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The Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit: Public to debate UK’s exit terms

18th April 2017
18 Apr 2017
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Citizens' Assembly
Brexit

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The Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit: Public to debate UK’s exit terms

  • Statement from UCL’s Constitution Unit, the University of Westminster's Centre for the Study of Democracy, the University of Southampton, and the Electoral Reform Society
  • Embargoed for 10am, 18th April 2017
  • ERS Chief Executive Katie Ghose is available for interview. Contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630.

Leading academics and democracy campaigners are to hold a ‘Citizens’ Assembly’ on Brexit [1] this September, in a bid to ensure the public’s voices are heard in the process of Britain leaving the EU.

The project, which has just secured funding from the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) [2], will bring together a diverse sample of citizens to contribute to the Brexit process – and provide the first example of meaningful public deliberation on what form Brexit should take.

Citizens will engage in detailed and informed discussions to reach well thought-out conclusions, in a process organised by leading academics at UCL’s Constitution Unit, in partnership with the University of Westminster's Centre for the Study of Democracy, the University of Southampton and the Electoral Reform Society.

Over two weekends in September – just ahead of pivotal elections in Germany which could shape the negotiations – a diverse group of voters will learn about the options for Brexit, hearing from a wide range of experts and campaigners from all sides of the debate, and deliberate on what they have heard.

Crucially, the Assembly will then agree recommendations that will be written up in a final report and presented to key decision makers at a high-profile Westminster event. 

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“This is the first real opportunity for the public to have their say on Theresa May’s Brexit plans.

“There is widespread agreement that the Brexit plans should respect and respond to public opinion – as demanded by both democratic principle and the need for broad public legitimacy. This Assembly provides a unique and innovative approach to gauging the opinions of citizens on the most pressing constitutional issue we face as a country.

“As we noted before polling day last year, public engagement in Brexit shouldn’t end on June 23rd. This project is an exciting way of continuing the public engagement we saw last year – and letting voters influence the debate.”

Principal Investigator, Dr Alan Renwick, said:

“The Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit is a chance to help to bridge the gap between the ‘52 per cent’ and the ‘48 per cent’ in the Brexit debate – and explore how deliberative democratic approaches can make that happen.

“The Brexit referendum last June was a clear example of citizen involvement in the determining the course of Britain’s constitution. This Citizens’ Assembly will provide a powerful mechanism to continue that vital involvement, giving the government a clear signal of where public opinion now sits on the form Brexit should take.”

The project team already has a great deal of expertise in running similar assemblies – having conducted the UK’s first ever assemblies on local devolution in Sheffield and Southampton in late 2015 [3].

ENDS

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630.

Notes to Editors

[1] Citizens’ Assemblies have been increasingly used across Europe and North America to settle key policy and constitutional issues ahead of or following referendums – with Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly recently leading to the legalisation of equal marriage.

The Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), will have around 45 members who will be selected by a survey company to reflect the diversity of the UK’s population in terms of gender, age, place of residence, social class, and attitudes to Brexit. The Assembly’s ideas will enrich public debates over the form that Brexit should take, just at the time when key choices and trade-offs are likely to be crystallising.

As well as being a major democratic project, the Citizens' Assembly on Brexit will lead to a range of academic outputs, alongside comment pieces, blogs and social media work – offering new insights into how democratic decision-making is best organised. The Citizens' Assembly on Brexit aims to help build the case for deliberative democratic approaches for other major political and constitutional issues, from the nature of local democracy to the future of the Union.

The project team aims to collaborate closely with others in developing the Assembly plans, including government ministers and officials, parliamentarians, experts, journalists, and campaigners on both sides –as well as appointing a diverse Advisory Board with to consult on the proposed overall direction.

The process will be scrupulously even-handed, working with the ESRC-funded ‘UK in a Changing Europe’ programme – which has provided widely respected impartial guidance during and since the referendum campaign – in developing the Assembly’s learning programme. Supporters of both Leave and Remain will be asked to comment on drafts of all briefing materials and will be directly involved in the Assembly sessions.

[2] http://www.esrc.ac.uk/

[3] For more information see: www.citizensassembly.co.uk.

