As regular readers will know we are always examining ways to widen the franchise and increase participation in the political process. I was therefore delighted when the revised Mandatory Selection Rules included reference to Associations being allowed to use "Open Primaries" for Local Government selections. This came about following a lot of campaigning by me and many others, including Rob Semple who has long championed opening-up the process to wider participation.
I believe Chatham & Aylesford were the first Association to run a full postal primary for a contested local selection in the newly created Aylesford North & Walderslade ward. See HERE. The activity was overtaken by events in Rochester & Strood, but I can confirm everything went ahead as planned, the ballot papers and information booklets were delivered to all local residents and over 7% participated in the process. A very satisfactory result which resulted in 350 people helping choose their local candidate.
Today we counted the votes for our second "postal primary" for the Culverden ward in Tunbridge Wells constituency, where we had three outstanding applicants contesting a single vacancy following the retirement of the incumbent councillor. The photograph below shows Association Chairman William Rutherford and Deputy Chairman David Elliott "scrutinising" the opening of the envelopes. I now know how the poor staff must feel at the "count" with me staring over their shoulders!
Overall, a good outcome and a welcome change in the rules which, if adopted and promoted with enthusiasm, will dramatically increase participation and interest in the democratic process.