View Full Version : alternative vote

13-05-2010, 07:59 PM
so we're meant to be getting a referendum.

is there any reason not to vote yes to this?

17-05-2010, 04:59 PM
If I understand correctly, the Alternative Vote would be an improvement in some ways, and in other ways would actually be worse than the first past the post system we have now:

Electoral Reform Society: Alternative Vote (http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/article.php?id=55)

It can end up being less proportional than FPTP, and has all kinds of other quirks. It can do serious damage to the prospects of candidates who stand on a platform of compromise between two highly-opposed stances being taken by the other main two parties.

On the plus side, with AV people don't feel as if their vote is being wasted, irrespective of who they vote for. So that means an end to tactical voting. Also, we'd keep the same constituencies which would save a lot of money and a big bureaucratic headache.

If your main concern is how representative the electoral system is, then there are other systems that score better on that count. I think Single Transferable Vote (http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/article.php?id=48) is the one the Lib Dems had in mind before they jumped into bed with the Tories. It's what they use in Ireland and in local elections in Scotland.

STV also makes people feel as if their vote counts. It is more proportional. It gets rid of safe seats and increases competition between candidates (theoretically) giving MPs more incentive to make their constituents' interests their interests. But, it means redrawing every constituency. It is also a more complicated system for the voter in the ballot box, and there are methodological disputes over the best way to count ballots. Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_Transferable_Vote) has more info on this. There is also a question about doing damage to the link between MP and local constituency that has been the bedrock of British politics for a long time.

There was a bit in the Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/10/alternative-vote-minimal-impact-general-election) about how the results of the election we just had would have differed under different electoral systems.

In this election the Lib Dems got 23% of the votes and 57/650 seats (8.8% of seats). Under ATV they would have got 79 seats (12.2% of seats), and under STV they would have got 162 seats (24.9% of seats).

So I think that if you want a fairer voting system, STV is preferable to ATV. But STV doesn't seem to be on the table for the time being. So the question becomes is ATV better than FPTP? Some would say it is, because it makes every vote count, and it could be the first step on the path to STV. But on the other hand, it's possible that if ATV got pushed through, the political momentum towards electoral reform would be spent, and it would fall off the agenda for generations to come.

17-05-2010, 05:03 PM
i don't know how the guardian could predict what would happen under atv

17-05-2010, 05:05 PM
It's also worth noting that although the Tories' share of seats would have been reduced under STV (although they would remain the largest party), their share of seats in Scotland would have gone up, giving them 7, as opposed to the meagre 1 that they have now. They would also have equalled the Lib Dems 10 Welsh MPs.

And Labour would have done better in the South East and East of England, which have always been pretty strong Tory heartlands. I guess these things are important, especially as the nature of the political union between England and Wales and (especially) Scotland threatens to become a really big issue over the duration of this new parliament.

I think the overriding effect of STV is that it seems to enfranchise people who currently feel powerless because they support a minority party in a constituency that is pretty much only ever going to be decided one way under FPTP.

17-05-2010, 05:10 PM
i don't know how the guardian could predict what would happen under atv

They didn't; the Electoral Reform society did. And of course the Guardian posted no kind of detail of the methodology of their study. I can't seem to find the publication on the ERS website. It is more than possible that is significantly at odds with what the actual outcome would have been if STV was the system in place a couple of weeks ago.

But I think the general point still stands; STV is more representative (in a direct sense) than FPTP or AV. But every system has its own pluses and minuses.

What I'm worried about is that we're going to get a referendum that presents FPTP and AV as the only two options that could ever be made to work, and that the press is going to sit there docile whilst millions of people go to vote for a new system that will only be a slight improvement on what we have now, and then expect that to usher in a new democratic utopia.