Your next MP would have to aim to get more than 50% of the vote to be sure of winning. At present they can be handed power with just one vote in three.
They’ll need to work harder to win - and keep - your support.
In May we will be asked:
Do you want the United Kingdom to adopt the ‘alternative vote’ system instead of the current ‘first past the post’ system for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons?
Your next MP would have to aim to get more than 50% of the vote to be sure of winning. At present they can be handed power with just one vote in three.
They’ll need to work harder to win - and keep - your support.
First Past the Post fails the basic test of fairness, by letting many MPs speak for the majority with support from the few.
The system has also meant that half of the seats in the UK are effectively ‘safe’ and are unlikely to ever change hands, effectively giving their MPs jobs for life. This easily leads to complacency and simply taking voters for granted. And we all saw the results of that in the MPs’ expenses scandal.
Is it any wonder why so many voters feel there is little point in voting? The result can appear a foregone conclusion unless you live in one of the few communities where there’s a close contest. Even then voters can end up having to vote tactically to stop one party rather than voting positively for what they really believe in.
AV redresses the balance. AV gives voters more of a say and forces candidates to work harder to ensure they have the backing of most voters in their constituency. Divisive or complacent candidates would tend to do badly - which is how it should be.
David Cameron is campaigning against the introduction but he wouldn't be Prime Minister without it as his leadership of the Conservative Party was decided by AV.
(I understand some may use this as an argument against AV!)
As a voter all you have to do is write some numbers on a piece of paper and put that piece of paper in a ballot box.
Despite claims to the contrary, under AV each voter has only one vote. The difference with AV is that voters can specify the order in which they prefer candidates. If and when no candidate attracts more than 50% of the votes cast, the candidate who had the fewest votes is eliminated from the contest and the votes thus "freed up" are allocated to the remaining candidates according to the voters' preferences. All votes cast continue to have weight until the contest is resolved, when one candidate secures more than 50% of all votes. (Unless all a voter's preferences get eliminated).
By definition under AV its impossible for a candidate who finishes third to win. Of course a candidate who finishes the first round in third place could then go on to win but that would only be when other eliminated candidates votes were reallocated which brought the candidate into second, first and then finally over 50% of the electorate.
This is what Channel 4's Fact Check blog had to say in their verdict on the claim that "Should AV pass, the cost of electronic vote counting necessitated by AV will be £130 million".
Take another look at the Electoral Commission’s comment; at this stage it hasn’t even considered if electronic voting machines are necessary – let alone looked at the potential cost.
Today, the Tories lined up a string of new spokespeople to join No to AV patrons William Hague, Ken Clarke and Sayeeda Warsi. Of the seven MPs and two party activists joining, one of the latter – Maggie Throup – said: “Our country just cannot afford the millions it would cost to implement any new system.”
With George Osborne’s spending cuts only just beginning to bite, and with the Office for National Statistics revising its GDP estimate down again today, the public don’t need any more scares. No to AV needs to keep the fight for voters clean.
"MPs have to be accepted by 50% of the community under AV – that’s not going to let the BNP in. In fact it's more likely than FPTP to keep them out."
The Alternative Votes does not help the BNP in practise. In principle I don’t think we should design a voting system to dis-advantage any one particular party or view point.
AV does not help the BNP. There are two things required in order to win an election under AV.
Firstly, you must gather a significant amount of first preferences. I think you will need probably need to finish in the top three in an English constituency in order to be in with a chance. The situation is a little different in Scotland and Wales where there are effectively four national parties, including the Nationalist. Effectively you’re looking for a podium finish.
Secondly, you must gather significant amounts of second and third preferences in order to translate your strong intitial support into a demonstration of broad acceptability.
The BNP only finished in the top three in two seats in the last General Election. In one seat the total number of votes cast for candidates from fourth down was less than that gap between the BNP in third and the second placed candidate i.e. even if every voter for every other candidate had voted for the BNP they would still have finished third.
In the other seat Margaret Hodge won with more than50% of the vote. Under AV I presume she would have won on the first round of counting.
