Credit: Jonny Gios

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Stephen Gilmore, Media Officer, Make Votes Matter: media@makevotesmatter.org.uk
Cardiff, 9th November 2023

Democracy is far more effective when it is more representative of the diverse views and experiences of the population, Members of the Senedd tasked with scrutinising the Welsh government’s electoral reform proposals heard today.

In oral evidence to the Senedd Reform Bill Committee, Make Votes Matter, the single-issue campaign group for Proportional Representation (PR), welcomed the Welsh government taking steps to improve the proportionality of its voting system (1). The reform, the group said, is “an implicit acknowledgement that to address today’s major challenges, government needs to better reflect the people it serves”. 

Numerous studies across a range of metrics have shown more proportional voting systems lead to much improved policy outcomes – whether in speedier action on climate, stronger employment rights (2) or lower levels of income inequality – as well as a more stable political system characterised by improved gender equality (3).

By way of further improvement, Make Votes Matter advocated for the implementation of a flexible list system that would hand more control to voters, increasing the accountability of MSs to the public. Under a flexible list system, voters may choose to vote for a specific candidate or for a party – an option not available under the proposed system where votes would be allocated solely according to a ranked candidate list determined by the parties. Make Votes Matter’s proposed amendment is designed to mirror positive aspects of the existing Senedd electoral system, with its combination of both single candidate and party list voting.

The simplicity and comprehensibility of the new system, either with a closed or flexible list, is a key advantage, Make Votes Matter also said. Under the proposals, voters will cast just one vote, with many likely familiar with the system due to its use before Brexit in elections to the European Parliament. In addition, the tighter correlation voters will see between the share of the vote a party receives and the proportion of seats it holds in the Senedd will lend further credibility to the electoral process in Wales.

Make Votes Matter’s spokesperson at the Committee hearing, Alberto Smith, said afterwards:

“The Welsh government’s proposals are a welcome step in the right direction. Voters, when asked, repeatedly and overwhelmingly back measures to make our politicians more representative of their voting intentions, more diverse and more accountable.

Recent polling for MVM also showed that a large swathe of the public see less representative voting systems as fuelling distrust and alienation in our politics, as well as preventing rapid and effective action on our most pressing issues.

“The implementation of flexible lists would help to retain the simplicity and strengths of the proposed new system, while giving voters more power to hold elected officials to account individually.

“We hope the Welsh government will take our feedback in the constructive spirit it was intended, and would be delighted to continue to work with Senedd Members and others to deliver more effective democracy in Wales.”

-ENDS-

Notes to editors:

1 The proposed D’Hondt electoral system would, according to MVM projections, score more favourably on the Gallagher Index in terms of proportionality than the Additional Member System as presently designed for Senedd elections.

2 Pagano, M. and Volpin, P.F., 2005. The political economy of corporate governance. American economic review, 95(4), pp.1005-1030.

3 All of the legislatures that have a higher than 40% share of women representatives use PR in their electoral system.

Make Votes Matter is a single-issue campaign for Proportional Representation in the House of Commons. Working with all parties to generate irresistible demand for PR, we aspire to a truly democratic UK in which everyone has an equal voice, power is shared fairly, and decisions are made for the common good. Our most recent report comprehensively dismantles the argument often made by opponents of electoral reform that PR inevitably leads to instability.

The Alternative Vote – on which the UK had a referendum in 2011 – is not a form of Proportional Representation and can be even more disproportional than First Past the Post.

For more information, please contact Stephen Gilmore, Media Manager at Make Votes Matter at media@makevotesmatter.org.uk.