Electoral reform

Electoral reform

Electoral reform is change in electoral systems to improve how public desires are expressed in election results. That includes reform of:

*Voting systems, such as runoff voting, instant runoff voting, approval voting, citizen initiatives and referendums, recall elections, and proportional representation
*Vote-counting procedures.
*Rules about political parties (typically changes to election laws).
*Eligibility to vote.
*How candidates and political parties get their names onto ballots ("ballot access").
*Electoral constituencies and election district borders.
*Ballot design and voting equipment.
*Scrutineering (election monitoring by candidates, political parties, etc.).
*Safety of voters and election workers.
*Measures against bribes, coercion, and conflicts of interest.
*Financing of candidates' and referendum campaigns.
*Factors which affect the rate of voter participation (voter turnout).
*Many other aspects.

Continuous change

There are many such movements globally, in almost all democratic countries, as part of the basic definition of a democracy is the right to change the rules. Political science is imperfect. Electoral reforms seek to make politics work a bit better, a bit sooner. The solution to the problems of democracy tend to be "more democracy." Electoral Reform is a permanent feature of any democracy.


In less democratic countries, elections are often demanded by dissidents; therefore the most basic electoral reform project is to achieve a transfer of power to a democratically elected government with a minimum of bloodshed (e.g. in South Africa in 1994). This case highlights the complexity of such reform. Such projects tend to require changes to national or other constitutions, and to alter balances of power. They are always by definition politically painful.

United Nations role

The United Nations Fair Elections Commission provides international observers to national elections that are likely to face challenge by the international community of nations, e.g. in 2001 in Yugoslavia, in 2002 in Zimbabwe, etc.

The United Nations standards address safety of citizens, coercion, scrutiny and eligibility to vote. They do not impose ballot styles, party diversity, or borders on electoral constituencies. Various global political movements, e.g. labour movements, the Green Party, Islamism, Zionism advocate various cultural, social, ecological means of setting borders that they consider "objective" or "blessed" in some other way. Contention over electoral constituency borders within or between nations and definitions of "refugee", "citizen", and "right of return" mark various global conflicts including Israel/Palestine, Kashmir, the Congo and Rwanda.

National reforms

National electoral reform projects tend to be simpler and less focused on life-and-death matters. Australia and New Zealand held Royal Commissions to find the best form of "proportional representation" of parties in the legislature, and redesign ballots to select or elect these Members of Parliament.

Electoral borders

Periodic redrawing of electoral constituency (or "riding" or "district") borders is conducted at regular intervals, or by statutory rules and definitions, if for no other reason than to eliminate malapportionment attributable to population movements. Some electoral reforms seek to fix these borders according to some cultural or ecological criteria, e.g. bioregional democracy which sets borders to fit exactly to ecoregions, to avoid the obvious abuse of "gerry-mandering" where these borders are set deliberately to favor one party or another, or just to improve management of the public's commonly-owned property.


The Proportional Representation Society of Australia generally advocate Single Transferable Vote and Proportional Representation.

New Zealand

Electoral reform in New Zealand began in 1986 with the report of the Royal Commission on the Electoral System entitled "Towards A Better Democracy". The Royal Commission recommended that Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) be adopted instead of the current first-past-the-post system. After two referendums in 1992 and 1993, New Zealand adopted MMP.In 2004, some local body elections in New Zealand were elected using Single Transferable Vote instead of the block vote.

United Kingdom

There are a number of groups in the United Kingdom campaigning for electoral reform including the Electoral Reform Society, Make Votes Count Coalition and Fairshare.

For 19th century reforms, see The Reform Bills. Also the Reform Act 1832, the Reform Act 1867 and the Representation of the People Act 1884.

United States

In 2002 the United States enacted the Help America Vote Act significantly reforming its electoral process. Electoral reform is a continuing process in the United States motivated by the fear of both electoral fraud and disenfranchisement.

ee also

*Electoral Administration Act 2006

External links

* [http://www.idea.int/publications/esd/index.cfm A Handbook of Electoral System Design] from [http://www.idea.int International IDEA]
* [http://www.aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/es Electoral Design Reference Materials] from the [http://www.aceproject.org ACE Project]
* [http://www.aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/em/eml/eml01/ Electoral Reform] - from the [http://www.aceproject.org ACE Project]
* [http://www.aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/em/eml/eml04 The Scope of Electoral Reform] - from the [http://www.aceproject.org ACE Project]
* [http://www.aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/em/eml/default/ Recent electoral reforms] - from the [http://www.aceproject.org ACE Project]
* [http://www.aceproject.org/regions-en/americas/americas-case-studies/mexico-electoral-reform-1997/ Electoral Reform in Mexico (1998)] - from the [http://www.aceproject.org ACE Project]
* [http://www.aceproject.org/ero-en/topics/electoral-systems/Thailand%20Combating%20Corruption%20through%20Electoral%20Reform.doc/download Combatting Corruption through Electoral Reform in Thailand] - from the [http://www.aceproject.org ACE Project]
* [http://www.electionreformproject.org/ AEI-Brookings Election Reform]
* [http://www.vote.caltech.edu/ Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project]
* [http://www.fairvotecanada.org/ Fair Vote Canada]
* [http://www.ontla.on.ca/hansard/committee_debates/38_parl/session1/ElectoralReform/ER004.htm#P80_3065 Paul McKeever's Testimony to the Select Committee on Electoral Reform] : No electoral system is more "democratic" than any other
* [http://www.civicactions.org/ Electoral Reform Wiki]
* [http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk Electoral Reform Society]
*wikia|Electoralreform|Electoral Reform

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