04 May 2011

The obligatory Alternative Vote post

Few issues have gripped the nation as completely as Thurdsay's referendum on the adopting of a new voting system. Go to a pub and there is no other talk but the relative merits of the Alternative Vote (AV) over the current First Past the Post system (FPTP). Even at a street party to celebrate the royal wedding little attention was given to footage of the event as people argued passionately about the merits of casting a second or even a third preference on a ballot paper.

Needless to say of course that the issue has hardly set a fire under the nation and to be honest I cant blame them

AV, which is used in Australian elections allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate obtains 50% of the vote the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their second preferences are counted. These are then added to the remaining candidates. This process continues until one candidate has 50% of the vote (plus one).

FPTP elects the person who received most votes. This means that a person can be elected with far less than half of the votes cast (for example the first Green MP, Caroline Lucas, was eleected having received just 31.3% of votes cast. SHe is not alone in being elected with a relatively low percentage of the vote).

The First past the post system may tend to provide stable government but it does not accurately reflect the voting intentions of the nation - The conservatives in 1983 and 1987 and Labour in 1997 and 2001 received between 41 and 43% of the vote yet ruled with disproportionately large majorities.

AV is a little fairer in some respects. The Liberal Democrats are likely to win more seats under AV than FPTP (or in the current climate avoid being annihilated!). It may make the election of a minor party candidate a little easier (but not a lot). We are not likely to see coalition after coalition - the chances are though that the main parties will still obtain majorities out of all proportion to the votes received.

The bottom line is that we are being asked to choose with an unfair voting system with a system that is not an awful lot fairer.

For me the benefits of AV are not great enough to make me want to change from FPTP. As a result I just can't get enthusiastic about it. I will probably vote no. Had we been asked to vote for a proportional representation system then I would have voted yes with gusto.

Hi Ho...




12 comments:

Silent Hunter said...

I agree: AV isn't a proportional system. Just ask the Australian Greens...

Francis Sedgemore said...

AV is a "miserable little compromise", and only a tad less unproportional than FPTP. But if a majority vote NO in tomorrow's referendum, it will likely do immense damage to the cause of proportional representation.

So vote YES, and, if you are so inclined, give Nick Clegg a political kicking in other ways.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I'd vote for FPTP if I were there, too. I had to look up what AV meant earlier in the week!

jams o donnell said...

AV certainly isn't PR SH.

I can see your point Francis but as a step towards PR it's a pretty poor one/

It's a poor alternative Welshcakes

Knatolee said...

People here have been talking about a proportional representation system, but it's not even close to happening yet.

jams o donnell said...

I bet the Liberals are converts now Knatolee!

Francis Hunt said...

Half (or even 8.372%) a loaf is better than no bread. AV is slightly less unfair than FPTP - why not say yes?

jams o donnell said...

I changed my mind and voted yes in the end Francis. It was a snap decision in the booth itself

Francis Sedgemore said...

Good.

jams o donnell said...

It came down to wanting to kick the tories more than the Lib Dems Fracis

Andrew said...

What we need is a voting system that accurately reflects MY opinion. Never mind you lot. However, since that seems a long way off I am wondering if the route to contentment is simply to adjust my opinion in response to the results of each election, so that I will always be a winner! Yes, I think I have finally found "the perfect system" that we are told is impossible. Thanks you Britain, for making me a happy man. I await with anticipation to learn what my opinion will be after the next election. Abandoning the illusion of freewill can be liberating.

jams o donnell said...

Now that is a stroke of genius Andrew, I will adopt it forthwith and support the action of every government from now on.

Slaughter of the Firstborn Act? Bring it on!