Nearly 130,000 Welsh residents denied a vote in upcoming local elections

7th April 2017
7 Apr 2017

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Parts of Wales branded ‘democracy deserts’ as 92 councillors elected unopposed, with another ward where no candidates have put themselves forward.

Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, 7th April 2017, for immediate release


ERS Cymru Director Jess Blair is available for further comment and interviews. For more information, quotes, or to arrange an interview, contact: Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk

The Electoral Reform Society estimates that 127,631 Welsh residents will be denied the vote in this year’s council elections (Thursday May 4th) - with swathes of councillors already being elected before a single vote is cast.

Half of Wales’ local authorities are returning councillors without opposition. In the worst-affected council area, Gwynedd, 25,270 voters will be denied a choice of candidate in the local elections.

Across Wales, 92 councillors will be elected unopposed, meaning local residents will not be able to express an opinion on the future of key services and council tax levels. In one ward in Powys, Yscir, not a single person has put themselves forward as a candidate for election.

According to ERS analysis, Wales now accounts for the vast majority of uncontested seats in the UK - with Wales’ 92 uncontested seats figure comparing to just four for the whole of England in this round of elections.

Jess Blair, Director of Electoral Reform Society Cymru, said:

“Local elections are one of the main opportunities for voters to have our say over services that affect our everyday lives. But with nearly 130,000 people across Wales having no choice at the upcoming elections, that opportunity is being taken away for many of us. Welsh residents are being denied a voice - to the detriment of our democracy and our services.  

“This is the symptom of a broken First Past the Post voting system - one which creates hundreds of safe seats, where other parties often don’t stand a chance of winning.

“But it’s also the symptom of wider issues of political engagement in Wales which need tackling head on - from introducing votes at 16 and decent citizenship education to moving towards automatic voter registration and fair funding for political parties.

“This will be the first vote since last June’s referendum, and with Article 50 being triggered at the end of March there has never been a more important time for people’s opinions about the future to be heard.

“It is vital that we remove the barriers to having an effective and representative democracy, and these figures are a damning indictment that the current system isn’t working.

“We need to look at the way politics works in Wales - including reforming the voting system for local elections so that no one is denied a voice.”

ENDS

Jessica Blair became Director of ERS Cymru in March 2017. A photo of her is available here for free use: https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/697035313202520065/kWKlWY1M.jpg

Notes for Editors

The 11 ‘Democratic Deserts’ in Wales

Local authority

Estimated number of electors

Number of uncontested seats

Gwynedd                        

25,270

21

Powys                              

23,723

17*

Flintshire                     

18,619

12

Pembrokeshire      

18,461

13

Conwy                  

8,918

6

Ceredigion                

8,907

7

Denbigh                           

7,341

5

Neath Port Talbot     

6,029

4

Wrexham               

5,479

3

Caerphilly                   

1655

1

Carmarthenshire        

1570

4

Total

127,631

93

*includes ward with no candidates

For more information or to arrange an interview, comment piece or coverage in advance, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630.

Electoral Reform Society Cymru is Wales’ leading pro-democracy organisation. Set up in 2008, ERS Cymru is the campaign group for voters in Wales, pushing for greater accountability, democracy and transparency, and working to bring democracy closer to citizens.

ERS Cymru campaigns for a fair voting system for local elections in Wales, as well as votes at 16, and a stronger, more effective Senedd.

The organisation will be publishing full analysis of the May local elections. Get in touch if you want more information.

Lords’ expenses scandal shows need for ‘root and branch reform’ say campaigners

3rd April 2017
3 Apr 2017
Tags: 
house of lords
lords reform

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Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, 3rd April 2017

For more information, quotes, or to arrange an interview, contact: Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk


The Electoral Reform Society have described revelations in the Sunday Times [1] that some Peers are claiming up to £40,000 a year in expenses, while making little or no contributions to debates, committees or questions, as ‘more evidence we need root and branch reform’.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“It’s completely unacceptable that Peers can claim thousands without even speaking or voting in the House, and it highlights the reality that there is no accountability for Peers – the public can’t kick them out if they fail to serve the interests of citizens.

