MP calls for compulsory voting

Mark Tami MP will today urge the Government to take immediate action to tackle the declining participations in elections.

In an Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons on Participation in Elections, Mr Tami expresses concern that Alyn & Deeside had the lowest turnout in Wales at the Assembly election last year and calls for participation in elections to be made compulsory.

Mr Tami says: “This Government rightly talks about rights and responsibilities of our citizens. It is a right and a precious right to be able to vote. In many countries people are fighting and dying in the pursuit of that right.

Yet many in this country just cast it aside, but with rights come responsibilities and the time is now right that we enshrine that responsibility in law.

I think that we need to seriously explore the options surrounding compulsory participation, looking at incentive based and penalty based systems.

The international evidence is there. We now need to have a serious study of the options and find a reliable and workable solution to this long term problem.”

In the 2001 General Election voter Turnout dropped to just over 59% – the lowest levels since the advent of universal suffrage and predictions for the future are that this trend of decline is set to continue.

Less than a quarter of the electorate in Alyn & Deeside in the 2003 Welsh Assembly elections leading to various reasons to explain away the lack of participation – namely that there was lower turnout in those areas that had voted against devolution, the lack of understanding amongst the electorate as to the exact powers and responsibilities of the Assembly and the method of election.

The Alyn & Deeside MP adds: “The system of PR, in many cases gave the losing candidate in the constituency election, a seat in the Assembly through a back door method of selection via the regional list. This is exemplified by the situation in Clwyd West where the only candidate who stood a chance of not getting elected to the Assembly was the sitting Labour member.

As MPs, we have grown used to the accusations – that we’re all the same, it doesn’t matter which lot get elected they won’t change a thing, it’s hardly worth bothering.

But as individual politicians we can only do so much. We can make ourselves more accessible, hold more surgeries, knock on more doors, consult more and listen more.

But that does not necessarily mean that we can improve matters on our own. Are we really saying it is too much to expect and require the citizens of this country to go out and vote once every four or five years to take part in the political process?

More importantly, it would make politicians and political parties seek to engage with the electorate as a whole rather than just those who vote.”