Voting in general election

ERS warns of ‘electoral deserts’ as third of public feel their vote won’t count

Voters have reported being disillusioned and frustrated with the election system, as a survey has found that a third of people think that their vote won’t count in the upcoming general election.

And half of those who said this also stated that it was because the same person gets in every time, whilst a fifth added that they feel this way because voting doesn’t lead to change.

These are the findings of a new survey commissioned by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) that looked into the attitude of voters just days before the UK chooses its next government.

It also comes shortly after the ERS found in a separate survey that one in five British voters will vote tactically on 8 June and opt for their second or third choice candidate or party in order to keep out somebody they dislike when they go to the polls.

Today’s survey will deepen concern that the UK’s voting system is leaving behind large groups of society, as many feel their views count for very little under a first-past-the-post system.

Around 46% of survey respondents said they thought their vote would count, however. This figure was lowest with older voters, as only 30% of 65-74 year olds and 21% of people aged 75+ said their vote would make a difference. For people aged 18-24, 45% thought their vote would count.

The survey also revealed that 55% of UKIP voters felt their vote wouldn’t count, and almost half (49%) of Greens said the same thing. Among the two biggest parties in the UK, only 19% of Conservatives felt their vote would not count.

“This is a damning indictment of a voting system that writes off millions of people’s votes,” said Darren Hughes, deputy chief executive of the ERS. “Whether you’re a Conservative voter in the north or a Labour voter in the south, too often it feels like your vote will make no difference to the outcome, due to Westminster’s outdated first-past-the-post system.

“As a result, we’re left with electoral deserts, while parties fight over a handful of marginal seats. That’s not good for democracy.”

Hughes also stated that in hundreds of seats across the country the result already felt like a “foregone conclusion”, as the same MPs get in time and time again – meaning it’s therefore not surprising that people switch off.

“The fact that tactical voting is likely to double this election is a sign of just how out-of-kilter with people’s preferences this system has become,” he added.

The ERS boss also argued that the last general election in 2015 was an example of this problem, as nearly five million people voted for UKIP and the Greens, yet these parties only took two seats between them.

This has led the society to again call for a proportional representation system that would force parties to campaign all over the country rather than taking certain voters and seats for granted.

“It’s time for reform so that we have – like in Scotland and Northern Ireland – a voting system where your vote always counts, no matter where you are in the country,” concluded Hughes.

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