matter to voters; e.g., Brexit/Remain, men/women and different wings of a party.
• With STV in 5-member constituencies, about 83% of voters are represented by someone they voted for.
• STV lets voters vote against a particular candidate without voting against the party.

STV is a British voting system, used mainly in English-speaking countries. It is used for all elections in Northern Ireland except for electing MPs, it is used for all local elections in Scotland and it has been recommended for local elections in Wales. Many civil society organizations (clubs, trades unions, the National Union of Students and professional and learned institutes etc.) use STV.

How does STV work? You have one vote. You simply vote “1” for your 1st choice of candidate; then, if you want to, you vote “2” for your 2nd choice and so on. You can make as many or as few choices as you wish, and you’re not restricted to one party. The more choices you express, the more likelihood there is that your vote will affect the result.

STV makes votes matter and it’s as easy as 1,2,3!

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2 Responses to Make votes MATTER for women and men this centenary year

  1. Richard Lung says:

    Dr James Gilmour the STV expert and returning officer collected data showing that more than the minimum proportional representation (afforded by the Droop quota) are usually represented. So, in practise probably considerably more than 83% represented in a 5 member constituency.
    Also STV allows or gives suffrage of democratic arbitration, as you said, to proportionally prefer the balance of support for conflicting wings in a party. These are the in-built primaries, within a general election, which politicians do not suffer! Yet it would have prevented the right wing parliamentary Labour party making such a disgraceful ass of itself, in trying to depose Jeremy Corbyn as leader. (One Labour MP started the 2017 general election campaign by warning of Labour facing a “nuclear winter.” Some of us, like Corbyn himself, are more concerned about the real thing,)

  2. Thank you, Richard, for your helpful comment. I suspected more than 83% would often have representatives for whom they had voted in an STV5 election, but didn’t want to risk overstating the case for STV. After all, 83% is very good, but it is encouraging to learn that it is often better still.

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