Dozens of supporters marched through the centre of Totnes at the weekend to promote the fight for Proportional Representation in the House of Commons.
The banner waving campaigners marched from the Plains to the Rotherfold where they were inspired by speakers Caroline Voaden, the former Lib Dem MEP for SW England and Gibralter; Anthea Simmons, editor of West Country Voices and Totnes Mayor Cllr Emily Price.
Laurie Taylor of Totnes Make Votes Matter (MVM) group which organised the event, said: “Caroline and Anthea both highlighted how dysfunctional our present voting system is and the pressing need for change.”
Make Votes Matter is a national group campaigning for an electoral system in which parties gain seats in proportion to the number of votes cast for them which, the group says, would make everyone’s vote meaningful.
Barbara Phillips, a member of Totnes MVM, said “I was heartened to see so many people keen to see change to our stale and unfair voting system.
“We need a Parliament fit for the 21st century.”
In support of a fairer voting method, Totnes Town Council has written letters to the government and the local authority asking for a change in the law.
Councillors want to trial an alternative electoral system to the current ‘First Past the Post’ approach.
Letters have gone out to the Rt Hon Michael Gove as Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and local MP Anthony Mangnall, asking him to support any change in legislation
The council has also written to Devon County Council leader, Cllr John Hart, and the leader of South Hams Council, Cllr Judy Pearce, urging them to pass similar motions in their respective councils.
Totnes clerk Catherine Marlton said: “Totnes Town Councillors passed a resolution in April to request a change in the law that would allow town, district and county councils in England to choose to trial an alternative electoral system besides the current ‘First Past the Post’ for local authority elections.
“The resolution passed by the council also requested an increase of funds from the Government to support greater levels of electoral registration.
“Totnes Town Council considers the current electoral system used for local elections in England is not a fair system because it means votes do not have equal weight in affecting the outcome, and many votes are wasted.
“This can lead to voter apathy and a feeling of disconnection from local democracy.
“Forms of proportional representation have been shown to increase voter turnout as well as the diversity of candidates elected.
“The council would prefer a system which is more in line with the Good Systems Agreement, as supported by political parties, MPs and campaign organisations from across the political spectrum.”
The resolution noted that local authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland have been using some form of Proportional Representation in their elections for some years, and that a recent change in Welsh law gives local authorities in Wales the power to introduce changes for their elections too.
The London Assembly has used the Additional Member System to elect its members.
The requested change in the law requested would therefore only be granting local authorities in England the same choices already enjoyed by the other countries in the Union, said Ms Marlton.
No authority would be forced to make a change.
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