In the lead-up to last week’s general election, it became clear that across the UK, voters are torn between voting for what they believe in or voting tactically. The biggest question from this: should our voting system change or will Proportional Representation further corrupt our political situation?
The UK’s First Past the Post voting system, according to the campaign group Make Votes Matter, has never looked so broken. Their petition has over 50,000 votes at the time of going to press, and on Twitter, people have been sharing the hashtag #ChangeTheVotingSystem. From young to old, there seems to be a popular view that the political system just doesn’t work.
The petition says: “We call on Parliament to change the voting system to a form of Proportional Representation – so that seats match votes and all votes count equally.”
If there were to be a PR system, all votes would matter, meaning that the party with the most votes overall would win the election. In the current First Past the Post system, votes count towards winning the seat in their constituency, meaning not all votes have equal value. Some people believe that this doesn’t fairly represent their political views and they feel obliged to vote a certain way to get certain parties in or out, often voting for policies they don’t agree with.
Many students at universities across the UK feel that tactical voting is forced on them if they want to make a change to who gets into government ‒ for example, opting for the Lib Dems rather than voting Labour to keep a Tory candidate out.
Ellie Godley, 20, medicine student at University of Exeter said: “I would engage differently and a lot more if we had Proportional Representation in parliament, but in this election, I’m voting tactically because I don’t trust the system.”
Sam Pollard, 19, classical civilisation student at University of Warwick said: “I voted Green because I think tactical voting is propping up the First Past the Post system, which I think needs to go. I know quite a few people doing the same.”
It’s not only students who don’t trust the voting structure in 2019, with Paul Sellers from Truro, Cornwall, talking about how much politics has changed compared to when he was younger.
Paul Sellers said: “I have not appreciated the quality of the debate, nor the manner in which any of the parties have equipped themselves. Indeed, the past few years has surely shown the political system needs significant reform and technologically updating.”
However, it’s uncertain what PR would do to election results if the voting system was to change. After the EU referendum in 2016, Nigel Farage was one of a number of signatories to an open letter supporting a representative electoral system. Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand, has previously said he is open to electoral reform, but suggested that the subject of Proportional Representation needs more investigation.
While it remains unclear whether any reform to the voting system will take place after this election or how effective a change to Proportional Representation would actually be, it’s obvious that there’s an increasing distrust in the electoral structure and some sort of reform should definitely be considered.