Alternative Vote – Are People Confusing What It Actually Is?

Posted: January 6, 2011 in Uncategorized
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On May 5th, alongside the local council elections taking place nationwide, there will be a referendum vote on the proposed change to an AV system to replace First Past The Post for general elections. But does anyone REALLY understand what the change entails?

The main argument for the change to AV is that it will allow for a fairer representation of MPs in parliament. Let’s examine what the change will do.

As it stands, each constituency votes for its MP on a single vote system, each citizen gets one vote. And at the end, all the votes are counted and the person with the most votes gets the seat. That’s the thing the Yes To AV clan want to change. Under AV, what will happen is that each person will vote in order of preference out of the listed candidates. Then, at close of voting, several rounds of elimination will occur until one person has more than 50% of their constituency’s votes. For example, if there are 5 candidates and there is no 50% majority, the person with the least number of votes is eliminated and the ballots the people who listed that person as first choice in their votes will have their second choice vote added to the chosen candidate. This is all well and good, although it isn’t as fair as most votes wins in the long run. Witness what happened in the Labour leadership race. David Miliband led through all rounds of the eliminations until the last, where brother Ed overtook and won by just 1.2% of the votes after redistributions.

Ok, so that covers what AV will do. Now let’s look at the structure of Parliament and why people confuse the AV issue with the formation of Government.

At the next election, there will be 600 seats available in Parliament. To be able to take Government, a party needs 301 of those seats for a majority. That’s the FPTP system that our Government has been decided by for, well, ages. Alternative vote DOESN’T change this part of the system. A party will still need 301 seats to gain a majority. THIS is why the whole AV argument is flawed. People are being led to believe that the change will be a massive seismic change in how elections are decided, when in actual fact it will make relatively little difference, especially now that the Liberal Democrats (the party that stood to gain the most from proportional representation) have committed political suicide. The Yes brigade would like people to believe that they can adjust the results of previous elections to show how AV would have affected them, but that is simply not possible. Claims that MPs are being elected on the basis of less than 20% of total votes is flawed. Those MPs still got more votes than any other candidate in their constituency. That is the cold hard truth.

I am a firm believer in one vote per citizen, and that any kind of staggered voting system will only serve to muddy the water. It introduces a potential scenario whereby the person who got the most first round votes doesn’t win the seat and we could end up with MPs that don’t represent the real majority choice. I will be campaigning heavily for a No vote in the referendum, as I believe that there is only one reason that this system was even mooted – a feeble attempt to keep Lib Dems in a position of power.

There are many ways of ensuring a fairer election result, but AV is not that way. We need equal sized constituencies, but most of all we need to ensure a maximum return of voters at each election. THAT is where the efforts of our politicians should be focussed, not on some gimmicky change in how each seat is decided.

  1. Mike says:

    Your argument doesn’t make sense – the choice on May 5th is not between AV and some perfect voting system. It’s between AV and FPTP. I agree with you that “it will make relatively little difference” – but it is a small step in the right direction.

    Your point about “one vote per citizen” is misleading and (I suspect) disingenuous. AV only gives one vote per citizen. The difference is that people are able to be more subtle about how they choose to use that one vote.

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