Improving voting and elections

Conservative Brexiteers are offering unserious answers to serious questions in Northern Ireland: the consequences for the Union are significant

Conservative Brexiteers are offering unserious answers to serious questions in Northern Ireland: the consequences for the Union are significant

Proposals from backbench Brexiteer MPs as to how to resolve the border question in Northern Ireland fail to address the problem of maintaining a common set of standards with Ireland post-Brexit. Sean Swan argues that, given public opinion in England, a customs border in the Irish Sea, with divergence between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is a likely outcome.

Lessons from Ireland’s recent referendums: how deliberation helps inform voters

Lessons from Ireland’s recent referendums: how deliberation helps inform voters

Ireland’s 2015 referendum on equal marriage and its 2018 one on abortion both had their origins in deliberative assemblies. But did such processes influence the result? The evidence suggests that the information and debate that came with these assemblies had an impact both on vote choice and turnout, writes Jane Suiter.

Why Boris Johnson is wrong about the Irish border (again)

Why Boris Johnson is wrong about the Irish border (again)

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has, once again, intervened in the Brexit debate about concerns over a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Sean Swan explains how Johnson has misrepresented the problem, and why the border question is of such symbolic ­and physical importance.

The dismantling of the State since the 1980s: Brexit is the wrong diagnosis of a real crisis

The dismantling of the State since the 1980s: Brexit is the wrong diagnosis of a real crisis

Abby Innes writes that the vote to leave the EU and the administrative chaos around it pull into focus the crisis we should have been talking about before: the failures of homegrown neoliberal policies and their dire implications. She argues that while Brexit has been heralded by supporters as a solution to a number of problems, what it will actually do is to accelerate to the point of ‘completion’ the already failed experiments to reform the state.

Campaign spending and voter turnout: does a candidate’s local prominence influence the effect of their spending?

Campaign spending and voter turnout: does a candidate’s local prominence influence the effect of their spending?

At election time, political candidates in Britain routinely spend significant sums of money on their local campaigns. Generally speaking, the more individual candidates spend, the higher turnout in that constituency. But while some candidates are major contenders in their area, many candidates who are unlikely to win also spend substantial sums on their campaigns. By analysing candidate spending data from the 2010 general election, Siim Trumm, Laura Sudulich and Joshua Townsley find that the money spent by viable contenders has a greater impact on voter turnout than spending by candidates who are unlikely to win. 

The backstop is dividing Northern Ireland. We urgently need new talks

The backstop is dividing Northern Ireland. We urgently need new talks

Brexit has become highly politicised in Northern Ireland. A damaging chasm is opening up between the two political blocs, and between the British and Irish governments, on the EU backstop. Mary C Murphy argues that a compromise formula is possible, but the lack of devolved government means new efforts – and new forums – will be needed to break the stalemate.

Should the rest of the EU follow Austria in reducing the voting age to 16?

Should the rest of the EU follow Austria in reducing the voting age to 16?

For the last decade, Austria has been the only country in the EU that allows voting at the age of 16 at all political levels. Paul Schmidt assesses whether this could offer a future model for the EU, and the possible lessons that can be learned from the Austrian experience.

The results of the 2018 voter ID pilots and why this is not the time for a national roll-out

The results of the 2018 voter ID pilots and why this is not the time for a national roll-out

Ben Stanford looks at the results of the voter ID pilot scheme used in the 2018 local elections in England and the potential implications of a national roll-out. He concludes that, given the current levels of voter apathy, such fundamental reforms may end up discouraging even more individuals from voting.

Do election handouts actually ‘buy’ votes?

Do election handouts actually ‘buy’ votes?

Vote-buying is generally seen as detrimental for democracies. However, the efficacy of such bribes has rarely been studied. Jenny Guardado and Leonard Wantchékon find that there is little correlation between election handouts and support for the parties offering them. Possible explanations include the secrecy of the ballot and multiple opposing parties buying votes, and so we should be cautious about assuming they are effective.

Unionism versus self-interest: would MPs support Proportional Representation?

Unionism versus self-interest: would MPs support Proportional Representation?

In light of the electoral divergence between the UK’s constituent nations, and the real danger of a break-up of the Union, Klaus Stolz makes the case for Proportional Representation. He explains, however, that reform will be a choice between the collective self-interest of Labour and Conservative MPs on the one hand, and their ideological values on the other.