“It’s no surprise that the cost of Peers claiming is going up – the Lords is stuffed to the brim with party appointees and is growing out of control. With over 800 members, it’s the second largest chamber in the world – after China’s legislature.

“Whilst many Peers work hard and claim accordingly, we know that others claim their £300 but make minimal or no contribution. The government can no longer ignore this flagrant waste of public funds.

“Rather than spending thousands on Peers who fail to even speak up in Parliament, we need a fairly-elected upper House. That call is only likely to grow in the wake of these findings.

“This is yet more evidence that we need root and branch reform – tinkering just doesn't cut it.

“It’s now time to look again at this problem and how to solve it. That review has to look at fundamentally changing the structure of our broken upper house.

“We urgently need to sort out the House of Lords, and move to a fully-elected chamber where the people who make our laws are elected by the public - and can be kicked out by the public.

“Let’s fix this broken House before the situation gets any worse."

ENDS

Notes

[1] http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/revealed-rich-peers-paid-for-doing-nothing-hz5jv3vw7

ERS condemn 'ludicrous' hereditary Peer by-election

3rd March 2017
3 Mar 2017
Tags: 
house of lords
lords reform
hereditary Peers
hereditary peer by-election
hereditary by-election
Electoral Reform Society
Katie Ghose

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The Electoral Reform Society have described the upcoming hereditary Peer by-election [1] in the House of Lords as a ‘farce’ and ‘the most ludicrous part of our constitutional set-up’.  

The ‘vote’ will take place in the House of Lords on the 21st March. Peers will decide from a small group of hereditary Lords who will be able to vote in the upper chamber for the rest of their lives – and claim £300 per day.

The vote have been described as ‘the most elitist election in the world’, and follows the passing of Lord Lyell. 

All of the 27 candidates are men and more than half are over 60.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“Yet again we are witnessing the farce of a hereditary Peer ‘by-election’ – the most ludicrous part of our constitutional set-up. There are just 30 voters per candidate in this so-called election. Lords are literally picking their peers from a tiny pool of aristocrats.

“The most bizarre thing is that the electorate of 804 is actually the largest in years – some of the by-elections in the past have had an electorate of three or less [2], a total embarrassment to our politics. Most of the time it is only the handful of current hereditary Peers from each group who can pick a new person to sit in our upper house for the rest of their lives.

“Ending this absurd practice should be addressed urgently. For most people, it is simply astonishing that in the 21st century, a small cadre of hereditary Lords still decide who sits in our legislature and who votes on laws that affect us all.

“It’s a sorry state of affairs that an act to end this ludicrous practice once and for all was dropped by Peers just a few months ago. It was the most modest of Bills, proposed by Peers themselves to end an absurd anachronism. This issue must be revisited and tackled as soon as possible, for the sake of faith in our institutions and democracy. Frankly, it makes a mockery of the ‘Mother of all Parliaments’.

“Scrapping the hereditary peer system must be the first step in the process of cutting the second largest chamber on Earth down to size – and replacing it with a fairly elected revising chamber that can represent us all.

“We hope the government now come forward with more substantial reforms to ensure that this long era of hereditary and unelected law-making draws to a close.”

ENDS

For more information, quotes, or to arrange an interview, contact: Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk 

Notes to Editors

[1] https://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-information-office/2017/Notice-by-election-07-02-17.pdf

[2] See here

ERS Scotland launch Prof Curtice report on 2016 Holyrood election

1st March 2017
1 Mar 2017
Tags: 
Holyrood
Scottish election
Scottish election report
John Curtice
Willie Sullivan
ERS Scotland

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Statement from Electoral Reform Society Scotland, 28th February 2017

Embargoed 1st March, 00:01

Contact: Willie Sullivan, ERS Scotland Director – willie.sullivan@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07940523842 or Professor John Curtice on 07710348755 to arrange an interview or further comment. www.electoral-reform.org.uk


The Electoral Reform Society has published the first extensive analysis of the 2016 Holyrood election by Professor John Curtice, looking at the tactical use of regional votes – and how the 2011 SNP majority appears to be an anomaly.

