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Study Notes

Voting reform

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Voting reform (also called electoral reform) is the idea that a change in electoral systems is needed to improve how public desires are reflected in the results of elections. It refers most frequently to a change in the electoral system (the way votes are transferred into seats in Parliament, in the UK from FPTP in Westminster General Elections to a more proportional voting system for instance, but there are other aspects of voting reform that are pushed for.

However, it isn’t just a change in the election system that is discussed under the banner of voting reform. There are also improvements in vote-counting procedures, laws surrounding elections, eligibility to vote, how candidates can get their names on ballots, electoral constituency boundaries, ballot design and voting equipment, election scrutineering, the safety of election monitoring, measures against any bribery, coercion and conflicts of interest, the financing of candidates’ and referendum campaigns and factors affecting the rate of voter participation.

There have been a few occasions when electoral reform became seriously considered in the UK. One was when Liberal Leader Jeremy Thorpe demanded it as a condition of him entering a coalition with Edward Heath after the February 1974 election, the second was when Tony Blair set up the ‘Jenkins Commission’ to consider electoral reform after the 1997 election, before which Labour thought they might need the support of the Lib Dems. The third was after the 2010 election, in which the Conservatives offered the Liberal Democrats a referendum on the adoption of the Alternative Vote system, which was duly held in May 2011, and defeated by 68% to 32%.

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