Annex 3: Other views on electoral reform
In response to the consultation, some views were expressed which did not relate directly to the questions asked but which, nevertheless, related to the topic of electoral reform. In some cases, relevant issues were raised repeatedly across multiple questions.
The headings below capture the main additional themes addressed.
MSP terms of office
There were calls for limits to be placed on the length of time any one person could hold office. Some respondents focused on list MSPs, suggesting that they should be limited to a maximum of two terms in office. Conversely, there was also a suggestion that provision might be made for particular representatives to remain in post beyond an election to oversee long-term projects.
There were also requests for a system to be introduced that allowed individual representatives to be ‘recalled’ if the electorate lost confidence in them or were unhappy with their performance, attendance or voting record. This was thought to be especially important if longer electoral terms were in place.
Reform of the Scottish Parliamentary electoral system
There were calls for a wider review and reform of the current electoral and proportional representation system.
In particular, a recurring theme was dissatisfaction with the way the Additional Member voting system was working in Scottish Parliamentary elections. Respondents who raised this issue were critical of the party ‘list’ system, and the fact that the individual candidates elected as regional (‘list’) MSPs are decided by parties on the basis of pre-prepared lists, and not by the voters (who vote for parties and not individual candidates). This means that individuals who had (repeatedly) not been successful via the constituency ‘first past the post’ system can still be elected to Parliament (on the basis of proportional representation), and that unpopular regional MSPs cannot be voted out by the electorate. Respondents saw these arrangements as ‘unfair’ and ‘undemocratic’; some described the fact that individuals could be rejected by their local constituents but nevertheless selected by their party to be in a position of power as ‘corrupt’. Some called for the Additional Member system to be scrapped and for a single transferable vote (STV) system to be used in all elections in Scotland. Others proposed putting limits on the number of terms a list candidate could serve before being dropped from the regional list (i.e. just once or twice).
Single Transferable Vote system and local council elections
Respondents expressed a range of views about the Single Transferable Vote system which is used in local council elections. These included: (i) a preference for a ‘first past the post’ / one member per ward electoral system as well as (ii) support for proportional representation, and STV in particular, and, in some instances, calls for it to be used in Scottish parliamentary elections. Some respondents also noted more specific points regarding the use of the current system of STV: for example, the difficulties of running by-elections in multi-member wards based on a system of proportional representation; and the option of introducing a limit on the number of candidates any party could put forward in wards with small numbers of representatives.
Electoral security and preventing fraudulent voting
Some respondents discussed issues relating to electoral security and the prevention of fraud, including the possible introduction of a requirement to show voter identification at polling stations.
There were calls to reform procedures for postal voting. Some respondents wanted to see restrictions on – or even the banning of – postal voting, since they saw postal voting as particularly vulnerable to fraud. Some were concerned about the misuse of postal voting in care homes specifically where, it was claimed, postal ballots were not always completed by the intended voter.
There was also discussion of the need for a mechanism for checking between local registers, to detect fraud.
Democratic representation in Scotland
Some respondents who replied to Questions 14 to 16 commented on a number of other issues related to boundaries, council areas and number of councillors, but not directly related to the work of the LGBC. There were contrasting views on these issues. Some believed that the number of councillors across Scotland was already too great. Others argued that Scotland compared poorly with other countries in terms of political involvement and representation, and that Scotland needed more councillors to enhance the quality of local democracy – achieved variously though reducing ward sizes and / or increasing the number of elected representatives per ward. There was also a view that Scotland should have a greater number of councils, with each council covering a smaller area.
Encouraging participation and increasing accessibility to elected office
In addition to the points discussed in Chapter 9, respondents also highlighted a number of other options for widening access, or increasing voter participation which were not directly related to the issues raised in the consultation paper, as follows:
- Some thought that voting should be made compulsory.
- There were suggestions that (in addition to electronic voting and voting by mobile phone), there should be (landline) telephone voting.
- There was a view that the voting system was a factor in current (and decreasing) turnout at elections, and there were two main suggestions as to how this might be reformed to encourage more people to vote: (i) adopting a single uniform system across all elections (national, local) which would help reduce confusion among voters; and (ii) adopting an appropriate proportional representation system in all elections which ensured that everyone’s vote ‘counted’ equally.
- There was some concern that any move to require the presentation of ID by voters at polling stations might reduce access for already disadvantaged groups and might cause particular problems for trans people.
- There were calls for certain groups of people to be specifically excluded from electoral office (e.g. those with un-spent convictions for serious offences, those without UK residency or citizenship), and for prospective candidates to go through a disclosure process.
- Finally, some called for the impact of Brexit on EU nationals standing in elections to be monitored.
Respondents also commented on a range of other issues, including issues relating to aspects of electoral law and practice, electoral spending, campaign rules, the integrity of political campaigning, and the design of ballot papers (i.e. with some suggesting that ballot papers should also include a ‘none of the above’ option). Occasionally, respondents also discussed the use of referenda and the funding of political parties. Some respondents – individuals in particular – discussed the importance of reviewing various aspects of electoral procedures on a regular basis.
Finally, there was also a small number of comments indicating broader disillusionment or disagreement with the current constitutional and political landscape and conduct in public office.