The Green Party is supporting the Coalition Government’s proposal to hold a referendum on voting reform in a joint motion with the Lib Dems to Full council on Dec 1st. The new system on offer, the Alternative Vote (or AV), is not the Greens’ first choice. They say it does not give true Proportional Representation and would prefer a method such the Additional Member System,
which is used in the Scottish Parliament. However, they say they want the electorate to have the chance to reject the “First Past the Post” system now in use for General Elections in the UK.
Green Cllr Jillian Creasy said, “Unlock Democracy (1) is a group campaigning for voting reform that is not aligned to any political party, and they use the example of the last two general elections to show how unfair the present system is.
“In 2005, Labour won a won a massive majority in the House of Commons even though six out of ten people voted against them. They got just 35% of the vote but over 55% of the seats. The Lib Dems got 22% of the vote and less than 10% of the seats, and other smaller parties like the Greens got over 10% of votes and less than 5% of the seats. In this year’s general election, the Conservatives got 36% of share of votes but 47% of seats; Lib Dems 23% share of
votes but only 9% of seats. How can that be fair?”
Unlock Democracy also points out that the present system means that parties focus their energy and resources in marginal seats in the run-up to an election. This can lead to neglect and complacency in some “safe” seats, where many of the worst offences in the expenses scandal of 2009 occurred. They also argue that First Past the Post does not take account of the fact that the UK has become a multi-party country.
Under the AV system, voters rank the candidates in order of preference by putting numbers next to their names instead of a cross. No candidate can be elected unless they get at least 50% of votes, whether they are “first choice” votes or are ranked lower.
Cllr Creasy added, “It isn’t complicated to vote; you simply list the
candidates in order of preference. Many businesses and trade unions already use this system in internal elections.
“AV won’t completely fix the problem of unfair allocation of seats. But by insisting on candidates winning over 50% of the vote, they will have to work harder for voters’ approval. It will also cut out tactical voting and there may well be a reduction in the number of “safe” seats”.
She added, “This is the first time we will be able to choose a voting
system. If we lose this chance, it may be a generation or more before we get another chance to change the system. This is one small step towards much fairer elections”.
2. Text of Motion
“That this Council: –
(a) believes the present electoral system of first past the post for
general and local elections is unfair;
(b) therefore supports the Coalition Government’s proposal to hold a referendum regarding voting reform on moving to a system of alternative vote for the general election;
(c) believes a form of proportional representation would be the best system for voting at elections, but moving to the alternative vote system would be a step towards fairer votes for the people of Sheffield and the wider UK;
(d) therefore supports the yes campaign in the upcoming referendum and urges all local MPs to support the referendum in the House of Commons and the ‘yes campaign’ in the ensuing referendum;
(e) directs a copy of this motion be sent to local MPs and the ‘yes
campaign’ regional and national organisers.”