Tag Archives: Electoral Reform

Open Letter to the Green Party re: GE 2017

Dear Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley,

I wrote to you last year, and then again in reply to your response, but have yet to receive a further response from you. In your first reply, Caroline stated:

“…the Green Party fully backs having a “re-open nominations” (RON) option on the ballot paper and I’d agree that a “none of the above” (NOTA) option is in the same spirit. It’s not possible for us to campaign on everything and I don’t think we’ll be doing anything proactive on this in the immediate future, but I’ll let the campaigns coordinators know about the open letter and your calls.”

I’m writing to you again now as it strikes me that with a snap general election coming up and talk of progressive alliances (that could, in theory, see the Green party forming part of a coalition government after June 8th) the time may well be now for you to do something proactive on the issue of NOTA / RON.

If you were to bring your NOTA / RON policy out of the shadows and in to the limelight, putting it at the heart of your election manifesto, this would, in my view, not only do wonders for our cause but also be a sure vote winner for your party among those who would dearly love to see a formal and binding NOTA option on ballot papers in the future.

I sincerely believe that to not do this at this time would be to miss a trick.

I also still feel strongly that the policy would carry more weight with the general public if you reworded it favouring the often used and self-explanatory NOTA acronym over the more jargonistic RON.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this and hopefully taking an important step forward with you towards real electoral reform in the UK at this upcoming election.

Your sincerely,
Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
29/04/17

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NOTA CAMPAIGN: 2017 General Election Strategy

NB: This is a hastily arrived at assessment of the state of play. More detail to follow!


So, the largely meaningless binary ‘choice’ season has been brought forward with Theresa May’s announcement of a snap general election on June 8th 2017. As with any election, this will inevitably lead to increased interest in our campaign to get a formal and binding None of the Above (NOTA) option on UK ballot papers. It therefore presents an opportunity to further establish the urgent need for electoral reform as a mainstream talking point in the coming weeks.

So here’s my initial strategy thoughts from a NOTA point of view. Clearly, the chances of getting NOTA on ballot papers by June are zero and we will need to take the fight to the next government. As I see it, with the First Past The Post system being what it is, there are only really four possible outcomes at the upcoming election with some more likely than others:

1: A Tory government, either with a majority or as a minority government – LIKELY
2: A Labour government, either with a majority or as a minority government – LESS LIKELY
3: A coalition government with the Tories in the driving seat – POSSIBLE
4: A coalition government with Labour in the driving seat – POSSIBLE

Neither an outright Tory government or a Labour government are likely to be open to the idea of introducing NOTA any time soon. Currently, the only pro-NOTA party in a position to possibly end up in power in some small way after June 8th is the Green party, who have an official policy to get a form of NOTA (RON – Re-Open Nominations) on ballot papers. Clearly, the Green’s are not in a position to win the election outright and form a government.

So from our point of view, the best possible strategy, it seems to me, would be to support the so-called ‘progressive alliance’ with a view to getting a ‘rainbow coalition’ government with the Greens and others in a position to influence the Jeremy Corbyn led Labour party.

With that in mind, I propose that NOTA UK and its supporters spend the coming days and weeks:

a) lobbying the Green party to bring their pro-NOTA policy to the forefront of their manifesto, rather than hide it in the shadows as they have up to now, in order to show that they mean business when it comes to electoral reform and representing the currently silent majority

b) lobby the Labour party to commit to the progressive alliance being put forward and

c) lobby all other parties that could possibly wind up in a ‘rainbow coalition’ government to publicly declare where they stand on the issue of NOTA and electoral reform in general.

As stated, this is a swiftly arrived at strategy for the benefit of those asking what our plans are. Much more detail and rationale to follow! Feel free to share.


NOTA UK is a volunteer run organisation, if you’d like to donate to our campaign you can do so via the paypal button at the top right of this page. For an overview of our campaign and its aims check out our explainer videos.

You can also support the campaign for formal, binding NOTA in the UK by following the links below and signing our petition:

Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
NOTA UK website

Onwards & Upwards!

Jamie Stanley
Founder NOTA UK
20/04/2017

Trump: Don’t despair, don’t get angry – get wise and organise!

https://notaukdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/41351-6a00d83451bc8b69e2019aff686334970c.jpg?w=649&h=649

An estimated 55.6% of eligible voters voted in the 2016 US election that saw Donald Trump elected as the next US president. That is an abysmal turnout, but an entirely understandable one, given the state of the candidates and the level of debate in the run up.


