Electoral Reform Society
London, United Kingdom
|Focus(es)||Democracy, Electoral Reform, Elections|
|Method(s)||lobbying, research, innovation|
The Electoral Reform Society is a political pressure group based in the United Kingdom which promotes electoral reform. It is the oldest operating organisation concerned with political and electoral reform in the world.
The Electoral Reform Society is seeking a "representative democracy fit for the 21st century." 1 It believes that:
- Every vote and every voice has value and should be heard
- Everyone should be able to shape the decisions that affect their lives
- Our institutions should reflect the people they serve
- People should be able to hold those in power to account
- Politics should offer people real alternatives
Since its formation, the Society has advocated replacement of the First Past the Post voting system used for public elections in Britain with a proportional voting system, the Single Transferable Vote. It also campaigns for improvements to public elections and is a regular commentator on all aspects of representation, participation and governance in the UK.
The ERS was founded in January 1884 as the Proportional Representation Society by the Victorian naturalist, archaeologist and polymath John Lubbock. The founding members included academics, barristers, and an equal number of Conservative and Liberal MPs. Famous early members included Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Caroll), C.P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian and Thomas Hare, inventor of the Single Transferable Vote.The Society succeeded in getting STV introduced in local elections in Ireland, and in numerous religious, educational and professional organisations.
After World War II the Society suffered from financial problems and a lack of public appetite for reform. When Fianna Fáil put to a referendum a proposal to revert to first-past-the-post twice (1959 and 1968), the Society,under the leadership of Enid Lakeman, led successfuls ERS campaign to keep the STV system in Ireland2
In 1973 STV was introduced in Northern Ireland for elections to local councils and to the new Northern Ireland Assembly, and the Society and its staff were called upon to advise in the programme of education set up by the government to raise public awarenss.3
Interest in proportional representation revived sharply in Britain in 1974, and from then on the Society was able to secure a higher public profile for its campaigns. In 1983 the Society was recognised by the United Nations Economic and Social Council as a Non-Governmental Organisation with Consultative Status.
The Society has campaigned successfully for the introduction of STV for local elections in Scotland 4 and led the call for a referendum on the voting system in the wake of the United Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal as part of the Vote for a Change campaign.5 It is a founding member of the Votes at 16 Coalition.
The Society was later a principal funder of the YES! To Fairer Votes campaign in its unsuccessful bid for a Yes vote in the 2011 referendum 6 on the Alternative Vote, its Chief Executive Katie Ghose serving as the campaign's chair.
Police & Crime Commissioners
The Society exposed government mishandling of their flagship policy of elected Police and Crime Commissioners - which led to the lowest turnout in British peacetime history.
In August 2012 the Society predicted turnout could be as low as 18.5% and outlined steps the salvage the elections, mobilising support from both candidates and voters.7 The Government did not change tack, dubbing the prediction a "silly season story".8
The Society led bids to change the Government's approach to introduction of Individual Electoral Registration, which the New Statesman dubbed "the biggest political scandal you’ve never heard of".10 Electoral Commission sources estimated as many as 10 million voters could disappear from the electoral roll under government plans, predominantly poor, young or black, and more liable to vote Labour.11 The Society succeeded in securing changes to the legislation.12
The Society has three closely related organisations:
- Electoral Reform Services Limited (ERS, formerly Electoral Reform Ballot Services): A company established in 1988 to provide an independent balloting and polling service to organisations conducting elections and polls. The service is widely used by trade unions, political parties, building societies and companies when balloting their members or shareholders in ways defined by the law and their internal management. In many cases these organisations are forbidden from conducting their ballots internally in an attempt to ensure that the ballots are conducted impartially.
- Electoral Reform International Services (ERIS): A company established in 1991 to provide assistance in conducting elections worldwide. Activities include advice, training and election monitoring.
- What we stand for http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/what-we-stand-for/
- (Sinnott, Richard, 1999. ‘The electoral system’, pp. 99–126 in John Coakley and Michael Gallagher (eds), Politics in the Republic of Ireland, 3rd ed. London: Routledge and PSAI Press.)
- Police and crime commissioner candidates warn of turnout, BBC News, 26 September 2012 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19727952
- Turnout of 18% predicted for police commissioner election 'shambles', Daily Telegraph, 18 August 2012 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9483006/Turnout-of-18-predicted-for-police-commissioner-election-shambles.html
- Yvette Cooper MP, 16 November 2012, http://www.labour.org.uk/police-and-crime-commissioner-elections-shambles
- Electoral registration: the biggest political scandal you’ve never heard of, Mehdi Hasan, New Statesman, 6 October 2011 http://www.newstatesman.com/2011/10/electoral-registration-voters
- Shocked MPs told electoral plan could remove 10m voters, The Guardian, 11 Sept 2011 http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/sep/15/shocked-mps-electoral-register-shake-up
- Electoral Reform Society Blog, An important victory for voters, but no time for complacency, 16 May 2012 http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/an-important-victory-for-voters-but-no-time-for-complacency
- Official website
- Electoral Reform Services
- Electoral Reform International Services
- Electoral Reform Society companies grouped at OpenCorporates