The report, The 2016 Scottish Election: Getting to minority government finds that:

  • SNP ‘warnings’ that voting Green on the regional vote would help non-independence parties were largely unfounded – the primary cause of the SNP failing to gain a majority was not votes on the regional list for other pro-independence parties, but gains for other parties in the constituency vote – particularly the Conservatives becoming Scotland’s second party.
  • While the Conservatives came second, the gender imbalance in their candidates meant no increase in Holyrood's female representation. Parliament’s early gains for women’s representation have worryingly stalled.
  • Parties have become more adept at their strategies for nominating candidates under the voting system.

This election report is a considered look at last year’s election results, and a detailed analysis of the voting numbers and how they interact with parties’ standing, campaigns, the electoral system, and some of the divisions in Scottish society.

John Curtice, Professor of Politics at the University of Strathclyde and author of the report, said:

“Perhaps the biggest surprise of the Holyrood election was that the SNP failed to secure a second overall majority even though the party’s share of the constituency vote was up on 2011. This report explains why.

“There is little consistent evidence that the SNP lost out because unionist voters ‘ganged up’ on the SNP by voting for whichever of the unionist parties appeared best placed to defeat the SNP locally. Labour’s vote, for example, actually fell most heavily in constituencies where they had previously shared first and second place with the SNP.

“Some of those who voted for the SNP on the constituency ballot do appear to have backed the Greens on the list vote, where the SNP’s tally fell. While this may have cost the SNP one or two list seats, the higher level of support for the Greens helped ensure that there were more pro-independence MSPs at Holyrood than would otherwise have been the case.”

He continued: “The main reason why the SNP lost out was that the party failed to win a number of key constituency contests – in particular, two in Edinburgh and on in Fife, Aberdeenshire and Dumbarton – that the party should have won, given the national swing.

“These failures were not compensated for in the allocation of list seats because elsewhere in the relevant region the SNP had already won its proportionate share of seats in the constituency contests. The result was a more proportionate outcome than would otherwise have been the case – or, indeed, actually occurred in 2011.”

Writing in the report, Willie Sullivan, Director of ERS Scotland, said:

“With only 55% of those registered to vote turning out in 2016, we must voice concerns about the overall legitimacy of our system and of the representatives of our parliament. In a year of populist shocks in liberal democracies across the world, including Brexit in the UK, our priority must be in finding ways of building confidence in our democratic system. That will mean going beyond elections to look at the culture and institutions of Scotland and asking how they need to change to meet new times.

Nonetheless, “As an electoral system, the 2016 Scottish Parliament election showed the Additional Member System (AMS) in its best light since the parliament was created. AMS did what it was supposed to do, giving the most proportional result yet – perhaps making up for the anomaly of 2011, when the SNP got a majority of seats on around 46% of the vote.”

Sullivan commented: "While many SNP supporters were understandably interested in prioritising an SNP majority, less partisan voters often prefer cooperation and political diversity – particularly in a system set up  to give fair representation. Majority governments elected on minority votes do nothing for trust in democracy. The 2016 election was therefore a broadly fair reflection of how Scottish people voted. Scotland’s political leaders should encourage many voices to be heard – and give up on the idea of hoarding power in a few places.

“However, there are still things that can be done to make the Scottish election system even better, whether making it more proportional or moving towards the Single Transferable Vote which allows voters to rank candidates by preference – putting citizens rather than parties at the centre.”

In terms of gender representation, Sullivan continued: "Parliament should be representative of our wider society, and gender representation is perhaps the most obvious democratic deficit we see in Holyrood and wider politics. Many of the parties are stalling or falling in managing to get women into winnable seats.

“Perhaps it’s time to have a debate about how we ensure parties go beyond just good intentions and move into action when it comes to gender diversity."