More detail can be found here
The BNP get very low second preference.
Accodding to studies by the LSE and University of Essex the BNP pick up between 1% and 4% of second preferencesfrom Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat voters.
So the combination of low first preferences and low second preferences mean that in practise the BNP are very unlikely to win a seat.
In the unlikely event that the BNP do ever challenge for a seat preferential voting is much more effective at translating anti-BNP sentiment into an non-BNP win as discussed here
In principle I don’t think we should design a voting system to dis-advantage anyone particular party or view. If the views of the BNP are so odious that they require manipulation of the electoral system then ban them from standing candidate.
Manipulating the voting system to exclude unacceptable parties is crude instrument that risks excluding other “acceptable” groups, such as the Green Party or the Labour Party of the 1920’s. By rigging the voting system to exclude the BNP you restrict the choices and voices of millions of voters.
Where AV and FPTP select different winners, most of the time, the AV winner would beat the FPTP winner in a straight 1 to 1 fight. This is because AV is better than FPTP at selecting the 'Condorcet winner', which is the one who would beat any of the other candidates given a straight choice between the two. In fact, FPTP can elect the 'Condorcet loser', which is the candidate who would lose to any other candidate given a straight choice between the two. Such a candidate could never win under AV.
First off, the criteria of Arrow's theorem [do not describe a fair voting system](http://www.drmaciver.com/2010/07/irrelevant-alternatives-arent/). So this argument is starting from a false premise.
However, even if it were impossible to achieve a *perfectly* fair voting system (it's certainly possible to achieve *maximally* fair voting systems for reasonable definitions of fairness), this does not imply that one voting system cannot be fairer than another, and thus seems to have no bearing on the idea that you shouldn't choose a voting system based on fairness. Immortality is (currently) impossible. Does that mean that doctors should not seek to extend life?
Under AV, you have only one vote, which only counts for one candidate at a time. But all voters can state the order in which they prefer their vote to be given to the available candidates.
If no candidate gets >50% of first preference votes, then the least well-supported candidate -- the one with the fewest first preference votes -- gets knocked out of the contest. Then it's like the election happens again but without that losing candidate. The votes of people who rated him/her first now go to their second preference candidate(s). At any time, if one candidate has collected >50% of votes, they are elected. Otherwise the lowest scoring is eliminated and we count again.
On the other hand, for as long as your first preference candidate remains in the contest, your vote for him stands. Why wouldn't it?, it's your first preference. You could still have given 2nd, 3rd, etc. preferences to other candidates, but those don't count while your favourite is still in the running. Because you only have one vote.
So AV certainly is one person, one vote.
Note: this is not a primary argument for AV. It is merely a rebuttal of one of the No arguments.
The No side say: "How can it be right that the second, third, even fourth vote of someone who supports the BNP can count as much as the first vote of someone who supports one of the mainstream parties?"
Of course it's not right, because that's not what happens. But you get the sense that anti-AV campaigners feel that a vote for a mainstream party is somehow more valid, more valuable, than a BNP vote. How fair is that sentiment?
The poor BNP voter's vote is of course equally valid, but he or she will most likely end up having to make do with a 2nd, 3rd, or yes even 4th choice candidate in the final analysis. And they might not even win.
There's nothing unfair about AV. Don't fall for illogical appeals to emotion.
It's not only minority and eliminated candidate votes that are counted more than once. Every time a candidate is eliminated then effectively everyone's votes are counted again. Indeed its quite possible to argue that second and third presides have diminished value to the voter and therefore minority votes actually carry a lower rather than greater value.
To say that only some votes are counted more than once is mathematically incorrect.
£250 million is not a lot in the context of government expenditure (around £680 billion in 2011). Our democratic system should not be decided merely on the basis that it is the cheapest, especially since a better system should lead to better government. The cheapest system would, of course, be no democracy at all.
"Rather than the candidate with the most votes winning, the person who finishes third could be declared the winner" is disingenuous. The person who wins is by definition the person who finishes first. The person who finishes third *under FPTP* could be declared the winner under AV, but if AV didn't produce different results than FPTP, what would be the point of having it?
