Turnout for the General Synod elections

by
02 November 2006

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From Canon Christopher Hall
Sir, - Deanery-synod members' ignorance of the candidates is the main reason for the low turnout in General Synod elections. (This lack of knowledge would be even worse if all electoral-roll members were to be enfranchised, as some argue.)

Electoral officers are so nervous of costly challenges to elections that before each election the rules about canvassing have been drawn ever tighter. Diocesan journals are warned not to include even the names of any candidate in their columns during the poll. As in parliamentary elections, this damages the credibility of the Synod, undermining its mandate. In a low turnout, the last elected can get in with a meagre bundle of votes. At least the single transferable vote ensures that the views of those who do vote are more fairly reflected, compared with the Commons.

The danger is that, without any national or diocesan provision of information to voters, the vacuum is filled by the strongly motivated and those with deep pockets.

In 2000, a cross-party website pioneered a solution. By 2010, the internet could well provide voters with an open and balanced exploration of the issues. The address of such a site should be publicised in diocesan notices calling the election.

If this provision is to command wide acceptance, the Business Committee should initiate exploration of the logistics now, while memories of the 2005 elections are fresh.
CHRISTOPHER HALL
The Knowle, Deddington, Banbury OX15 0TB

From Mr Paul Cooper
Sir, - The results of the elections of the House of Laity of the General Synod revealed that the percentage of the electorate voting ranged between 37 per cent and 61 per cent of the electorate, with an average among dioceses of 48 per cent.

In the elections to the House of Clergy, the overall percentage of clergy who voted was 61 per cent. This higher but scarcely enthusiastic figure might reflect the fact that some clergy disapprove of the synodical system; for some still have difficulty in coming to terms with democracy in the Church. That reason, however, can hardly apply to the lay electors, who are all members of deanery synods.

Perhaps one or two of the many lay deanery-synod members who abstained from voting (in most dioceses, the majority) might care to explain why. Or are we to assume that apathy is not just outside the Church, nor even just in our congregations, but firmly embedded within its very government?
PAUL COOPER
4 Plynlimmon Road, Hastings, East Sussex TN34 3LT

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