Thursday, 26 November 2015

Synod election turnout

Updated on Friday to add questions 36 and 37 and their answer below the fold

In the Questions session at this week’s General Synod the Secretary General was asked about turnout in the recent elections to Synod. In reply he gave these figures, together with those from 2010 for comparison.

percentages 2015   2010  
Average overall 51.88   51.32  
Average clergy 56.86   55.91  
Average laity 46.91   46.74  
Highest turnout clergy 67.96 (Birmingham) 75.00 (Ely)
Lowest turnout clergy 45.60 (Hereford) 43.20 (Bristol)
Highest turnout laity 72.10 (Guildford) 64.13 (Chelmsford)
Lowest turnout laity 29.82 (Hereford) 37.83 (Lincoln)
Average overall 48.18   50.35  
Average clergy 52.49   57.23  
Average laity 43.87   43.48  
Highest turnout clergy 69.00 (Sodor & Man) 73.90 (Sodor & Man)
Lowest turnout clergy 39.86 (Liverpool) 46.50 (Liverpool)
Highest turnout laity 56.96 (Chester) 54.70 (Sodor & Man)
Lowest turnout laity 34.74 (Liverpool) 36.30 (Liverpool)

Mr David Lamming (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) to ask the Chair of the Business Committee:

Q36 Despite the fact that electors had nearly three weeks to return their voting papers in the recent General Synod election, the turnout in most dioceses was depressingly low—under 50% for the House of Laity election in 22 of the 33 dioceses that have posted the figures on their websites, and under 40% in four dioceses (Manchester 35.39%, Oxford 38.28%, Peterborough 30.79% and Salisbury 35.44%). Will the Chair of the Business Committee confirm that the Elections Review Group will look into the reasons for the low turnout and also bring forward legislative proposals to make provision for online voting in 2020 as agreed by Synod at the November 2013 Group of Sessions?

Mr Clive Scowen (London) to ask the Chair of the Business Committee:

Q37 Has the Business Committee considered bringing to the new Synod early in this quinquennium options as to how the electorate for the House of Laity might be formed for future elections, in time for any change which the Synod might consider appropriate to be implemented in time for the 2020 elections, and, if not, will it now do so?

The Revd Canon Sue Booys to reply as Chair of the Business Committee:

A With permission, I will take these questions together. All these issues are important potential areas for consideration by the Elections Review Group, a sub-committee of the Business Committee, which will be established early in this new Quinquennium. Synod members wishing to request further work on these and other matters should write to the Clerk to the Synod, requesting that they be tabled for consideration when the Elections Review Group is re-formed, which is likely to be early in 2016.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 26 November 2015 at 4:16pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod | statistics

Any likelihood that these dismal figure will be investigated. What do they show? Apathy? Disengagement? Disillusion?

Posted by: Perry Butler on Thursday, 26 November 2015 at 7:45pm GMT

In answer to Perry, almost certainly 'yes', by the Elections Review Group, a sub-committee of the Synod's Business Committee, which will be established early in 2016: see the answer to my question (Q36) to the Chairman of the Business Committee, given on Tuesday evening. However, given that the overall turnout percentages this year differ little from those in 2010 (I described them in my question as "depressingly low"), the real issue to investigate is whether anything can be done that might improve them in 2020, e.g. the introduction of online voting as an option. In this connection, it will be interesting to discover, if we can, why there were such big differences in turnout between some dioceses, e.g. (for the laity) 72.08% in Guildford and 64.06% in Rochester, but only 29.72% in Hereford and 30.79% in Peterborough.

Posted by: David Lamming on Friday, 27 November 2015 at 1:00am GMT

I have added David Lamming's question and the answer to the bottom of my article, below the fold.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Friday, 27 November 2015 at 11:05am GMT

Yes, we are lamenting this in Hereford. In defence of the laity, we have unusually large electoral rolls (e.g. more than Worcester, amazingly, from about 1/3 population) and therefore Deanery Synod memberships - church membership in the country is wide and shallow and so fewer took the trouble to participate. It's not a very political diocese so apathy is high among the clergy, and there were only 4 candidates for the 3 seats. But also some defects of administration in the balloting.

Posted by: Neil Patterson on Friday, 27 November 2015 at 7:04pm GMT

Given the low turnout in 2010, I'm surprised more bishops didn't say and do more to encourage clergy and laity to vote.I always voted and discussed with my deanery reps the various candidates and how we felt they measured up to the feelings within our parish. I am genuinely surprised and puzzled all clergy don't do this ...not least as at General Election time clergy often play a part in organising hustings and often declare voting as a Christian duty.
I hope some research will be done amongst those who didn't vote as to why and to how the General Synod is perceived.That being" episcopally led and synodically governed" rings rather hollow if so few in the Church wish to participate in making it work.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Sunday, 29 November 2015 at 8:19am GMT

Given the relatively low level of influence and responsibility of deanery synods, I would have hoped that elected members would take on this important responsibility with more diligence. Perhaps some form of online voting would encourage greater participation by any under 40s in Deanery Synods who may think of buying stamps and posting letters rather as they think of LPs or cars with crank handles - quaint cultural heritage but not part of everyday life.

Posted by: Rob Edlin-White on Monday, 30 November 2015 at 11:30am GMT

In Guildford Diocese, three of our four lay reps (the three male members as it happens) voted "no" in the first vote on women bishops. This incensed many of us ordinary lay people, and there was a fairly vocal fuss made. One aspect of that was trying to make our Deanery reps appreciate that it mattered whom they elected to General Synod (and two of those three are no longer on Synod). So I'm not too surprised that turnout was reasonably high in Guildford this time. But I see no reason why a similar phenomenon should not be expected elsewhere.

Posted by: John swanson on Monday, 30 November 2015 at 9:21pm GMT

John - as I posted on an earlier thread, a very similar scenario occurred in Rochester to that which you describe in Guildford, and with very similar results. So it is not too surprising that these two dioceses should be at the top of the turnout figures.

Posted by: Malcolm Dixon on Wednesday, 2 December 2015 at 12:45pm GMT

John and Malcolm's comments suggests that what galvanizes the electorate is the perception that people made a mistake last time!

Posted by: Perry Butler on Thursday, 3 December 2015 at 1:54pm GMT
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