[UK] 6 Myths about the Alternative Vote

12 May

THIS STOPS ME FROM COMITTING SUICIDE BECAUSE…….Reinforces the notion that people are so stupid.

[Guest writer: DBoi]

After my overwhelmingly popular voting systems post here is the long awaited follow up.

Why you should have voted for YES2AV

Unsurprisingly, last Thursday’s UK referendum rejected the alternative vote (AV) and is stuck with the  ‘First Past the Post (FPTT)’ method to elect MPs.. A lot of ill informed ‘No’ voters gave some of the following reasons for voting against introducing AV. Here’s why I think they are wrong.

1) AV is too complicated

No it isn’t. Instead of putting a cross next to your favourite candidate you rank the candidates from favourite to least favourite. You don’t have to rank all the candidates. If you don’t have a preference between UKIP and the Christian Party, don’t rank them. The winner is then determined by a series of rounds. Everyone’s first preferences are counted. If a candidate has over 50% of the votes in the first round they are the winner. Finished. If no one has over 50%, then the candidate with the fewest votes is removed and we go to the next round. At the start of each round, your vote goes to the person who is highest on your list out of those still in the race. That’s it.

2) AV helps the BNP

First of all the British National Party campaigned against AV. They may be racist, but they’re not that stupid. If AV was suddenly going to give them more power, they would have supported it. In fact you could argue that FTTP makes it easier for the extreme parties to win seats. Under FPTT a candidate can win with only 35% of the vote, possibly less, even if the other 65% think you’re the worst candidate. Under AV, this situation is impossible. If you only have 35% of first votes, you are going to need some other people’s lower preferences i.e. second or third votes to bump you up to the magic 50%. If the other 65% have ranked you last, you’re not going to get any more votes than your current 35% and eventually someone else will overtake you and win. Under FTTP the candidate most people think is the worst can win.

3) People who support the smaller, extreme parties get more votes than others

This is completely false. Everyone gets one ballot paper and one vote. In every round every voter gets exactly one vote. The reason the NO campaign says some people get more votes is that some people will have their second, third, fourth then fifth preference counted as the rounds go on, whereas other people’s vote won’t change each round. At first, this may sound a bit unfair but think about what it means. If only one of your choices is counted in every round then you have voted for your first choice candidate in every round. If your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th preferences are counted that means your first choice candidate (BNP?) was knocked out in the first round, then your second choice and so on, and you’re forced to vote for the person who you put fifth in the last round. It is ridiculous to call this having five votes. Most people get to support their top choices and BNP followers have to make do with their lower preferences after their party gets knocked out.

4) AV means more tactical voting

No voting system is immune from tactical voting but AV is far better than FTTP at deterring this. Imagine you are a Lib Dem supporter but they are way down in third in your constituency behind Labour and Conservatives. You then have a choice to make. Vote for your favourite party, the Lib Dems and you will have no say at all on the outcome of the election and your vote is effectively wasted. Or, although you don’t like either Labour or the Conservatives, you want your vote to count and you reluctantly decide that you prefer Labour to the Conservatives and vote for them. Under AV there is no dilemma. You put Lib Dems as your first choice and Labour as your second. If the Lib Dems were more popular than you thought they might win, if not, then when they get knocked out your vote goes to Labour and isn’t wasted. This is not just going to boost the Lib Dem vote, there are also many constituencies where the Conservatives are third behind Labour and Lib Dems and their voters face a similar awkward choice. AV discourages tactical voting and allows you to vote for you who you actually prefer.

5) Using AV, the 2nd or 3rd place candidate can win

This doesn’t even make sense but it was one of the claims made by the NO campaign. What they mean is that the candidate who wins using AV might not have won using FTTP, in the same way that the candidate who would win using FTTP might not have won using AV. Or in other words, the two voting systems are different. Shocking. If they gave exactly the same results in every single election there wouldn’t be much point in having a referendum on it.

5) No one uses AV

AV is already widely used in this country by businesses, charities and trade unions. It is used around the world to elect members of the House of Representative in Australia, the President of India, the President of Republic of Ireland and peers in the House of Lords. The leader of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats were both elected using AV.

It is even used by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. So AV is the reason Titanic won 11 Oscars. Maybe I can see why the NO campaign won now….

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Posted by on May 12, 2011 in DBoi, Politics


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3 responses to “[UK] 6 Myths about the Alternative Vote

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