It also transpires that Clinton, much like Gore in 2000, won the popular vote nationwide but, due to the First Past The Post (FPTP) voting system and the vagaries of the 100 year old electoral college system, lost out when it came to securing the all important 270 delegates.

Naturally, there is now much belated talk, again, of electoral reform and the ‘state of democracy’ and, inevitably, the focus has fallen on efforts to introduce a more proportional voting system. This is a red herring plan, in my view, that would involve tearing up a tried and tested system that directly benefits the two main parties of power and that can always be presented by them as ‘democratic enough’, even if plenty of people disagree.

But there is a much simpler, much more achievable and much more immediately transformative reform staring everybody in the face. One that actually already exists in some form in the US, setting out a clear precedent and an opportunity for expansion.

Does anybody truly believe that many of those who turned out and voted for Trump or Clinton, having opted for the perceived lesser of two evils, did not do so through gritted teeth? We’ll never know how many for sure, but I’m willing to bet that a great many of them would instead have made use of a formal & binding ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option on the ballot paper / voting machine had one been available.

It also stands to reason then, that many more of the over 100 million who didn’t vote at all would surely have considered doing so if they’d had the opportunity to formally tell all candidates and parties where to go in a way that could’ve affected the result if enough people had chosen to do so.

One US state, Nevada, already has a form of NOTA, but unfortunately it is a non-binding kind of faux-NOTA that cannot in any way affect the result and is therefore of little interest to disillusioned voters, some of whom are campaigning for it to be made binding and extended across the rest of the US. This is an initiative that we must whole heartedly support.

In my view, there is absolutely no rational argument for keeping a formal, binding NOTA option off the ballot paper in a world where pseudo-fascist populism and yet more neoliberal Wall Street / City of London puppetry are the only available options (if you agree, please help us to help you by signing this petition on the 38 degrees website and sharing this post).

But we cannot make this argument and take it to the mainstream without serious numbers and serious support. I have, more than once, tried to impress upon various organisations such as 38 Degrees, Make Votes Matter, Unlock Democracy and the Electoral Reform Society the importance of our campaign and why NOTA should be the priority of all progressives and democratic reformists.

Surely this point has now been made beyond all doubt. Donald Trump is the next US President, after all. Have another go at trying to let that sink in for a minute.

NOTA, properly implemented, is a democratic pre-requisite, representing as it does the essential ability to be able to formally withhold consent and reject all that is on offer at an election, if deemed necessary, in a way that can affect the result if enough people do it. This mechanism, in its fully fledged form, is currently absent both in the US, the UK and indeed everywhere, when it should be central to any and all systems claiming to be truly democratic. When understood this way, you cannot argue against it and still be pro-democracy, meaning that all the while there is a need to present the various systems we have as paragons of democracy, NOTA is 100% achievable.

A form of NOTA is already UK Green Party policy. We now need to get this essential, transformative reform seriously recognised and firmly on the table across the board. In my view, as a matter of urgency.

With this in mind, I implore anyone reading this to familiarise yourself with the current state of play and recent articles on our website and start the all important conversations with your friends and families about how coming together and campaigning for NOTA presents a golden opportunity for us all to meaningfully push things forward at this critical time.

Again, you can support the campaign for formal, binding NOTA in the UK by following the links below and signing our petition:

Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
NOTA UK website

If you live in the US, you can support and help draw attention to the need for a formal, binding NOTA option on ballot papers here.

Onwards & Upwards.

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
09/11/16

 

A Trip to Trump-Ton: US Elections & NOTA

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The need for a formal, binding ‘None of the Above’ option (NOTA) has surely never been more apparent than when watching the farcical 2016 US election campaign.


I mean, seriously. A nation of over 300 million people, and the only two in the running for the top job are Donald Trump & Hillary Clinton. A racist, misogynistic, hate preaching, billionaire demagogue versus a warmongering, morally bankrupt, fully paid up member of the Wall Street clique. That’s it. And with not a single credible alternative party or candidate in the running that won’t just split the vote and ensure victory for one of the main two.

It is, quite literally, ridiculous.

And yet people in their millions, around the world, people who can’t even vote, are dutifully falling in line with the tired, media prescribed ‘lesser of two evils’ thinking. As if either of these people are not destined to just be figureheads in an out of control corporate oligarchy masquerading as a democracy. See here:

The Transformation of American Democracy to Oligarchy

This lazy, binary, context free thinking is embarrassing for all concerned. But it always happens. You could put Ted Bundy and Charles Manson up against each other for the job of leading us all over the cliff and people would immediately start rationalising which one is the least worst.

Only now, this time – SURELY! – the toxic, terrible problem of oligarchy masquerading as democracy is there for all to see, no?

People should be on the streets DEMANDING their democratic right to formally withhold their consent and reject all that is on offer via a formal, binding NOTA option. It is absolutely essential to be able to do this in any true democracy. And all the while the oligarchy is bound to disguise itself as a true democracy, it stands to reason that the case for the democratic pre-requisite of NOTA can be made. And won.

There is even precedent to back this up in the US. The state of Nevada has had a form of NOTA on ballot papers since 1975. There is now a campaign to extend this nationwide. See here:

The problem with it, as with every existing form of NOTA currently, is that it is non-binding and can in no way affect the result. Not even if it attracts the most votes, as it did in Nevada in a 2014 Democrat party primary. See here:

Nevada Democrats pick ‘None of these candidates’ for governor

What this means, in practice, is that this is in fact faux-NOTA, a kind of informal token gesture. This of course does nothing to inspire or engage disillusioned voters and accounts for the usually fairly low take up for this form of NOTA where it exists. And yet, in 2014 it still ‘beat’ every actual candidate in Nevada, and by quite a margin.

As a result, many Nevada voters now want to see NOTA expanded ‘so that if it came in first, the election would be declared invalid and a new election would be quickly called in which none of the candidates who lost to NOTA would be eligible to run again’.

Surely then, it stands to reason that a formal, binding, nationwide NOTA option, not just in the US but here in the UK and indeed anywhere, would have the power to transform the corrupted politics of oligarchy masquerading as democracy into something infinitely more democratic. As the National Review article above reports:

“…if NOTA came close to winning, even the most entrenched incumbents might be forced to reconsider their positions and inject some needed humility into their thinking. Adding NOTA to the ballot might also improve the nation’s abysmal voter turnout. NOTA might even discourage highly negative campaigning, because candidates would be running for the approval of voters, not just to offend fewer people than their opponents do. When confronted with the option of bad versus worse, NOTA would allow people to say, “Give me a better choice.” Isn’t that one of the things that America’s democracy should be about?”

Choosing wisely – not just choosing between but also choosing to reject all that is on offer if necessary – is in fact the singularly most important aspect of any true democracy. Never before has the absence of this essential democratic right been more glaring than it is as millions of US citizens prepare to make what has to be the most absurd Hobson’s Choice in human history.

You can support the campaign for formal, binding NOTA in the UK by following the links below and signing our petition:

Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
NOTA UK website

If you live in the US, you can support and help draw attention to the need for a formal, binding NOTA option on ballot papers here.

Onwards & Upwards.

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
07/11/16

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Response to our open letter to Caroline Lucas

So I finally received a reply to our open letter to Caroline Lucas of the Green Party of England and Wales. Here it is with my response:

“Dear Jamie,

Thank you for getting in touch and apologies for not replying sooner – I get a lot of correspondence and give priority to that from my constituents.

As you know, the Green Party fully backs having a “re-open nominations” option on the ballot paper and I’d agree that a “none of the above” option is in the same spirit. It’s not possible for us to campaign on everything and I don’t think we’ll be doing anything proactive on this in the immediate future, but I’ll let the campaigns coordinators know about the open letter and your calls.

In terms of changing policy, that’s done by members and the policy coordinators, copied in above, should be able to tell you whether there’s ever been any proposals along these lines.

Best wishes, Caroline”
—————————————————————————————–

“Dear Caroline,

Thank you for your reply.

A couple of things, firstly Re-Open Nominations and NOTA are more or less the same thing, my issue with the current Green Party policy is that to many RON will be seen as a needlessly technical and jargonistic term, the preserve of political parties, student unions and the like. Most voters, as you know, are not necessarily members of such groups and generally like things to be simplified as much as possible. RON would constantly need explaining, where as None of the Above is a recognised, self-explanatory phrase. For this reason, we feel strongly that the wording of the policy should be changed so that it is clear that the proposed reform is a formal, binding NOTA option, perhaps with RON in brackets, it could then go on to explain what is meant by RON for the avoidance of doubt.

Secondly, it is clear from your response that NOTA/RON, while recognised as necessary, is not a priority for the Green Party. I feel strongly that this is missing a trick. As outlined in the open letter, there are solid, irrefutable reasons why NOTA is the logical starting point for full democratisation of a plainly undemocratic electoral system such as the UK’s.

In a true democracy, it is essential to be able to formally withhold consent at an election, as voting is the formal giving of consent and consent is only measurable if it is possible to withhold it in an equally impactful way. NOTA is the only way to do this, as ballot spoiling / abstaining are informal acts that can in no way affect the result. NOTA would therefore be achievable, in the short to mid term, with enough widespread understanding of this fact and support for it among the general public, as it is not possible to argue against a democratic pre-requisite without arguing against the concept of democracy itself. As undemocratic as the Westminster elites are in practice, they can never be seen to be. Therefore, all it would take to get NOTA in place would be for some mainstream politicians and parties to come out in favour of it and join us in making the case for it in a high profile way. From that point, NOTA would become inevitable. There is also quite probably a legal case to be made for inclusion of NOTA (see here: https://nota-uk.org/…/guest-blog-is-nota-a-legal-requireme…/ )

The same cannot be said of PR, because as desirable a democratic improvement as it may be, it simply cannot ever be argued that PR is a democratic pre-requisite in a system where securing a mandate hinges on seat share, not vote share. In my view, it does not matter how many high profile parties and people are calling for PR, if the party in power benefits directly from FPTP, as is always the case because of the very nature of FPTP, why on earth would they do anything other than pay lip service to calls for a new voting system then ultimately ignore them?

They would not be able to do this if NOTA were the ’cause célèbre’, for the reasons stated. Once in place, a post-NOTA electoral system would be much easier to reform and improve with additional changes such as PR.

If full democratisation of the UK system is the aim, rather than just figuring out how to get one’s own party into power or the continued justification of one’s organisation and funding (ERS, for example), then campaigning for NOTA has to be the start point. Any mainstream political party with the courage and foresight to acknowledge this and get behind our campaign fully would be making history. Until that happens, the issue of electoral reform is likely to continue going round in circles as it has done for decades.

Again, I would be more than happy to consult with policy makers on this issue with a view to making NOTA a central plank of any future Green Party manifesto.

Yours sincerely,
Mr J Stanley
NOTA UK
26/09/2016″

An Open Letter to Caroline Lucas MP

Dear Caroline,

I am writing to you in my capacity as founder of the electoral reform campaign group NOTA UK, campaigning since 2010 for a formal ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option to be added to ballot papers for all future UK elections.

In my view, as much as Proportional Representation (PR) advocates are keen to downplay this, the recent defeat of your bill regarding scrapping First Past The Post (FPTP) in favour of PR shows that we are actually no closer to achieving this than we ever have been. Clearly, this is because it remains the case that the two pain parties will never give up their FPTP advantage as things stand.

In a system that is all about securing a majority of seats, as opposed to a majority of votes, PR is an ideal, not an essential democratic pre-requisite. NOTA, however, is 100% essential in any true democracy, representing as it does the all important ability to formally withhold consent and reject all that is on offer at an election in a formal, binding way.

As such, NOTA would be achievable with enough public understanding of this fact, and with enough people calling for it, because to argue against it is to argue against democracy itself, once both concepts are properly understood.

In my view, the EU referendum result, widely perceived as more of a general protest vote than a coherent rejection of the EU, clearly indicates that there is a demand for a NOTA option on ballot papers and that people would make use of one if they could. The very presence of such a thing would change everything. It wouldn’t even have to attract the most votes and ‘win’ (triggering by-elections) to be effective, although clearly provisions for this eventuality would have to be put in place. Parties would be terrified of coming second to a body of people formally rejecting all that is on offer because it could destroy them. They would therefore have to adapt their policies and candidates accordingly and stand by them fully to attract genuine support. In such a climate, further reforms like PR would be that much more achievable.

Currently PR is nothing but a red herring. The real cause should be getting NOTA on ballot papers before the next general election because it is an achievable game changer. In our view, the sooner PR advocates wake up to this and get on board with NOTA UK’s campaign the better.

