On 13/09/14 I attended the Electoral Reform Society’s AGM to represent and debate our policy proposal, that the ERS start campaigning for a bona fide ‘None of the Above’ option with formalised consequences to be added to UK ballot papers for all future elections.
Needless to say, it was predictably frustrating. Out of a five hour day, only 40 mins were set aside for debating the nine policy proposals put forward by members, including ours. A token gesture, lip service, nothing more. A number of people complained about this, myself included.
I got less than a minute to talk about NOTA and then less than a minute to respond to one reasonable question about blank votes from a younger ERS member and three logical fallacy based objections from older members who evidently don’t understand what NOTA is.
But then again, why would they? I was given no time to speak and the society’s formal recommendation to reject the proposal was itself based on a number of clear and demonstrable logical fallacies and blanket misrepresentations of NOTA. (A point by point take-down of their recommendation to reject can be viewed here: https://nota-uk.org/2014/08/30/nota-uks-policy-proposal-to-be-debated-by-ers-at-their-agm/ )
It’s almost as though the upper echelons of ERS don’t want a fair and open debate on anything they have already decided they’re not interested in – like genuine, achievable electoral reform…
The only upside was that there is obviously a split in the ERS on this issue, even on the council, as a council member slipped me a note with an email address wanting to stay in touch as, apparently, some members are very interested in NOTA and want to help in the future. All the younger members I spoke to afterwards knew where I was coming from and were very supportive. I made sure to leave a few copies of our evidence submission to the parliamentary select committee looking into ‘voter engagement’ with all the info that I’d not been allowed to present. (See here: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/WrittenEvidence.svc/EvidenceHtml/7985 )
In the end, the vote on our NOTA proposal was 92 for, 128 against with 19 abstaining. There were nowhere near that many people in the room so we must have got a fair few postal/proxy votes. So not a bad showing at all really, all things considered. Thanks to everyone who took the time to send in their votes in favour.
I never expected to win the vote, the odds were always stacked against us. But it matters not, for me it was more about making our presence felt and making connections. We are still making the solid and indisputable case for NOTA and will continue to. Slowly but surely we are getting heard above all the noise and chatter.
Onwards & Upwards!
FOOTNOTE: The first of our four part video series is nearly ready and will be published soon, so keep an eye out for that!