Vote of little confidence?

18 Apr

Had an interesting little leaflet about the upcoming “Alternative Voting” referendum pushed through the door today (lucky we had that letterbox put in or anything could have happened). Normally these things go straight in the bin, but I decided out of boredom to give this one five minutes. Now, I’d be lying if I said I knew anything about the proposed ‘new’ system, apart from it being Proportional Representation with a shiny bow attached, or that it would “make MPs work harder for [our] votes” – a phrase that instantly set off my Bullshit  Alarm. I’d also be lying if I said I cared.

This leaflet’s on behalf of the “No to AV” campaign, so it can hardly be described as a completely unbiased source. Nevertheless, it purports to set out in detail how PR – sorry, AV – would work (for best results, imagine the following being read out by Sir Humphrey Appleby):

You use numbers to rank the candidates in order of your preference. You put 1 next to your first choice, 2 next to your second choice, 3 next to your third choice and so on.

The number 1 votes for each candidate are put into a pile and counted. If a candidate receives more than half of the number 1 votes cast, they win and there is no further counting. If no candidate receives more than half the number 1 votes there would be at least one more round of counting. In round two, the candidate with the fewest number 1 votes is removed from the contest. If their supporters’ ballot papers show a number 2 vote for another candidate, they are added to that candidate’s pile. If the ballot paper does not show a number 2 vote, it is no longer used.

If no candidate reaches 50% after the redistribution of votes, the candidate with next fewest votes is removed from the contest, and their supporters’ ballots are looked at again to see if any of the remaining candidates are ranked. If so, the ballot papers are moved to the pile of the candidates ranked highest on each ballot paper. If none of the remaining candidates are ranked, the ballot paper is no longer used.

If more candidates are involved, this process can be repeated until one candidate has more than half the remaining votes.

What could be simpler?

Regardless of whether AV is really fairer than our current system, whether MPs really want us to tell them to work harder, and leaving aside the claim that only three other countries actually use the system (at least two of which apparently want to scrap it) – ignoring all of that, there is one tiny detail about the impending referendum which shines out like a beacon amidst the darkness, or a diamond in a cesspit.

We are to be given two options: “Yes” to change to AV, or “No” to keep the present system. The results of which would be counted and the one with the most votes wins.

You know – first past the post.

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2 Responses to “Vote of little confidence?”

  1. zarathxstra April 19, 2011 at 01:24 #

    I’ve thought that, too. If your first preference was “yes” and your second “no”, how would that work?

    I don’t like the lies that the “No” campaign have been promulgating (and they are numerous). They will work on the Daily Mail readers, which is all that counts nowadays.

    AV will not make the slightest difference to election results. One can expect people’s second preferences will fall in roughly the same ratio as other voters’ firsts, giving exactly the same result as the FptP system. And it will not change politicians’ behaviour one jot. How is any of them going to be able to campaign on a “vote for me as your second choice” ticket?

    The AV system is just as fucked as the current one. It just allows for more votes to be ignored than are now.

    • keplersdream April 19, 2011 at 03:05 #

      From the little I’ve seen of both sides, I’d have to agree about the “No” campaign’s lies. The only reason I used their leaflet as a reference at all was because it was essentially the first information source of which I was aware. That said, I would be suspicious of anything claimed by either side.

      As a system, it’s a popular chestnut that first-past-the-post is not without its flaws – although the only people who like to say this tend to be those who’d prefer the system changed to benefit themselves in some way. However, this ‘new’ method seems to be fertile ground for all manner of corruption and dodgy dealings.

      As you point out, the suggestion of multiple-choice candidates is a farce – and not even in a good old Brian (Lord) Rix way. Whenever I vote for someone or something, the candidate I choose is the one I’d like to win, all else being equal. It’s a bit like saying “Well, I really wanted Arsenal to win, but Birmingham City’s victory made up for it.”

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