If you can't write, you can appoint a proxy to mark the ballot for you. You can take a companion with you to the polling station to assist you. Or you could prepare a set of stickers with numbers on them and place them on the ballot. There's no more impediment to you exercising your democratic right to vote under AV than under FPTP.
Under AV you only have one vote, but you can use it in a more subtle way to get your view heard.
Under FPTP you have the power to decide the election only if you live in the marginals (Peter Snow's battleground on the election coverage). Most of us needn't bother voting if we live in safe seats - see here http://www.voterpower.org.uk/ for the value of your vote under FPTP.
Under FPTP your vote will cease to have any effect unless your favoured candidate comes first.
If you support Labour in much of the South or the Tories in Scotland, you can only influence the result by voting tactically.
AV allows you to vote your conscience but also have an effect if your favoured candidate fails to win. AV is a more precise method of gauging opinion, FPTP is a blunt instrument.
It is clearly wrong to assume that people vote exactly the same, regardless of the system. Voters make choices that are constrained by the system in place.
Regardless of how objectionable the BNP are, that isn't grounds for excluding them from the democratic process. If there genuinely are constituencies where more than half of the voters want a BNP representative, they should have one.
Giving minority opinions a number of seats which better reflects their actual support is a good thing - whilst many minority opinions are objectionable, many may be very good ideas, and you can't exclude the former without excluding the latter: participating in the democratic process is not a privilege reserved exclusively for people whose opinions don't offend you.
The mere existence of a "Yes" campaign gives the lie to the claim that "Nobody wants AV".
AV has its disadvantages (though these are fewer than FPTP has), and some people would prefer that the UK choose a different system, such as STV or AV+.
However the May 2011 referendum doesn't offer any choice other than sticking with FPTP or changing to AV, and AV is widely acknowledged to be fairer than FPTP and more likely to give results that reflect the will of voters. Rather than holding out for some more perfect system that is unlikely to be offered anytime soon, voters should grasp the opportunity to make a small change, to AV, that could make a big difference.
Under FPTP, it's very common for an MP to be elected with only a minority of the votes cast -- sometimes less than 30%. In the current Commons, two-thirds of MPs were elected with the support of under half their electorate. This is usually because what might otherwise be a strong consensus against the FPTP winner is split between two or more other candidates.
Because AV lets voters explicitly endorse more than one candidate (and withold endorsement of candidates they actively don't like), it allows the election to be won by the candidate who has majority support. AV does away with the need many voters feel to vote "tactically" under FPTP.
Under AV, voters simply use numbers 1, 2, 3, etc. to indicate the order in which they prefer the candidates listed on the ballot form. It's trivially simple to understand and to do, and it means voters don't need to second-guess who might be capable of winning. Instead they can unambiguously cast their votes for whichever candidate or candidates they would most like to win.
Counting an AV election is only slightly more complex than counting FPTP, and absolutely does not require machines, either for the counting or for the voting. The Electoral Commission insists there are no plans for counting machines, which are not used in Australia -- where AV has been in use for about 100 years.
Arguments that switching to AV would incur huge costs are totally spurious.
History is littered with examples of when FPTP has failed to do what it says on the tin: create strong single-party government. Across the last 100 years hung parliaments are more common than many people realize:
Hung parliaments: 1910 (Jan), 1910 (Nov), 1923, 1929, 1974 (Feb), 1976, 2010.
Furthermore it often results in governments with small majorities, which it would be difficult to describe as either ‘strong’ or ‘stable’:
Small majorities: 1950, 1964, 1974 (Oct), 1977-79, 1995–97
If "drone voting" occurs, it does so because of the actions of political parties, not because of the voting system.
In Australia, it is compulsory to vote, and compulsory to allocate a preference to each candidate.
In UK, voting is and will remain optional, and with our AV system you will be free to indicate your preference for as many or as few candidates as you choose.
It remains to be seen whether UK parties would issue voting instructions cards.
