Skip to content

ERS: Preparing for 2015

September 27, 2013

At the 2011 and 2012 AGMs of the Electoral Reform Society members passed resolutions making it very clear that campaigning to STV for local elections in England and Wales was a priority. One of these was a special resolution which should have been binding on council. This read,”

This meeting directs Council under article 8.1 as follows:

1. To make the attainment of STV for local government elections in England and Wales the Society’s top priority as from today, at least until 2015,

2. To conduct a sustained long-term campaign to make this a live popular issue, to generate the support needed when a major vote on a change is promoted later.

3. Within three months to have made STV for local government in England and Wales the most prominent item on the Society’s main website and its Welsh website and to make it clear on those sites that it is the Society’s top priority,

4. Within six months to have drawn up and circulated to members of the Society, a credible plan for the Society to co-operate with relevant local groups in this campaign, and

5. To publicise on the Society’s website events and initiatives organised by relevant local groups consistent with this plan.”

I will leave it to others to make their own judgement as to how far Council has complied with this. I have to say I am very disappointed.

Following the 2015 generation election the Liberal Democrats may have the opportunity to insist on a referendum on STV for local elections in England and Wales and they may use that opportunity. If there were such a referendum I have no doubt the society would put its weight behind the campaign, but at present it is woefully unprepared to fight such a campaign.

In the first place does anyone at Chancel Street know how STV works? Could they speak convincingly in its favour?

Secondly it would be unwise to assume it had the wholehearted support of local groups. During the AV campaign these felt they were patronised by the centre. Relationships have to be rebuilt.

Thirdly local groups have to be better educated about STV.

Fourthly one of the campaign tools neglected, indeed positively discouraged, by the central Yes to AV campaign was mock (a.k.a. demonstration) elections, but those local groups who did try it during the AV campaign received a very positive reaction locally. There is nothing to stop local groups using this approach with STV but the counting process is more involved. I very much doubt if many local groups have someone with the ability and confidence to conduct a hand count in public or in the limited time available at a public meeting. Either they have to be trained or, more realistically in my view, have access to a suitable computer program. ERS used to offer eSTV for that purpose, but do so no longer. I think there was some kind of copyright issue. You might have thought that they should think about acquiring an alternative, but when I suggested this I had a very dismissive response. In fact there is an alternative called Open STV http://www.openstv.org/. It has been developed in the USA by one guy working in his spare time. It has had a good write up in ‘Voting Matters’ (published by the McDougall Trust). A licence for an organisation employing 0 to 3 paid staff is just 5 USD p.a., and so that’s all it would cost a local group. There is also an associated online vote capture program called Opavote which is free. Surely ERS should publicise this. Further than that I believe they should negotiate with the developer to secure its future should he decide not to continue.

Finally we need to take the long view on STV; the Lib Dems may not deliver a referendum in 2015, and so we must not rely on this but must do something to further the cause. One of the society’s prime objects, which tends to get forgotten is to secure the adoption of STV for electing officers and governing bodies ‘corporate or unincorporate’. We know that around 200 such organisations have adopted STV, see for example, http://stvaction.org.uk/STVorgs, and the number might have increased. We should be lobbying others to consider doing so. As well as improving the governance of such bodies it will increase the number of people using STV. Students unions that have not yet adopted it should surely be encouraged to do so. If there is anyone doing this job at present I believe it is OpenSTV!

Will ERS do these things? Is it any longer capable of doing them? I have to admit I am pessimistic. All the above could be done by a small group of volunteers working remotely through a website. Will anyone interested please contact me on david.smith@aic.co.uk.

Advertisements

From → Democracy

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: