Say Yes to AV

UPDATE: summarised much more eloquently here

The vote for the referendum on AV(Alternative Vote) is in a few weeks time.
There have been a lot of ‘facts’ flying about regarding AV and was shocked this morning to get a vile piece of propaganda this morning through the door from the NO to AV campaign – a campaign fronted by William Norton and Charlotte Vere (two hitherto unsuccessful Conservative Party parliamentary candidates).

So here’s my take on the myths that are being espoused in this spurious piece of literature:

AV is unpopular

It is true that AV is not widely adopted by democratic societies but just because it is unpopular it doesn’t make it a bad decision.
The current political system with First Past the Post benefits the majority parties – that is why they are unhappy to relinquish it.

In the UK we have the first coalition government sinc 1945 and with it the first opportunity to upset the status quo of our dichotomous political system.
The coalition government is constantly telling us it is having to make unpopular decisions. Why not support one that makes sense? A fairer system of voting that represents all political parties rather than unfavourably weighting the usual suspects.

At the last election in 2010 there was no majority party. The result of which has been a coalition government comprising 53.5% of seats and 59.1% of votes). There was no clear leader and a compromise had to be bartered between first and third-place parties for political favours. The results were unclear and both parties are having to make compromises that were not supported in eachs manifesto – the promises on which votes were cast.

One person, one vote

Fuck sake. How thick do you have to be? With AV you still only get one vote. But that vote is weighted on a scale of preference.
I really want Labour to get in, I wouldn’t be too upset if Green Party got in, I’d be fucking devastated if the Conservative party got in.
That’s the beauty of AV. With a weighting of your vote you get to state who you don’t want to be elected and not just who you do.
I still only get one vote but if the party I favour does poorly I still get a say in who should govern my country.

The Winner should be the one that came first

Cue grossly inaccurate racing analogy (and shockling abuse of stock photography).

Under AV the votes of the least popular candidate can decide who wins the election

Bollocks. This is just misinformation – votes for the last popular candidate are rejected in the counting.
If there is no clear leader (50% of the vote) at first count the alternative votes for rejected candidates are recounted (without need for a reelection). If there is still no clear leader then the process is repeated until a leader is chosen from the majority of votes cast.
The only way this would mean that the winner would not come first is if on the total count they are the least popular candidate. In which case they aren’t the winner.

AV is expensive

How much would a re-election cost? A change in electoral system is expensive but the majority of this cost is one-off associated with the referendum itself and the machinery then to count votes. Is this a fair cost to pay for a fairer voting system?

AV leads to broken promises

Well, we’ve not exactly been free of these with the current system.

So, AV has got my vote. Still confused? For a simple explanation of the AV voting system watch this excellent video:


I wrote my rant and then found I had nowhere to post it. As you say, the link to the leaflet puts it eloquently but I’ll feel happier if I put my rant here too. If you find any way of arguing more publicly with William Norton then let us all know. no2av is a dirty grubby little campaign aimed at misleading voters with statements that have no truth behind them and these points need to be crushed to the masses.

It will produce more coalitions

Firstly there is no inherent reason that this is the case. Is there a mathematical formula or extensive study to prove this? Even if this was the case, is it inherently a bad thing? In Germany, coalitions have led to global political power and prosperity in recent years. Unfortunately this wasn’t a good thing prior to 1939, but the success of the right owed more to lies and obfuscation than the method of measuring popularity. Politicians and people with agendas need to questioned and probed more deeply and be more accountable personally. The idea of safe party seats needs to be put at more risk and this is least likely to happen with a ‘first past the post’ electoral system.

