Where have all the voters gone?

Image thanks to Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Now that the dust has settled on the 2021 elections, the government is proposing to clamp down on voter fraud with the suggested introduction of photo ID. I wonder why? After all it was a good day for the Conservative party, at least in my neck of the woods. The Conservatives gained Hartlepool, though in fairness it may well have won in 2017 but for UKIP and had a very successful Tees Valley mayoral result. It was not all one way however with strong results for Labour in the London and Manchester mayoral elections.

What then is the problem with election fraud? According to the Electoral Commission there were 15 cases of suspected fraud at this election. Of these there were: 2 cases with – No further action due to no evidence; 5 cases with – No further action insufficient evidence; 4 cases that were – Locally resolved; 1 case with – No further action due to no offence. This left 3 cases that are under investigation.

As David Davis said, ‘It’s an illiberal solution in pursuit of a non-existent problem.’

Unfortunately all this talk of election fraud masks a real problem, that of voter turnout. Let us look at three of the results mentioned above. Firstly that of Jill Mortimer’s success at Hartlepool, in what was one of the most important elections there since the constituency was first formed. She gained 15,529 votes, or 51.9% of those who voted. Turnout however was 42.7%, down 15.2% on the previous election. This means that Mortimer was elected by 22.2% of the electorate.

Ben Huchen spectacularly retained his position as Mayor of Tees Valley with 121,964 votes, an amazing 72.8% of those who voted. Turnout however was 34%, up from 21% at the last election for mayor. This means that Huchen was elected by 24.8% of the electorate.

Andy Burnham also had a good day in Manchester  with 473,024 votes and a credible 67.3 % of those who voted. Turnout in Manchester was similar to Tees Valley at 34.7%. This means that Burnham was elected by 23.4% of the electorate.

How can we claim to live in a representative democracy when the elected candidates represent less than a quarter of the electorate? 

This is the issue we need to address, not voter ID!

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