As well as raising the gender challenge, the report concludes: “Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the devolved electoral process in Scotland is to persuade voters to participate in the first place. For many voters, Holyrood still does not seem to matter enough to be worth bothering with. Overcoming that impression is a challenge facing all of Scotland’s newly elected politicians, irrespective of where they stand on the continuing debate about the country’s constitutional future.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

The report is published here (do not share until post-embargo): http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/publication/2016-Scottish-Election-Report.pdf

'Meet the Lords' documentary lays bare 'astonishing and scandalous' situation in upper chamber, say campaigners

21st February 2017
21 Feb 2017
Tags: 
Meet the Lords
house of lords
lords reform
BBC Meet the Lords

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Statement  from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, 21st February 2017

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, email/call Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630


Commenting on revelations [1] from the BBC’s ‘Meet the Lords’ series, which will be shown next Monday, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

We already knew some Peers claim their £300 without speaking or voting, but to hear this from the former Lords speaker herself is astonishing and shows just how severe this problem really is. Baroness D’Souza has exposed a truly scandalous situation.

“Since they’re unelected, there is essentially no way to get rid of Peers who do this. The public are sick to death of the kind of behaviour that ‘Meet the Lords’ highlights.

“Our research at the end of 2015 showed that £1.3m was claimed by 64 Peers in the 2014/15 financial period who failed to speak in that year [2]. And Peers who failed to take part in any votes from 2010-2015 claimed £360,000 back from the taxpayer [3]. The situation with the Lords is spiralling out of control, both in terms of size and cost.

“Rather than spending thousands on Peers who fail to even speak up in Parliament, we need a fairly-elected upper House. That call is only likely to grow after this series looks set to lay bare some of the outrageous abuses of privilege in the upper chamber.

“It’s completely unacceptable that Peers can claim thousands without even speaking or voting in the House, and it highlights the reality that there is no accountability for Peers – the public can’t kick them out if they fail to serve the interests of citizens. Let’s fix this broken House before the situation gets any worse.

“This documentary also highlights the farce that is the hereditary peerage system. The practice of holding so-called ‘by-elections’ for hereditary Peers – with only aristocrats able to vote and stand – is an embarrassment to our politics. Some of these by-elections have had an electorate of three or less, which makes a mockery of the ‘Mother of all Parliaments’. Scrapping the hereditary peer system would be a start in the process of clearing out our out-dated upper house and the cutting the second largest chamber on Earth (after the People’s Republic of China) down to size.

“This documentary provides yet more evidence that we urgently need to sort out the House of Lords, and move to a fully-elected chamber where the people who make our laws are elected by the public - and can be kicked out by the public.”

ENDS

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, email/call Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630

Notes to Editors

[1] They include the claim from former Lords Speaker Baroness D’Souza that a Peer left a taxi waiting outside ­Parliament while he went inside to register for his daily allowance. D’Souza claimed the lord was one of “many, many, many who contribute absolutely nothing, but who claim the full allowance”.

[2] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/press_release/file/House%20of%20Lords%20Research%20PR%20JM%207th%20Sept%202015.pdf

[3] http://news.sky.com/story/peers-claimed-163360k-without-voting-in-lords-10349255

Read the ERS’ ‘Fact vs Fiction’ report on the House of Lords https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/publication/House-of-Lords-Fact-Vs-Fiction-Report.pdf

Lords reform shouldn’t be threat but 'real plan to take back control’, say campaigners

20th February 2017
20 Feb 2017
Tags: 
house of lords
Brexit
Article 50
EU
EU referendum
Article 50 Bill
Brexit Bill

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Electoral Reform Society statement for immediate release, 20th February 2017

Contact: Josiah Mortimer, Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk


Commenting on the fact that Peers begin debating the Article 50 Bill today, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“It’s understandable that peers on both sides want to have their say on legislation – after all that is what they are meant to be there for. But it would be wrong for Peers to try and disrupt the Brexit process. The upper chamber simply doesn’t have any legitimacy to scrutinise let alone block legislation given that it is totally unelected.

“Whatever Peers do when it comes to Article 50, serious reform of the Lords has to be on the table – not as a threat in the event that Peers try and amend the Brexit bill, but as a vital step in genuinely ‘taking back control’ for British voters. Lords reform shouldn’t be something that’s just wheeled out to intimidate Peers any time they go against the wishes of government – it should be part of a real plan for democratic reform after Brexit.  

“We do need a revising chamber to scrutinise vital bills like this. But given that the Article 50 bill is of such huge constitutional importance, those voting on it should be chosen by voters themselves.