An intelligent and informed electorate makes up its own mind.
See also the majority of comments on the Anti-AV argument's referenced link.
No-one can know for sure what the result of past elections would be under AV, because people often vote tactically under the present system.
Under FPTP, in most constituencies, minor parties cannot win the election. Citizens have a choice of not voting, voting for the party they most closely support knowing that they won't win, or voting tactically for the major party closest to their own views.
Any "back-predictions" of election results under AV involve making assumptions about how many major-party voters voted tactically and how many voted honestly. These assumptions depend on a number of factors, including opinion polls, results at different elections (such as European elections), and the views of the people constructing the predictions.
This means that claims that "Gordon Brown would be Prime Minister under AV", or "The [name of party] would be wiped out under AV" are at best reasonable guesses.
FPTP is the second most widely used voting system in the world, after party lists. In crude terms, it is used in places that are, or once were, British colonies, Like America. The use of FPTP used to be even more widespread, but many countries that used to use it have since switched to something else. The Electoral Reform Society thinks that, on balance, the massive failings of FPTP severely outweigh its advantages.
AV represents a logical progression from first past the post. Preserving the traditional one member, one constituency, it ensures all MPs have a real mandate while delivering greater choice and eliminating the need for tactical voting
FPTP is not just simple, it's simplistic. It only works properly when there's a binary choice.
If there are only two candidates, FPTP clearly reveals who is most popular. But with more than two candidates, FPTP frequently only reveals who has the largest minority. This may be (and often is) a candidate that a majority of voters positively do not want. FPTP thus leads to "tactical voting," where votes are cast for the candidate most likely to defeat a disliked candidate, even if this means not voting for your truly preferred candidate at all. This is a distortion of the system, and is anti-democratic. It entrenches the 2-party system.
Voters must be able to express their real preferences, so that the candidate with the most support wins the election. AV does precisely that. When voters have the ability to rank candidates, the most disliked candidate cannot win, as they will fail to pick up up second-, third- and lower-preference votes.
Parties can (and sometimes do) "parachute" people into safe-ish seats, without those people living or being related to the constituency.
Under First Past the Post, a party member, or a party sympathiser, living in the constituency cannot stand without risking to split the right-wing/left-wing/other vote and leading to the opponents being voted in.
Under AV, anyone could stand with no risk of damaging the support for their ideological views: either they win, or the votes are carried over to the person who would have been voted in without their candidacy.
Thanks to AV, MPs will be linked in a much stronger way to their constituency, simply because "internal" disputes can arise with no risk.
AV is a majoritarian system. It does not claim to be proportional. There is no proportional system on offer in the referendum.
"In Britain millions of people in businesses, charities, and trade unions already use it. Political parties use it to elect their leaders. MPs themselves use it to elect their Speaker and their officials.
When politicians are the voters – when they are electing their own leaders – AV is the system they choose. When you need a real winner who needs to speak for the majority AV is the go-to system."
Parties are well known to coordinate their campaigns to tweak their votes by concentrating on specific areas of the country under FPTP, resulting in parties with <30% support having a majority parliament purely by cherry-picking. AV means that they will have to fool all of the people all of the time rather than some of the people all of the time. It may be easier for them to just behave. While this may result in minority parliaments, in practice governments soon get used to the new rules and change their behaviour. It certainly cuts out a lot of unwanted dogma.
"We are using AV in the UK; not for elections to the British parliament, but in local elections, Scottish elections, elections within political parties (both Labour and Lib Dems for a start, I’m not sure about the Tories). Even the House of Lords, the most stalwart opponents of electoral reform, use it internally to elect new hereditary peers. It’s also used in trade unions, charities, and numerous organisations; anywhere, really that wants the best system to elect responsive, widely supported representatives. And it’s used around the world, for elections of all levels up to parliamentary.
"It’s not a new idea (it was invented in 1871), and it’s not untested. It just doesn’t suit some people’s agendas. "
If Labour and Lib Dems had come to agreement after election then Gordon Brown could have stayed on as Prime Minister.
