Ward Safi, 30, is from Middlesex and felt let down that the first time he cast his vote in a general election it simply did not matter. A decade on and still feeling unrepresented, he has developed a website called Where do Votes Go? to help show how undemocratic the voting system really is.

Ward explains his motivation for creating the website and why he thinks a move to Proportional Representation will ensure more people’s voices are represented in Parliament.

In 2010, I was excited to participate in my first democratic election. This excitement faded when I discovered someone I didn’t vote for was to become my representative in Parliament for the next five years.

The problem for me starts with the idea that one ‘wins’ a constituency or an election. A system designed around ‘winning’ creates an adversarial form of politics with ‘winners’ and, inevitably, ‘losers’. It descends into a shouting match that achieves little of substance, being fuelled by a similarly adversarial media. Instead of representing the public, the pursuit of winning a majority becomes an end in itself, with little room for real democracy or governance.

With the current voting system you are faced with a polarised two-party system, reducing voter choice. You are often compelled to tactically vote for a candidate or party you may not even support. You may not even bother to vote because your area is seen as a ‘safe seat’, or you just don’t care. Your voice is lost.

Democracy is about the rule of people by those same people; not only those who live in ‘winning’ constituencies; not only those who voted for ‘winning’ candidates. A representative democracy is one where each citizen is represented in Parliament as fairly as possible. It is a simple measure for the genuine level of democracy a society has.

I did some research into the 2019 General Election results to see how democratic the UK really is and the results are shocking:

“Nearly half, 46 per cent of people voted for a candidate that didn’t ‘win’ their constituency. That’s the equivalent of 14.5 million people’s views being ignored.

“15.5 million, 32 per cent of people didn’t vote at all.

“This means 30 million people in the UK are not represented directly in Parliament. This is what motivated me to create the website Where do Votes Go?.” 

Constituency boundaries and demographics also unfairly affect voters. 76 per cent of voters for Conservative candidates are represented while only 49 per cent of Labour voters are represented by a Labour MP. Votes for smaller parties are generally even less represented. The electoral system arbitrarily considers votes concentrated within a constituency as being worth more than those spread across multiple constituencies.

The least represented constituency is South Down in Northern Ireland, with 68 per cent of voters not getting the MP they voted for. Northern Ireland has a large number of parties that get a respectable number of votes, which is healthy democratically speaking but is undermined by the undemocratic First Past the Post system which discards most of these voters’ wishes.

Another inequality is the fact that all constituencies are represented by one MP, but not all constituencies have the same population. To give an example, the Isle of Wight has 113,021 eligible voters, all only getting one MP to represent them, whereas the Na h-Eileanan An Iar constituency in Scotland only has 21,106 voters who get one whole MP. That’s nearly five times more representation per vote! But equalising constituency sizes alone will do little to make votes equal for as long as we keep First Past the Post.

It is difficult to call any of this democratic or representative. So what’s the alternative? Proportional Representation of any form would perform better than the current system.

For example, German citizens have two votes, one for their local MP and one for a national level party preference vote. How well represented are voters in Germany? Well, 94 per cent of voters are represented by a party of their choosing in Parliament and 71 per cent of the electorate as a whole. In Germany, anyone who casts a vote is almost certain to be represented in Parliament according to their choice; in the UK, a vote is a 50-50 shot!

Don’t gamble on this broken system. Join Make Votes Matter, raise awareness of voter inequality and let your MP know how you feel about changing the voting system.

MVM activists stage a banner drop at Westminster Bridge on #DemandDemocracy Day of Action, August 2020

MVM activists stage a banner drop at Westminster Bridge on #DemandDemocracy Day of Action, August 2020