You may have noticed I have a thing or two about the party’s internal election rules (not to mention those of other organisations). There’s a reason and it reflects my wider view of the world – administrative details can have significant knock-on effects well beyond their own apparent immediate remit.
Details of how the paperwork for the Office of the Public Guardian is worded may seem a minor matter. But when unnecessary duplication and complication results in it being harder for people to take control over their own lives, the impact can be serious and even heart-rending. In other words, details matter.
So, what next to improve about the party’s election rules?
There will be plenty of discussion about how the use of electronic voting in the federal committee elections panned out. I’d like to see some more details before coming to a view. For example, how much money was saved by using the new approach this time and how did turnout vary between those sent electronic ballots and those sent paper ballots?
Whilst holding fire on that issue therefore for the moment, there is another rule I’ve got in my sights: the qualification period before someone can vote in the party’s candidate selections. Details vary a little depending on which selection you are talking about, but typically you have to have been a member for a year prior to a contest taking place. Joined more recently? Sorry, no vote.
It used to be much more common to allow people to join at the last moment and still get a vote. That caused problems in a few places with last-minute stuffing of the electorates – candidates signing up people they knew, who then voted for them but did not get involved in the party and let their membership lapse at the first time of asking. So a qualifying period of some sort makes sense.
However, here is a better way of doing it.
We could instead say that the electorate is made up of people who have been members for at least a year, plus previous members whose membership has lapsed in (say) the last two years, as long as they rejoin before the ballot papers are issued. And, crucially, when candidates get given the list of members, include the list of those lapsed members too.
The result? A double win. Win one – in a search for their votes, candidates go round talking to lapsed members getting them to rejoin the party. Result? More members. Win two – those candidates who are best at getting people to (re)join the party benefit most. Result? More candidates winning who have this key skill.
As an added bonus, change the rules for party leader and president elections. They do allow last-minute new members to vote, but they don’t allow for the candidates to be given the list of lapsed members. Make that change and again we would see people going round talking to lapsed members and encouraging them to get involved.
Now just to work out how to get all this through the relevant decision-making apparatus. I may need a flowchart…