Liberal Democrats

F8: Electoral Reform

Mover: Wendy Chamberlain MP (Spokesperson for Political and Constitutional Reform).

Summation: Tara Copeland.

Conference deplores the damage that the UK's current electoral system is doing to our democracy, leaving millions of people feeling powerless, excluded and robbed of their rightful say over how our country is run.

Conference deeply regrets that First-Past-the-Post:

  1. Is fundamentally unfair and unrepresentative - in the December 2019 General Election it took Just 25,883 votes to elect each SNP MP and just 38,264 votes to elect each Conservative, while it needed 336,038 votes to elect each Liberal Democrat and 865,715 votes to elect the lone Green.
  2. Has allowed the Conservative and Labour parties to maintain their grip on the vast majority of seats in Westminster, even as they have shifted far from the views of the vast majority of British people.
  3. Creates far too many safe seats where the outcome is a foregone conclusion; people are taken for granted by politicians and parties, unable to properly hold their representatives to account.
  4. Denies voters a genuine choice, as it forces many to vote tactically against their least favoured candidate instead of for their most favoured one.
  5. Entrenches the power of party establishments, as it allows voters no choice between candidates of the same party

Conference believes that:

  1. Improving our democracy is an important end in itself, but it is also a necessary means to building a better country, with good schools and hospitals, affordable housing, safe communities and clean air.
  2. With a better electoral system and more democratic institutions, politicians and parties will have to be more focused on the things that really matter to people, leading to improved public services and a fairer society as a result.

Conference also regrets that in the 2019 General Election 16- and 17-year olds, EU citizens living in the UK and many UK citizens living abroad were denied their votes despite the impact of the election on their rights and long-term interests.

Conference further regrets that elections for single positions such as Mayors are conducted using the Supplementary Vote system in which voters can express only a first and second preference, thus still giving incentives to vote against their least preferred candidates rather than positively for their favourites.

Conference notes with alarm the Conservative plans to introduce a compulsory voter ID law, despite their trial in the 2019 local elections having denied hundreds of people their vote and warnings from charities and academics that the proposals "present a significant barrier to democratic engagement and risk compromising a basic human right for some of the most marginalised groups in society", including older people, people from BAME communities and homeless people.

Conference therefore calls for:

  1. Proportional representation by the Single Transferable Vote system to elect all MPs and local councillors in England, which would:
    1. Allow voters to give their support to their preferred parties and candidates, without the risk of helping the worst party sneak through.
    2. Force politicians and parties to compete for every vote, in every part of the country.
  2. 16- and 17-year olds to be given the right to vote in elections and referendums.
  3. The existing rights of all EU citizens in the UK to stand and vote in Local Elections to be protected, and the right to full participation in civic life to be extended to EU citizens who have lived in the UK for five years or more, including the ability to stand for office or vote in UK referendums and General Elections.
  4. All UK citizens living abroad to be able to vote for MPs in separate overseas constituencies, and to participate in UK referendums.
  5. The Alternative Vote system to be introduced for elections to single positions such as directly-elected Mayors.
  6. Plans to require voters to bring identification with them to vote to be scrapped.
  7. The introduction of a legal requirement for local authorities to inform citizens of the steps they must take to be successfully registered with far greater efforts in particular to register under-represented groups.

Conference notes the statement in the 2019 Conservative Manifesto that "making sure every vote counts the same [is] the cornerstone of democracy".

Conference calls on the Government to deliver on its commitment to hold a Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission, which should address all of these proposals; the Commission must be carefully composed so as to be genuinely representative of the UK public.

Applicability: Federal, except 5. (lines 68-69) which is England only.

Mover: 7 minutes; summation of motion and movers and summation of any amendments: 4 minutes; all other speakers: 3 minutes. For eligibility and procedure for speaking in this debate, see page 11.

The deadline for amendments to this motion - see page 13 - and for requests for separate votes - see page 10 - is 13.00, Monday 2 March. Those selected for debate will be printed in Conference Extra and Saturday's Conference Daily which will be published here.

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