08 May 2007

Lets Give Politicians An Incentive to Increase Turnout.

Stumbling and Mumbling points out the miserably low turnouts at local elections that we not only take for granted but our media now virtually ignores in its analysis of the results.

Polly Toynbee writes a fine article today advocating PR but even passionate advocates like Polly and me would be the first to admit that PR is only a partial solution to political disengagement.

Which got me thinking - isn't it time we started rewarding parties not just for the percentage of the vote they get but for their percentage of the electorate (we could even take into account those who do not register to vote).

PR will give us governments formed from 50%+ of the vote and give people the freedom to vote for the party of their choice knowing it will count, but why not make the non-voters count as well (non-voters are among the most disadvantaged of the electorate) and make it that whatever percentage are non-voters are represented by MPs selected at random from the electoral register. At the last General Election this would have meant 39% of MPs drawn from lot making them a bigger influence than Labour on policy (at local level it would be a majority selected by lot - televised of course). The more people vote, the more MPs are elected, the lower the turnout the more MPs are selected by lot. This would certainly give an incentive to candidates to get the vote out. No longer could people say that voting (or not voting) did not make a difference.

This would at least make negative campaigning less rewarding and stop the Tories benefiting from low turnouts or praying for rain on election day.


  1. Non-voters already make their choice - that other folk can go ahead and choose the MPs - by not voting.

  2. If someone chooses not to buy a product because they don't like it, the sellers of that product lose money.

    If someone decides not to vote because they are unhappy at the choices available, the candidates can ignore their views - it makes no difference to who is elected. In fact a candidate can benefit from non-voting if they can persuade an opponents supporters to abstain. This is bad for competition of policies.

    This is why we need to give something to non-voters to give an more incentive for candidates to court their vote.

  3. Would there be any mileage in making voting compulsory, as it is in Australia? You can by all means give the voter a box on the ballot paper that says 'non of the the above' or some such form of words. I offer it up as a serious suggestion since it would identify the proportion of the electorate that is disengaged/disatisfied with the choices.

  4. I am not in favour of compulsory voting.

    I think fining people for not voting will result in less people registering in the first place so destroy the objective. Also it could be very difficult to locate people to fine them - as the Poll Tax showed.

    Incentive voting would be better - easier to administer and as child benefit shows there is near 100% take-up when non-means tested money is involved. Would need photo-ID to stop fraud - but that is probably needed anyway.

  5. "If someone chooses not to buy a product because they don't like it, the sellers of that product lose money." Neil, how can you be so capitalist!?!

    It doesn't apply if you happen to be the BBC or work within the public sector. They produce what they want regardless of what the
    people actually want. They merely raise taxes or go on strike!

    Don't forget the employees of the seller either!

  6. snafu: I am a capitalist - I cannot ignore the world around me - but capitalism needs regulation otherwise we end up with periodic crashes a la 1929 and perverse inequality that destroys society.

    The 'right' talks of incentives and 'the market' when it suits it to, but conveniently forgets such things when it comes to issues they want to moralise about, as David Aaronivitch points out, they 'take Mao as their mentor" on issues like immigration and crime.

  7. Neil, you either miss or choose to ignore my central point.

    Why should Government be a monopoly supplier of healthcare or education to the general public not subject to the whims of the consumer as per your comment above?

    This is entirely different to the Government funding universal healthcare or education...

  8. snafu: "Why should Government be a monopoly supplier of healthcare or education to the general public not subject to the whims of the consumer as per your comment above?"

    I have nothing against using private firms if it increases efficiency...but when it comes to health the evidence from the US suggests it is more inefficient - only providing excellent care for a few rich and with huge extra costs overall. The US spend twice per capita what we do on health but come 37th in terms of health outcomes compared to our 18th according to the WHO.

    If a system could be devised using private enterprise that is more efficient I am all for it as long as the services remain tax funded and provide an equitable service. the problem is healthcare and education is too important to get wrong - this is people's lives, it is not dixons selling mp3 players - it matters even if a minority of the service is shoddy.