AN out-dated, voting-suppressor system could well be overhauled here in Wales in the near future.
Apathy was the big winner at the recent Senedd Election with only 46.5% bothering to vote.
This despite all the unprecedented publicity and focus given to the Senedd and its responsibilities this time round.
Now though, First Minister Mark Drakeford has signalled a desire to expand the numbers at the Senedd from 60 up to 90.
This in turn could mean the end of the first past the post voting system and the introduction of a brand new STV (Single Transferable Vote) system, with multi-member constituencies.
STV would mean that every single vote cast would count, with every vote transferred in accordance with the individual choices selected on the ballot paper by voters.
A STV system could possibly trialled at next year’s county council elections.
A spokesperson for Gwlad said the party were in favour of increasing the numbers at the Senedd, but this had to be linked to the introduction of more democracy in the form of STV.
‘Of the 1.1 million votes cast at the election, thousands upon thousands of these votes were really cast in vain because of the FPTP (first past the post system) and because over 90% of all Welsh constituencies are “safe seats”’ he said.
‘As a party, we believe that a move to STV would be good for Welsh democracy as it would make voting meaningful again, and ensure wider representation at the Senedd for the people of Wales.’
‘It would also rid us of this ridiculous notion that one person can adequately “represent” a whole constituency, and allow areas to tap into the knowledge, experience and expertise of several members at the same time’
A STV voting system for the Senedd was recommended in a report commissioned a few years ago, and chaired by Professor Laura McAllister of Cardiff University.
That report recommended moving to either a 17 or a 20 multi-member constituency arrangement, based on county council boundaries, selecting between 80 and 90 members in all.
The tribal nature of Welsh voting is well established, highlighted so well in Dennis Balsom’s ‘Three Wales Model’: Y Fro Gymraeg, Welsh Wales and British Wales, originally drawn up in the 1970s.
And this election only reaffirmed this tribal affiliation with the Green of Plaid dominating Y Fro Gymraeg, the Red of Labour dominating Welsh Wales and the Blue of the Tories dominating British Wales.
Unfortunately, these ‘voting blocks’, as striking as they look on the map of Wales, never reflect the many thousands of votes cast for other parties in these areas.
But an even more serious problem is the fact that they act as voter-suppressants, as many voters conclude: “it’s only that tribe that can win here, so why bother to vote?’.
As no Welsh election has ever enticed 50% of the voters to cast a ballot since 1999, it’s clear that this appalling democratic deficit now has to be addressed.
Moving to a system where every vote counts and where the individual voter can choose who they want to represent their area – across party lines – could prove to be the biggest boost for Welsh democracy since Devolution.