“It would be a sorry irony indeed if ‘take back control’ meant simply handing power to unelected Lords. A big theme of the EU referendum was democracy, so we need to put those words into practice and bring power back to voters here.  

“Whatever the case, we’d be more than happy to work with the government on reforming the Lords. Just one in ten voters support the current chamber as it is [1] – it’s time for real reform and a fairly-elected upper house.”

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk

ENDS

[1] http://electoral-reform.org.uk/press-release/poll-just-one-ten-think-lords-should-remain-unelected

Electoral Reform Society to launch major report on 2016 Northern Ireland election

13th February 2017
13 Feb 2017
Tags: 
Northern Ireland
Stormont
Northern Ireland Assembly
stv

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Forward Planning Note: Electoral Reform Society to launch major report on 2016 Northern Ireland election

Society to publish largest ever survey of Northern Ireland voters on how they ranked candidates and parties, focusing on how different communities vote.

‘The 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly Election: How Voters Used STV’ gathers data from thousands of respondents – over 4,000 – to create the largest database of voting patterns for NI.

  • Electoral Reform Society statement, 13th February 2017
  • Embargoed report and full PR to be sent on Wednesday 15th February, with findings embargoed for Thursday 16th February, 00:01.
  • Report launch event: March 23rd, central Belfast (details TBC)
  • Contact: Josiah Mortimer, Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk

The Electoral Reform Society will release a major report on the 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly election this Thursday (16th February 2017).

The report, ‘The 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly Election: How Voters Used STV’ commissioned IpsosMori to gather data from thousands of respondents – over 4,000 – to create the largest database of voting patterns for NI.

The launch follows debate this week about parties recommending their supporters give their second preference to other ‘blocs’ [1].

Nearly 2,500 filled out mock ballot papers reflecting how they voted in their constituencies – allowing for a highly rigorous look at how they expressed their preferences under the STV system – focusing on the different communities, including the extent to which unionists/nationalists vote for other blocs.  

The research and analysis was conducted by Prof John Coakley and Prof John Garry at Queen’s University Belfast, as well as Dr Neil Matthews at the University of Bristol and Prof James Tilley at the University of Oxford.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the ERS, said: ‘This research is the first of its kind, and contains some fascinating insights into voting habits in Northern Ireland – insights that go far beyond the usual analysis looking solely at the end results or just first preferences’.

This marks the first report on Northern Ireland by the ERS in several decades and will be formally launched next month at an event for journalists and politicians in central Belfast (details TBC – contact Josiah Mortimer to be added to the attendance list).

Distribution:

·        A full briefing/press release and embargoed digital version of the report will be sent out on Wednesday 15th February, with findings embargoed for Thursday 16th February, 00:01.

·        The report will be formally launched at an event in Belfast on March 23rd

For more information or to arrange an interview, comment piece or coverage in advance, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630.

Notes

[1] See here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-38953929

ERS: Expert panel on Senedd reform ‘vital step forward’ for Welsh democracy

1st February 2017
1 Feb 2017
Tags: 
ERS Cymru
ERS Wales
press release
panel on electoral reform
electoral reform
welsh assembly
Senedd
Size Matters
Reshaping the Senedd

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Statement from ERS Cymru for immediate release, 1st February 2017

For more information, quotes, or to arrange an interview, contact Dr Owain ap Gareth, ERS Cymru Research and Campaigns Officer, on Owain.apgareth@electoral-reform.org.uk or 07771661802 (English and Welsh)


Commenting on the National Assembly for Wales’ new Panel on Electoral Reform, Dr Owain ap Gareth, Campaigns and Research Officer for the Electoral Reform Society Cymru (ERS Cymru) said:

“We welcome the Assembly’s announcement of this independent panel. This is a vital step forward for Welsh democracy and paves the way for a stronger Senedd.

“Over the next few years issues such as Brexit will have significant impact on Wales, so the Assembly needs to have the sufficient numbers to deal with the challenges that will come along with this. It is clear that the current arrangements of the Assembly cannot respond to the demands that will be placed upon it, so it’s right that this is being looked at.