(This is not an argument for AV - it's countering an argument against.)
"This emotional, irrational campaigning from the No team does mean they’re intellectually bankrupt and only interested in maintaining a status quo that retains them their power at the expense of an improved democracy."
FPTP is more likely to give a party a false majority (for example, 40% of the popular vote winning 60% of the seats of power.) You may think majority governments are superior, even if they don't actually have the popular vote. However, there is no reason a country can't just chose to give minority governments more power. So though FPTP has a side effect of creating less minority governments, we can just use AV and grant minority governments more power. This would directly treat the problem of weak minority governments, allowing us to use the superior system.
"The key issue for them is that they feel close to winning a seat or two under FPTP, and AV would make that process more difficult because they would need 50% support instead of 35% locally."
Ranking candidates gives you more say - in who comes first and who comes last.
If your favourite doesn’t win, you can still have a say.
If I vote for a Labour candidate in a seat in which Labour has a large share of the vote, I can rank every other candidate to my heart's content but those votes will never be counted. By contrast, if I vote for a fringe party that gets knocked out early, my second and third preferences can end up deciding the election.
Under those circumstances, the second and third preferences of fringe parties (some of whom may be moderate, some of whom may be extremists) become all-powerful, so candidates for the mainstream parties will have to pitch for them. Hence, under AV, the minor parties wield more power – both in the ballot box and on the stump.
One of the facets of the Alternative Vote that the Yes side seem keen to stress is that AV allows everyone to vote for their first choice, confident that it will be counted even if - in the final tally - that choice isn't for one of the political parties that decides the seat. The natural progression from this argument is that you will see more people voting for parties that were previously on the fringe.
Now look at the results of the 2010 General Election. The BNP finished fifth with more votes than the SNP, Plaid Cymru and more than double the number of votes cast for the Green Party.
Ask yourself - if AV comes in, will that vote share go up or down?
With First Past the Post, everybody gets one vote. But under AV, supporters of extreme parties like the BNP would get their vote counted many times, while other people’s vote would only be counted once.
The real beauty of First Past the Post is the principle of one person, one vote. Under AV, some votes count more than others.
Why? Because if you vote for a mainstream candidate who is top of the ballot in the first round, your other preferences will never be counted. But if you vote for a fringe party who gets knocked out, your other preferences will be counted.
How can it be right that the second, third, even fourth vote of someone who supports the BNP can count as much as the first vote of someone who supports one of the mainstream parties?- David Cameron
The change to AV will cost up to an additional £250 million. Local councils would have to waste money on costly electronic vote counting machines and expensive voter education campaigns. With ordinary families facing tough times can we really afford to spend a quarter of a billion pounds of taxpayers' money bringing in a new voting system?
Numbering candidates ‘1, 2, 3’ may not be too confusing – but trying to work out the order in which candidates are likely to be eliminated, how to ensure your votes carry the most weight, and how the votes of other candidates will transfer are all more complicated.
That’s why the political parties in Australia spend lots of time and energy working out the most tactical way for their supporters to vote – and then harangue voters with ‘How to Vote’ cards, essentially issuing instructions to voters. I don’t think that’s something British voters would be keen to see.
The current system of first past the post is preferable because it usually delivers strong outcomes. Under the alternative vote (AV) system, smaller parties are more likely to take votes from large ones because they can benefit from second or third preferences.
It is argued that, because first-past-the-post is more likely to produce a simple majority for one party, this produces a stronger government. When difficult decisions or strong leadership are required for the good of the voters, a government is not distracted by the constant need to negotiate within the legislature. In addition, the need to govern leads to coalitions, which may give disproportionate power to a party with limited popular support, simply because the largest party sees them as "enemies of their enemies". In the UK, arguments for first-past-the-post often look to Italy where the frequent government changeovers are presented as undesirable.
Only three countries in the World use AV to elect their equivalent of MPs: Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Australia.
First-past-the-post may well be the simplest of all voting systems. This implies specific advantages. It is likely to be quicker, and easier to adminster; this may also imply that an election costs less to run. It may also have an effect on voters, because it is easy to explain and understand. Alternative voting systems may alienate some voters who find the systems hard to understand, and who therefore feel detached from the direct effect of their own vote.
