poplarmark

Mark – my words

Electoral Reform Society – no conflict of interest

Once again, the No to AV campaign is shouting foul over the relationship between the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), one of the Yes campaign’s main sources of finance, and ERS subsidiary Electoral Reform Services (ERSL). Time for some facts.

The Electoral Reform Society has existed for well over a century, with the primary objective of securing voting reform. Specifically, ERS wants the UK to adopt Single Transferable Vote proportional representation. The ERS Memorandum of Association (PDF) makes this quite clear. It also makes clear that the Society may “advocate and support other measures, not being inconsistent with” the PR objective. Note also that ERS is a membership society and not a charity, as under UK law charities are forbidden from acting for political purposes.

On the topic of the present referendum on AV, ERS balloted its members and their decision was to support the “Yes” campaign. This decision, wholly consistent with the Society’s published objectives, was arrived at in an entirely proper and above board manner, as anyone familiar with ERS would naturally expect.

From its beginnings, the ERS has sought to raise the standards of probity and honesty involved with ballots and elections and has built a reputation for integrity and impartiality that is recognised internationally. More than a century after its inception, the Society found that demand for its services was increasing as organisations in many fields became more willing to resolve issues through ballot and consultation. To meet the growing need for direct ballot management, Electoral Reform Ballot Services was constituted as a separate company in 1988.  Now known simply as Electoral Reform Services (ERSL), the company offers the benefits of over 115 years’ experience of best practice in election, ballot and consultative process administration. ERSL provides, on a commercial basis, electoral services including conducting elections, ballots and referendums, for a wide range of companies, organizations and local authorities.

As a wholly-owned subsidiary of ERS, all profits from ERSL are returned to ERS. This is and always has been an open and transparent arrangement. ERSL clients, including those in the public sector, are naturally entirely free to select alternative election service providers if they so choose.

It’s difficult to understand how anyone in possession of these facts can construe this perfectly logical and sensible state of affairs as any kind of conflict of interest. One can only conclude that the No campaign is seeking to gain advantage for its own cause through innuendo and malicious mudraking, attempting to insinuate that there is something improper in ERS pursuing the electoral reform objectives for which it exists.

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