October 27, 2019
It’s often been claimed that Westminster’s winner-takes-all voting system delivers strong and stable government. But instead, it could be set to deliver a “hold your nose” election – with so-called tactical voting far beyond the scale seen in 2017.  
Why Were Heading For A Hold Your Nose Election
New polling by BMG Research for the Electoral Reform Society has found that nearly a quarter of voters are planning to vote tactically in the next general election.
The analysis found that 24% of people won’t vote for their preferred candidate or party, instead turning to a party or candidate to keep out someone they dislike more.
Based on 2017 general election turnout, this could equate to almost eight million votes cast for candidates who were not the voters preferred choice but just the “least worst” option on polling day.
When the same question was asked before the 2017 general election, 20% of people said they’d opt for someone who their first choice wasn’t and now, with nearly a quarter of voters feeling that they can’t vote for the party of their choice it’s becoming clearer than ever that time is running out for Westminster’s broken voting system.
We can’t keep relying on a broken set-up that not only creates warped results but warps how people choose to vote in the first place.Related... Voters Will Have To Produce ID Before Casting Their Ballot, Government To Announce For too long, First Past the Post has skewed our elections beyond recognition, piling up wasted votes and forcing people to make tactical choices at the ballot box. Unlike proportional elections for Holyrood, Scottish councils or the Welsh Assembly, at Westminster people feel deprived of voting for the party that most accurately represents their views.
ERS analysis of the 2017 election found that millions of people’s votes were thrown on the electoral scrapheap. 68% of votes had no impact on the result. That’s 22 million votes going to waste.
Amid that sea of wasted votes, it’s the tiny ripples that make the difference. Just 0.0016% of voters choosing differently would have given the Conservatives a majority, while the election saw rise in very marginal seats: eleven seats were won by fewer than 100 votes.
If we had a fair, proportional voting system – as in most of the developed world – you could, shockingly, vote for who you actually support, and if your first choice doesn’t stand a chance, your second choice is counted instead.
The next election could be the most volatile in years. Current polls put Labour and the Conservatives on a combined vote share of around 60% – around 10 points less than the lowest ever joint result in a general election. Voters are keen to ‘shop around’ more than ever – but the current system means a diverse and shifting public are having to work around a broken two-party system that could prevent millions for voting for the candidate in which they really believe.
This week Canada’s election (under the same voting system) has resulted in a hung parliament (familiar!), with the Liberals likely to rely on the pro-PR NDP and Green parties. A shift to fair votes there would leave Westminster’s broken set-up even more isolated.
It’s long past time our politics moved into the 21st century. We need to move towards a means of electing our MPs where all voices are heard and where people don’t feel forced to hold their nose at the ballot box to game the system.
Our politics is changing, breaking away from the traditional binary divides. Our voting system should move with it.
Willie Sullivan is senior director for campaigns at the Electoral Reform Society Related... Here's Why Boris Johnson Wants A General Election Before Christmas – And What Jeremy Corbyn Thinks About It Snap Election Could Be Before December 12, Jeremy Corbyn Suggests No.10 Plays Down Threat To Go On Strike If MPs Refuse An Election
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