Many countries around the world still use the “First Past The Post” (FPTP) style of voting with single-candidate constituencies. We believe that this leads to elections that don’t reflect the will of the people.
What’s wrong with FPTP?
Three big problems:
- Minority election – politicians can get elected without a majority of the votes cast – which leads to tactical voting and extremism;
- Lack of proportionality – unbalanced representation in parliament compared to how people vote;
- Lack of recall – MPs can’t be sacked by their voters mid-term.
Why is preference voting the right choice now?
- Candidates need the broad support of a true majority to get elected;
- The end of most tactical voting;
- Reduced chance of extremists getting elected (the BNP wanted a “No” result in the UK referendum of 5th May 2011);
- Preference voting is another simple system that doesn’t get into quotas and multiple ballots.
How does FPTP compare to preference voting?
|Minority election||Often occurs||Eliminated|
|Voting simplicity||One ballot paper with all candidates –
write a single “X”
|One ballot paper with all candidates –
write preferences, “1″, “2″, “3″…
|Counting simplicity||One round of counting||Multiple rounds of counting|
|Voting machines||Not needed||Not needed|
|UK cost||£91 million*||£117 million*|
|Proportionality||Not proportional||Not proportional|
|Possible, usually unlikely||Possible, usually unlikely|
|Negative campaigning||Not affected||Discouraged|
|Extremism||Can get elected due to minority election||Difficult to elect –
would have to get more than 50% of the vote
|Who benefits?||Complacent and lazy politicians||Voters|
* Figures taken from the NO2AV campaign for the UK referendum of 5th May 2011.
That sounds good; what’s AV, then?
The Alternative Vote is a small change to our voting system (First Past The Post), which allows you to say which order you prefer the candidates in, rather than just who is your favourite: it’s a form of preferential voting.
AV doesn’t even up the number of MPs in parliament so that a party with 20% of the vote would get 20% of the seats – neither FPTP or AV is proportional – but does mean that candidates have to have the broad support of more than 50% of voters to get elected. Because of that, tactical voting and split voting, where a minority candidate can be elected by splitting the supporters of the other candidates, are virtually eliminated.
Counting happens in several rounds, with the least supported candidate being eliminated in each round, pretty much like the X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing. The vote of anyone who supported the eliminated candidate is transferred to their next preference alternative (hence the name), and votes are counted again. When someone gets more than 50%, they are elected.
What do the campaigns say?
Both camps have run quite bizarre campaigns, with “untruths” from each side. Here are a few claims to pick up on…
NO to AV
- AV allows some voters more than one vote – FALSE
also seen as: AV abandons the principle of “one person, one vote” – FALSE
- AV will cost Britain £250 million – FALSE
- AV leads to more coalition governments – FALSE
- The NO campaign didn’t use public tax money – FALSE
- AV means that the best candidates won’t get elected – FALSE
- The AV referendum on 5th May is about Nick Clegg – FALSE
- AV shouldn’t be used in Britain because it is less popular – FALSE
YES to Fairer Votes
- AV will make MPs work harder once they’ve been elected – FALSE
- AV will prevent another MPs expenses scandal – FALSE
Is AV the best voting system for the UK?
That’s not the question that’s being asked on 5th May. If you think that AV is better than FPTP, you should vote YES; voting NO simply allows the government to say “look, there’s no interest in voting reform” and remove reform from the agenda for a generation to come.
Having said that, you might want to see the other options. There are loads of different voting systems, and some (especially if they use preferential voting like AV and also increase proportionality) might be better for Britain.