A Call for a More Modern Democracy from an Ex Electoral Service Manager

On the 8th February 1983 the Representation of the People Act 1983 (RPA 1983) received royal assent. Six days later I joined the Electoral Services team at Sheffield City Council.

There have been several changes since then, less hair and an enhanced waistline to name a few personally. The RPA 1983 has also gone through several changes, (some of which have been the catalyst for my hair reduction) although some say not enough.

Change is an inevitable fact of life and our choice is between change for the better or for the worse. It’s widely accepted that superseding the RPA 1983 with a new Act consolidating the plethora of electoral legislation would be for the better. I agree, the current mass of legislation is complex and needs simplification. However, I believe it is equally important when the opportunity arises, to write the legislation in a way that facilitates a democracy that works for the 21st Century.

If there is one thing I can say with confidence from my 35 years in Electoral services, it is this. As technology has and continues to change the way we do politics and government, we need laws that can anticipate and respond appropriately whilst still allowing democracy to thrive. As the boundaries between local and national become increasingly blurred in the internet age we need a democracy that works for people who not only live in geographical communities but also inhabit virtual communities. We need a democratic system that can intelligently evolve in response to future cultural and societal changes. And we need to equip our electoral teams to cope with these changes.

Ultimately, we need a more modern democracy.

That is why, despite reaching the magical age where I can acceptably leave my long and fulfilling career in Electoral Services and live a life of leisure in retirement, I could not refuse when Modern Democracy approached me with the possibility of working for them. (Well that and that fact I have proficiency for purchasing expensive electric guitars that my pension alone cannot afford.)

Modern Democracy had worked with Sheffield City Council over several years at numerous democratic and election events. I knew their ethos is to support electoral service teams with the technology and tools they need to create optimal democratic experiences. I had experienced first-hand how their technology had transformed democratic processes for my own and other electoral services teams, Returning Officers and electors bringing us into the 21st Century. I also knew they were forward thinking with a passion for creating a more modern democracy through innovation in technology which meant they weren’t likely to dismiss my crazy ideas but rather provide an environment where they could be tested and (if discovered to not be that crazy) implemented.

I am excited to have accepted the role and utilise my experience and passion in this area. To be working again with electoral services teams, Returning Officers, the Cabinet Office and the Electoral Commission on a number of exciting projects and pilots in the upcoming year from the other side of the fence. It’s together that we can continue to create and deliver a more modern democracy.

I am excited to have accepted the role and utilise my experience and passion in this area. To be working again with electoral services teams, Returning Officers, the Cabinet Office and the Electoral Commission on a number of exciting projects and pilots in the upcoming year from the other side of the fence. It’s together that we can continue to create and deliver a more modern democracy.

Blog Written by John Tomlinson
Market Development Executive at Modern Democracy
35 Years in Electoral Services, Including the last 10 as Electoral Services Manager at Sheffield City Council

2019-01-30T15:10:39+00:00