Under the Alternative Vote system, we would have coalitions most of the time,

Why is this true? Please direct me to the source and evidence of this information so that I can study it in more detail. As above, this is an accepted part of politics across the world and may even lead to more productive co-operation across political parties. In 2010, first past the post elections in the UK led to a coalition government.

with Nick Clegg deciding who would be Prime Minister by cutting a deal behind closed doors after the election

Firstly I think it is unlikely that Nick Clegg would ever be in the political kingmaker role again but regardless of that, it is exactly what happened in 2009 under first past the post. Perhaps we need to get used to the idea that politics would be a better place with co-operation and compromise for the good of the many rather than political mud slinging and points scoring that benefits no-one except self important politicians. The majority of members of parliament are elected by less than a majority of the eligible electorate under the current system so it is impossible to claim undisputed popularity with their constituents in most cases anyway.

It is used by only 3 other countries in the world – Fiji, Australia and Papua New Guinea

I’m unclear what the point is here. I am not aware of substantial instability in Australian government that makes this a bad thing. Fiji is ruled by the military and therefore there it doesn’t matter what the electoral system is and Papua New Guinea abandoned ‘first past the post’ as to many people were being elected with a small minority of the votes. Government has become more stable anecdotally (although I’m not an expert) since Papua New Guinea adopted AV in 2007.

and Australia want to get rid of it.

What is the evidence for this, when will it happen and what will replace it? Most newer democracies have shunned first past the post as an electoral system, while the list of countries still using it reads like a list of commonwealth and colonial countries from Africa and is in no way a glowing endorsement of the merits of FPTP.

It allows the second or third placed candidate to win.

It allows the candidate with greatest local popularity or representavice value to win. It allows the FIRST placed candidate to win where PLACE is defined by the electoral system. Two of the main drivers often mentioned for voter apathy in England are i) the elected candidate doesn’t represent me and I didn’t choose them and ii) my vote is wasted. Both of these are obercome using AV as an electoral system.

We would end up with the third best candidates becoming MPs.

The candidate elected is rarely the best under FPTP and therefore there is no merit to this argument at all. The electorate are unable to choose who is best, they can only choose who is likely to represent more similar views to them. If there was any merit to this point at all, we should be grateful that we still retain FPTP as an electoral system otherwise there would have been a very unfortunate result in Perry Barr in 2010

It will cost the country £250 million at a time when money is tight.

What is this money for exactly? Perhaps we need to buy more pizzas for the volunteers counting our votes in each constituency. It is surely going to take them longer to count the votes but by how long exactly. Maybe this money is for the increased number of pencils required as people may want to choose more than one candidate on their vote.

It means that someone else’s 5th preference is worth the same as your first preference.

What a great thing that their vote wasn’t wasted after all. Despite four of their candidates being eliminated for not being popular enough, their fifth preference (which they have actively expressed and are comfortable with) is still worth something.

It will mean that supporters of the BNP and other fringe parties would decide who wins,

It is a great comfort to me that despite any extreme views someone may have that I wouldn’t agree with, underneath there is a reasonably rational person who is able to actively engage in the election of their representative rather than wasting a vote or protesting pointlessly.Their vote (even if it is only their fourth preference) has been actively engaged in electing their representative and they have been able to express something of value through the ballot box rather than abusing the immigrant family from down their road.

because they will be eliminated first and then their votes could be counted again and again for other parties.

Are BNP or UKIP or Green Party supporters not worthy of the right to express their preferences as to who represents them simply because their first preference is for a ‘fringe party’. Maybe you wish to deliberately confuse the readership here but their vote does not get counted ‘again and again’. Their NEXT preference gets counted ONCE (which is different to ‘again and again’ in my book)

That will encourage other candidates to pander to the likes of the BNP.

Why will it? The BNP can’t influence what happens to the votes between being eliminated from the ballot and the second preferences being counted. Please explain how it serves any candidate to ‘pander’ to the BNP and how this ‘pandering’ will actually be done in practice. How will this increase the likelihood of BNP candidates being elected exactly?

Remember the core principle in our democracy: every person gets an equal vote and the candidate with the most votes wins.

Where is this written exactly? My understanding of our democracy is that each (eligible) person has the same right to elect a representative as anyone else.Under AV, the person with the most popularity as expressed by the electorate is elected and everyone has exactly the same opportunity to vote within their constituency. Under AV it seems both of our defintitions of democracy are met.