David Blackburn

Dangerous efficiency savings

Dangerous efficiency savings
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The Times reports that the Ministry of Justice has produced proposals to close polling booths, hire fewer employees, raise candidate’s deposits and introduce telephone and email ballots in the hope of saving, wait for it, £65million – less than half of Manchester City’s summer transfer spending.

In exchange for that trifling sum, the MoJ is prepared to chance the quality of democratic processes. Increasing candidate deposits may preclude minority parties from standing. Fewer electoral staff will increase the possibility of widespread counting errors, occassionally labelled 'malpractice' in other areas. Polling stations sited for the convenience of voters will be sacrificed, which would marginalise rural and suburban voters, and telephone and email ballots would be available only to those who owned or could afford them.

 

These changes would serve only to further the trend of falling turnout at a time when the public wants and needs to engage with politics. As Ken Ritchie, the chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society put it: ‘These proposals are a threat to democracy’.

Coffee House has argued consistently for cuts and efficiency savings and continues to do so, but there have to be limits. Whilst cuts come at a price, limiting participation in elections, and therefore undermining the government’s mandate, is a dangerous innovation.