Over at the Electoral Reform Society blog, Stephen Brooks (Director ERS Wales) attacks the undemocratic nature of our local elections, which allow people to be elected uncontested and for parties to win all the seats in some areas with only a minority share of the vote.
Next week voters across 21 of Wales’ 22 unitary authorities will head to the polls to decide the political make-up of their local councils. Voters will express a view on where they want to see their council head for the next five years. The direction of travel on a range of critical issues like council tax, social services, schools, transport and economic development will all be set.
But for nearly 140,000 the opportunity to express a view has been stolen from them by an unfair and outdated electoral system. For them, next Thursday won’t be Election Day.
Across Wales, 95 individuals have already been elected unopposed. The simple task of submitting nomination forms was all it took. No need especially to phone canvass, knock a single door, or attend a hustings. In one ward, no one submitted nomination forms. Residents there will go unrepresented until a by-election is organised.
Electoral Reform Society Wales research shows that across the country, 12 of the 21 councils up for election contain uncontested seats. The worst, Powys is home to an estimated 32,132 residents denied a vote. Gwynedd has approximately 22,861 residents robbed a voice; and in Pembrokeshire its 20,038.
This is not just a problem for rural Wales. Voting won’t interrupt the daily routine of 7,085 residents in Bridgend county borough next Thursday. Nor the 7,524 taxpayers who live in local government minister Carl Sargeant’s own constituency.
Is this a sign of a declining interest in politics? A sign that fewer and fewer people are interested in standing? Or is it an illustration of how our ‘winner takes it all’ First Past The Post system is crowding out competition, particularly in single-member wards?
In my previous post “Does everyone matter?” I discussed some of the flaws of the current way we elect Councillors. In this post I seek to demonstrate how adopting the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system for council elections (as used in Scotland and Northern Ireland) would benefit voters. STV is superior to FPTP in that it eliminates the problem of Minority Rule (where a minority of the voters are represented by a majority of seats), eliminates tactical voting and encourages a greater diversity of candidates to stand.
Please watch this excellent video by C G P Grey from his Politics in the Animal Kingdom series of explanatory videos about elections and politics. This gives a good summary of the main problems with FPTP and why we are campaigning for reform of our political system.