Electoral reform in the UK: The battle for fairer votes begins here

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One of the paradoxes of Thursday's election is that despite the Liberal Democrats doing less well than many expected, their influence on the politics of the ensuing few years seems likely to be greater than it has been for decades. Does this mean that we may be on the verge of altering our electoral arrangements just when the Lib Dems are licking their wounds in disappointment at their poor poll showing?

Disappointment or not, the system still needs changing. Many of the untenable properties of our election system remain as visible as ever, but some are less so. For a start, on Thursday night hundreds of people were unable to vote because polling station officials could not process the last-minute rush. In a country which used to call itself the mother of parliaments, that was appalling. The lame TV appearances of the chair of the Electoral Commission and the returning officer for Sheffield (scene of some of the worst chaos) did not improve matters. The process of recording votes would have seemed out of date to the officers of the East India Company in the Writers' Building in Calcutta in 1857. The UK needs an Electoral Commission that runs elections, not one that issues unclear guidance to harassed local government officers. It should employ election staff directly, and its chief executive must be answerable for future foul-ups. The Australians do this with model efficiency. We should hire the Australian Electoral Commission now, to tell us how to do it, not wait for a report from the seriously compromised UK Electoral Commission....

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