As you know, the Green party recently adopted getting NOTA on ballot papers as party policy (although you call it Re-Open Nominations (RON) potentially confusing and muddying the issue – I would push for changing this to the more self-explanatory NOTA), but are not very vocal about it, focussing instead on unwinnable PR. In my humble opinion, this needs to change, urgently.

If the Green Party and all other PR advocates were to get fully behind our NOTA campaign and commit to educating the general public about the need for it, we could get NOTA in place in no time as a government concession to keep the peace. This, as you know, is how all giant leaps forward in politics are achieved, like votes for women and the creation of the welfare state. They were not benevolent gifts bestowed from on high, but necessary concessions to an increasingly aware and vocal public. So could it be with NOTA.

For this reason, I honestly believe that getting NOTA on ballot papers is the next logical step towards universal suffrage, followed closely by PR. But it has to be in that order, otherwise, to be blunt, we are all just pissing in the wind, for the reasons outlined above.

I would be more than happy to meet with you to discuss the matter further and/or act as a consultant to help formulate Green party policy with regard to NOTA. Much more information about our campaign can be found on our website: http://www.nota-uk.org

Feel free to contact me via any of the contact details below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
23/07/16

Systems thinking, leverage points and the immovable logic of NOTA

oligarchybanner.jpgIf you can see the flaws in a broken or knowingly deceptive system, it makes literally no sense whatsoever to make use of that system as it is and expect the outcome to change.


All this can ever achieve is legitimisation of that system and assurance that the inevitable outcome it produces will persist unchallenged.

The only viable solution to that problem is to either replace the broken and/or deceptive system with one that actually does do what it is supposed to (or claims to) or fix whatever is preventing it from doing so.

In the case of most nation state’s current electoral systems, by far the most significant and obvious flaw is that they claim to be democratic but in reality can only ever deliver oligarchy masquerading as democracy. If you doubt this, you should probably read up on the 2014 study jointly conducted by Princeton and Northwestern universities that proved beyond doubt that the United States is officially an oligarchy.

Among those who acknowledge it, this problem can seem largely insurmountable. But if you approach it the right way, this is far from the case.

Within faux-democratic electoral systems such as that of the US and the UK, the most glaring and most addressable problem is the total absence of a mechanism that enables voters to formally withhold consent and reject all that is on offer in a way that can actually effect the result if enough people choose to do so.

It is essential to be able to do this in any true democracy because, at its core, true democracy is about people consenting to be represented in government by whoever they collectively choose to elect. But consent is only measurable if it is possible to withhold consent. The act of consenting and endorsing candidates / parties (by voting) is formal and binding, so the act of withholding consent and rejecting must be formal and binding also in order to be valid. Not voting or ballot spoiling / ‘writing in’ are meaningless, informal acts that in no way equate to this.

The only way to do this properly is with a formal, binding ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option on ballot papers.

Because it is essential to be able to do this in a democracy, all the while the game of the powerful is to present oligarchy as democracy, NOTA is an achievable reform – or rather would be, if enough people understood it and were calling for it as the democratic pre-requisite that it is. To argue against NOTA, in those circumstances, would be to argue against a central pillar of democracy itself, thus allowing the facade to crumble.

Therefore, it follows that with enough pressure, NOTA could become a government concession to keep the peace and avoid all out, overt tyranny (notoriously costly, in many ways, and nigh on impossible to sustain), as opposed to voluntary, covert tyranny (the self-sustaining goal and inevitable outcome of oligarchy masquerading as democracy).

Once in place, with the prospect of blanket, formal rejection hanging over every party and candidate, NOTA would have the power to trigger further organic reform of any  broken and/or deceptive electoral system it has infiltrated, towards one that is truly democratic.

But without this first step, nothing can ever change for the better in such systems as things stand.

From a systems thinking point of view, campaigning for and securing a formal, binding NOTA option on ballot papers in the first instance is literally the most logical and viable solution to the problem at hand. It is the most accessible leverage point at which meaningful intervention can occur. (More on systems thinking and leverage points here).

NOTA is not the be all and end all, but it remains the logical starting point for defeating oligarchy and kick-starting true democracy, once the true nature of that problem is fully understood. For this reason, it should be the priority of any and all progressives, reformers and true democrats at this time.

You can find out more and get involved with NOTA UK’s campaign here: nota-uk.org

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
27/04/16

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