Monthly Archives: November 2015

Getting NOTA on UK ballot papers now official Green Party policy!

So – it took a while but the Green Party of England and Wales have now finally got back to me with full clarification of where they stand on the issue of NOTA. Here is the email in full:

“Dear Jamie,

Thanks for your email, which has been passed on to me in my capacity as
GPEW Policy Development Co-ordinator.

I’m pleased to confirm that the relevant policy chapter, Public
Administration https://policy.greenparty.org.uk/pa.html
was amended at our most recent conference and that section of text now
reads:
————
None of the Above/Re-open Nominations (RON) option

PA310 All ballot papers should allow electors to Re-Open Nominations
(RON) if they are not satisfied with voting for any of the nominated
candidates. Ballots lacking this option provide no valid way to register
non-consent in an election. If the RON option meets the threshold under
the rules of the election then nominations should be reopened and a
second election should take place for the position/s within a period of
two months. This process will continue until a winner is announced, with
the previous incumbent continuing in their role until a threshold is
met.
————

I appreciate the offer to work with us on improving this policy
position (and I do recognise that ‘RON’ and ‘NOTA’ are not the same
thing, as is implied by the current heading), but the reality is that
under our current policy process any member has the right to bring a
policy motion to conference, as long as three other members are prepared
to give it their support and it is posted on the pre-agenda forum of the
members’ website by the stated deadline. No consultation outwith the
party is currently required.

I’m sure you will agree with me that this really isn’t a satisfactory
situation as there are many campaigning organisations that have a lot to
offer us as we seek to improve our policies, and I hope that you’ll be
heartened to hear that Policy Committee are working on a new policy
process which has far more emphasis on truly effective consultation.
This has to go to spring 2016 conference for approval – if it is adopted
we will then be in a position to up our game quite considerably in terms
of making it much more worthwhile for proposers of motions to engage in
genuinely meaningful consultation.

So, the fact that you did not hear back from Natalie or Caroline is a
reflection of the fact that they were both inundated with communications
from members of the public in the run-up to the election – and also
perhaps that they have no more power to change our policy than any other
individual member. Neither of them were involved in the Democratic
Reform motion which came to the Autumn 2015 conference.

If you are willing to be put in touch with the Democratic Reform Policy
Working Group I’d be happy to effect an introduction, and this would
then lead into work to improve our position on RON and NOTA along the
lines you suggest.

I look forward to your further thoughts.

Kind regards,
Sam Riches
GPEW Policy Development Co-ordinator”

——————————————————–

This is great news for our campaign as it means that a comparatively small, but nonetheless influential, mainstream party has:

a) recognised the need to be able to formally withhold consent at an election

b) adopted a baseline policy addressing this need and

c) stated that they are keen to work with NOTA UK to develop the policy going forward.

When the time is right we now intend to make the case for honing the policy so that it focuses specifically on getting a formal ‘None of the Above’ option on ballot papers and nothing else.

We feel that in any system, a clear, self-explanatory and unambiguous NOTA option is essential. It would function as RON in practice if ever evoked, but would not need to be explained to people not used to election terminology as RON would. For this reason, we feel NOTA is by far the better option when it comes to national elections as we believe that most people won’t want to have to think about the mechanism and logistics of rejecting all that is on offer. They just want to be able to reject, formally and unambiguously, and to know that it counts for something. In that regard, NOTA trumps RON every time.

In light of the Green Party’s endorsement of NOTA, we will of course be contacting all the other mainstream parties again in due course to try to clarify where they stand on this democracy defining issue.

Stay tuned. Onwards!

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
24/11/15

Advertisements

“Room for a View: Democracy as a Deliberative System” by Simon Burall of pro-democracy think tank Involve

While the NOTA UK electoral reform campaign inevitably regroups between elections, I highly recommend that all our supporters familiarise themselves with the work of pro-democracy think-tank Involve, in particular its recent publication “Room for a View: Democracy as a Deliberative System”.

Among many other salient points, one argument it puts forward is that there is much more to a healthy, functioning, true democracy than voting in a general election every five years and that focussing alone on electoral reform is therefore not enough. I have always held this view myself, with the caveat that all the while an electoral system, the ultimate say that the public has over who is in power, is largely sewn up and monopolised by an anti-democratic elite, reforming it remains as high a priority as anything else, as whatever else is going on outside of that framework, the ultimate power to legislate and enforce policy can only ever remain in the same self-interested hands, negating any positive progress being made elsewhere.

The report also suggests that the focus within the electoral reform movement is not necessarily always correct when this wider context is taken into account. It has long been my contention that campaigning for desirable but not necessarily essential changes to the voting system as a whole (such as PR), in the context of a system where those monopolising it are the only ones with the power to change anything, is the definition of futility. Especially when there is a much more logically sound approach available.

A formal, binding ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option on ballot papers, by contrast, would be achievable once it is properly and widely understood as the democratic pre-requisite that it is, as to argue against it is to argue against a central pillar of democracy itself, namely consent and the concurrent need to be able to withhold it (which in the context of elections must be formal as consenting by voting is formal). Whatever else is going on outside of the electoral system, until such time as the electoral reform movement as a whole wakes up to this reality and refocusses its efforts on the only achievable reform with real potential to enable further reform, no meaningful progress is likely to be made in this area.

In my view, the kind of progressive, deliberative democracy that Involve’s report outlines would have to incorporate a bona fide, binding NOTA option on ballot papers. With that in mind, I’ll be reaching out to Involve in the coming weeks to see where they stand on the specific issue of getting NOTA on ballot papers as part of a broader effort to fully democratise the UK political system.

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
10/11/15