The biggest round of local elections is coming in May, including all elections postponed due to Covid-19 safety concerns last year. Despite growing concerns it is not safe to carry out elections, the Government is keen to make sure they happen. Women fought long and hard for the right to vote, before finally gaining the right in 1918, since then reforms have increased the number of those who can vote. But there are now more calls for reforms to bring our electoral system up to date with the modern world and increase participation in this democratic exercise.
There are many different voting methods in use across the world. All have benefits and disadvantages. The most common electoral system in the UK is first past the post, the candidate with the most votes wins. Under this system it is common to elect someone, who half of voters did not want. Parties have been in government with less than 40% of the public vote. This tends to generate two large parties, as small parties without a geographical base find it hard to win enough seats.
Many other electoral systems exist, the most prevalent across the world is proportional representation systems, this means that a party winning half the vote, would gain half the available seats in parliament. This sort of voting system is used in some parts of the UK, namely in Scotland. This is arguably more complex to understand, but it does increase proportionality and means a wider representation of the electorate is elected, under this method people feel they have a voice that represents their views.
Electoral reform could increase turn outs in all elections, the UK has only seen a turn out of above 80% in a general election once in the last 100 years. There is no easy solution to increasing turn out in elections. But there are calls across parties to reduce the voting age to 16 for all UK elections, this has already been done in Scotland, and turn out amongst 16–17-year-olds has been high in elections they can vote in. There are many other things that you can do from your 16th birthday, so why should they not be able to vote? Research shows that those who vote from a young age, will continue to do so throughout their lives. Some countries such as, Australia also have compulsory voting for all above 18, with fines in place for those who do not.
There are many ways to reform the electoral system, making people feel more represented using proportional representation could increase turn out in all elections. Rather than going down the route of making it compulsory, modernising the system would make voting more appealing, especially for those who have been disenfranchised by the current system. There will always be opponents to electoral reform, these are normally the group of people who would not benefit from such reforms. Every vote should count, and democracy should be fit for the 21st century.
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