“Our report ‘Reshaping the Senedd’ [1] has already looked at the principles that should underpin this process, and we believe that more Assembly Members under a good and fair electoral system is fundamental in ensuring we have a democracy fit for the people of Wales at such an important time. Now is the time to boost both the capacity and calibre of the National Assembly for Wales at this crucial constitutional moment.  

“With votes at 16 having secured cross-party consensus in Wales, following its success in Scotland, it’s positive that this team of experts will look at how to deliver on extending the franchise. This change has the potential to transform how our young people engage with Welsh democracy, particularly if delivered alongside effective citizenship education in our schools and colleges.

“Finally, while we are fully supportive of this announcement, there is a need to bring the public along too in these discussions and engage with voters themselves on these key issues. We look forward to supporting the panel in this important work”.

ENDS

For media enquiries please contact: Dr Owain ap Gareth, ERS Cymru Research and Campaigns Officer, on Owain.apgareth@electoral-reform.org.uk or 07771661802 (English and Welsh)

Notes to editor

[1] A link to ERS Cymru and the Wales Governance Centre’s ‘Reshaping the Senedd’ report can be found here: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/publicatio...

ERS: Electoral reform proposals could revitalise local democracy in Wales

31st January 2017
31 Jan 2017
Tags: 
ERS Wales
press release
Mark Drakeford
stv
single transferable vote
electoral reform
ERS Cymru
welsh assembly

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Statement from ERS Cymru for immediate release, 31st January 2017, 12:00

For more information, quotes, or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on Josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk or 07717211630 (English language), or Dr Owain ap Gareth, ERS Cymru Research and Campaigns Officer, on Owain.apgareth@electoral-reform.org.uk or 07771661802 (English and Welsh)


Commenting on Finance and Local Government Secretary Mark Drakeford’s proposals to introduce proportional representation for local councils in Wales [1], Darren Hughes, Acting Director of ERS Cymru, said:

“This White Paper is a hugely encouraging sign, and shows that the Welsh government is serious about empowering voters and revitalising democracy in Wales.

“A fairer voting system for local government – which would allow voters to rank their candidates by preference [2] – would be a big step forward. Moving away from the Westminster winner-takes-all system across the board would mean everyone’s vote counted in local elections, drawing to a close the era of wasted votes and ‘holding your nose’.

“PR is a normal part of life for voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland, ensuring that all council seats are contested and that all votes count.

“We warmly welcome these proposals and will be responding to the consultation in full as it progresses.

“We commend the government for leading on this and look forward to working with Ministers on improving democracy for Welsh voters.”

A trend towards PR

“The direction of travel in the UK and across the world is towards more representative voting systems, rather than Parliament’s disproportionate First Past the Post system. It’s fantastic to see Wales potentially leading this trend.

“The Single Transferable Vote has been used in Scotland [3] for 10 years now, and in Northern Ireland since the 1970s, and gives fair results that represent the diverse swathe of opinion that exists. Systems that are more responsive to voters’ views will also be more responsive to their needs. 

“In the 2012 election, Wales had 99 uncontested council seats – with over 140,000 voters denied a say.  Part of this is down to a voting system that gives huge majorities on small chunks of the vote, and is a disincentive for choice.

“By contrast, in the final set of Scottish Local elections run under First Past the Post in 2003 Scotland had 61 uncontested seats – yet following the shift to the Single Transferable Vote in 2007 that figure hit zero. 

“At the same time, the average number of candidates standing per ward went from 3.4 in 2003 under FPTP to 7.1 in 2012 under STV, and the proportion of people seeing their first choice candidate elected soared from 52% in 2003 to 77% in 2012.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

[1] See here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-38802658

[2] More information on the Single Transferable Vote system here: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/single-transferable-vote

[3] To see how STV has improved local democracy in Scotland, see our research here:

Read the ERS’ report on the 2012 Scottish local government elections under STV here: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/2012-Scottish-Local-Government-Elections.pdf

Graphic available for free use (with accreditation) below and here (as high-res PDF): http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/Impact%20of%20STV%20infographic.pdf