Boris Johnson: "Remember Blair's massive victory of 1997, when he got 419 seats with 43 per cent of the vote? Under the AV system he would have got 445 seats, and the Tories (who won 30 per cent of the vote) would have been reduced to 70 seats instead of 165. Indeed, if AV had been in force at the last election, the Tories would have got 281 rather than 306 seats – and Labour would have been up four, on 258."
"In Australia many voters faithfully follow the how-to-vote edicts issued by their party, such as the card on the right. Large-scale use of how-to-vote cards at the polling booth can only increase the power of political parties and introduce a practice of "drone voting" that diminishes individual responsibility."
Needs an argument to back this up...
Even the slightest possibility of this failure makes a mockery of the desire to consider AV.
Some people get to have their first, second and third preferences counted, while other people only have their first preference counted. Some people get to express a wide range of opinions on whom they want to see elected than other people. Some people get to determine who gets knocked in each round as their vote gets redistributed, while others only get one say. That's not one person, one vote.
According to Arrow's impossibility theorem, these three required conditions for "fairness" in voting systems...
• If everyone prefers X over Y, the group prefers X over Y
• If everyone's preference of X over Y doesn't change, the group's preference doesn't change when you add Z
• There is no dictator
...are not mutually compatible. Fairness is not attainable, and hence not a great reason to choose one voting system over another.
I have an issue with #av regarding 50% of less-preference votes, better than 49% of first-preference votes.
Which is why I suggest #FPTP is more credible.
Electing the candidate with the most less-pref votes over the candidate that single-handedly secured the most initial votes (albeit below 50%) is utterly preposperous.
The government / Electoral Commission hasn't estimated costs for elections under AV; that doesn't mean that there won't be additional costs. When the UK has brought in preferential voting in recent years -- e.g., when Scotland introduced STV and when London introduced SV -- the change was accompanied by the adoption of electronic vote counting. The same reasons that drove the adoption of machines in these cases (time and complexity of multiple simultaneous counts under different vote systems) would apply under AV.
So the only question becomes how much the machines will cost. They cost £130 million based on the Scotland vote counting contract and £120 million based on the Electoral Commission's electronic counting pilots -- both seem comparable and reasonable.
The system proposed by the referendum is 'optional preference' AV, not Australia's 'full preference' version so there is no guarantee that the winner will get 50% of the vote. In fact, 'more than four out of ten' MPs will still not get 50% according to analysis by election experts Professors Rallings and Thrasher.
In 1998, precisely this 'optional preference' version of AV used by Queensland state in Australia enable the BNP-like One Nation party to get more seats than they would have under FPTP. Because more of the people that cast second preferences did so for the One Nation party than other parties, the party was able to get 11 seats where they would have only won 8 under FPTP.
Candidates in clubs, unions and legions are likely to share the ethos of management and direction, unlike the likely polarity with political parties.
Re-counting votes once, twice or three times under AV could be required in 20-25% of seats amounting to c25% impact on resources. So, if counts repeatedly move beyond the early hours wont automation be demanded - and throughout the UK because who knows where re-counts will be needed?
Could the answer be; not necessarily so!
Presently under FPTP a great number of seats are elected with over 50% majority and a great many over 40% - and this doesnt make every electorate happy?
Where a majority vote is not initially found, AV re-allocates least-preference votes with a mechanism - not the results based on a candidates workload or strength of manifesto.
Moreover, AV sometimes doesnt even find a majority candidate.
The answer certainly is; not necessarily so!
Where AV dismisses least-preference candidates and re-allocates the next-preference votes of a rainbow collective until a majority is found, AV is actually de-valueing the quality of 1st-preference votes.
Dr Thomas Lundberg, electoral systems specialist, University of Glasgow: "AV exaggerates the tendency of the current system to direct all voters into a two-sided competition. If you want a more representative and consensual type of governance, vote against AV."
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