Electoral reform campaigners tell government to ‘stop and re-think’ as bill returns to Commons

Campaigners are calling on ministers to think again on dangerous plans to reform electoral law as the Elections Bill returns to the House of Commons for its report stage.

In December a report by the cross-party House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs (PACAC) joined calls from campaigners to pause the bill, with committee Chair William Wragg saying the bill’s proposals “lack a sufficient evidence base, timely consultation, and transparency, all of which should be addressed before it makes any further progress.”

Alongside proposals for mandatory voter ID at polling stations, which could see millions turned away for lacking the required identification, the bill would give ministers new power over the work of the Electoral Commission – risking the independence of the elections watchdog.

Ministers have also used the bill to propose changes to the electoral system for Mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners – adding new clauses during the committee stage that would see the Supplementary Vote scrapped in favour of First Past the Post.

The ERS campaign group has warned that the move, which ministers claim will make it easier for the public to ‘kick out’ underperforming officials, would damage accountability and undermine the legitimacy of those elected.

Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research at the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“The government’s Elections Bill proposals are less about improving our democracy than they are an attack on voters’ ability to cast their ballot and have their voice count.

Ministers have attempted to dodge scrutiny over key parts of this bill and the result is a dangerous mix of proposals that risk shutting voters out of our democracy and weakening the integrity of our elections.

“From plans to shut voters out from the ballot box for lacking the right ID, to minsters’ power grab over our independent elections watchdog, this bill stands to damage democracy.

“Opposition to the bill is widespread and growing, with MPs from all parties now calling on the government to stop and re-think their plans for changing election law. It’s time for the government to listen.”

It’s time ministers went back to the drawing board and brought forward new plans to improve our democracy.”