Our constitution, July 2012: Electoral Commission

“Electoral Commission – independent, non-partisan body to oversee integrity of electoral process, and to ensure conformity with campaign finance legislation”

Today at the People’s Gathering, organised by the Electoral Reform Society, we were discussing how to get more people involved in politics – in voting turnout, but also in what goes on between elections.

This week I have been reading Greg Palast’s thoroughly unnerving book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. The first chapter deals with how the Florida Presidential election was stolen: tens of thousands of voters banned from the electoral rolls, tens of thousands of votes not counted, the net result to give Jeb Bush’s older brother the Presidency even though Al Gore had actually won the election.

Now, of course, the US uses electronic voting machines, so everything’s all right then.

XKCD: Voting Machines

I think the candidates standing for election should actually live in the area they intend to represent.

I think the system should work such that independents do have something of the same chance of being elected as party representatives do: that probably means severely limiting spending down to something an individual could afford.

All rules for representational democracy have to be such that they work equally well for BNP as for Labour, for the Monster Raving Loony party as for the Conservatives.

The day after the local elections, I wrote down a series of rules for fixing democracy by getting more people to vote – I think everyone who can vote, should – but two suggestions made by others there and this afternoon actually worked better.

Mke Scott suggested:

Don’t fine people for not voting; increase everyone’s taxes and then hand out £50 notes at the polling station. People react better to positive inducements than to negative ones.

Really, can you think of a better way of ensuring that people on low incomes, the traditionally disenfranchised – pensioners, unemployed, minimum-wage workers, carers – get down to the polling station and vote?

Another good suggestion at the Gathering, which would encourage neighbours to encourage each other to vote – community grants only available to areas where voting had been above a certain percentage. (But I think £50 notes at polling stations would work better.)

Parties shouldn’t be able to outperform each other spending on political advertising.

Votes should be cast and counted with anonymity but transparency.

Campaigners shouldn’t be allowed to tell outright lies about each other, or slander/defame their opponents with irrelevant material, or spend more money than they’re legally allowed.

And all of that, if we’re honest, we know needs to be overseen by an Electoral Commission. Politically neutral, staffed by people who officially don’t take a point of view about who wins, mechanisms known and transparent to all.

The Constitution doesn’t need to specify what rules shall be used to hold elections, beyond specifying that they should be held at regular intervals and candidates elected by porportiona; representation. Electoral legislation can specify the how. But the Electoral Commission, beyond party politics, needs to be there with the power to investigate, to question, to declare an election void if not carried out correctly, and to turn over to the law for prosecution anyone who breaks the rules.

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1 Comment

Filed under Elections, Scottish Constitution, Scottish Culture, Scottish Politics

One response to “Our constitution, July 2012: Electoral Commission

  1. Pingback: The Backbencher Born 1998; Voting 2014? - The Backbencher

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