Why vote YES for the alternative vote?
1) Because each constituency gets the candidate that gets more that 50% of preferences expressed by the voters there.
Even though some will be “woohoo!” preferences and others “grudgingly but only because s/he is marginally better than that other bloke/ woman I really couldn’t stand to have” preferences, to have ranked the candidate indicates some sort of goodwill towards them.
NB there’s no guarantee that 50% of the votes cast is the same as 50% of those eligible to vote. For that, you’d need to make voting compulsory.
2) Because no seat should be a safe seat – 200,000 or so voters have determine the results of several recent elections via key marginals. And what’s wrong with candidates having to seek the second preferences of a wider group of voters in a constituency?
The theory of First Past the Post is we vote for individuals not for a prime minister or party. This is clearly not what really happens, but little energy is put into campaigning in the safe seats. There jolly well should be if our votes are meant to be equal.
The argument against is that candidates might start using more BNP-like language to seek that sort of party’s voters second preferences.
This is because if the BNP came last in a constituency, then BNP supporters’ transferred second preference votes would be the first to be transferred and could determine the outcome in specific seats as claimed by the NO2AV campaign and in a constituency split very closely between two leading candidates it may be only those of the voters that gave their first preference to the party that received the fewest first preferences. Just a thought: would that clip have seemed as dramatic if “extremists” had been replaced throughout by “the Green Party”?
The idea seems to be to say that AV gives supporters of smaller parties more than one vote. Blogger Rupert Read explains this brilliantly. If you go into a restaurant and you find your first choice isn’t available because it wasn’t popular enough, why shouldn’t you have the chance to opt for a second choice dish rather than go without food?
3) Because unless you are a tribalist supporter of a specific political party you probably don’t have one party that closely reflects all your views – AV allows you to rank the candidates to express this.
Or not to – you can rank as many or few as you like. Oh and you might actually want to find out what they stand for – better political engagement!
4) Because your vote is often either tactical, or if you support a small party, choosing between candidates for the least worst ones most likely to get in.
This scheme allows you to both vote for where your heart lies (say a smaller party) and then choose between the others on offer that might stand a bigger chance of getting in thereby giving a more accurate picture of political beliefs in the UK. So yes, in a way you are still voting tactically, but you are doing this visibly rather than in your head…
5) Because most of us are already voting in elections that use a system other than First Past the Post right here in the UK… Are you in Wales? Scotland? Using STV in Northern Ireland? Voting for the London Mayor? Or Mayors more widely – using AV itself? Or what about the European Parliament Elections – surely you vote in those? All those elections already use a system other than FPTP, so are we REALLY going to be totally confused and unable to vote if we use something else for our General Elections?
6) Because the BNP are NOT more likely to get elected!
The BNP are campaigning against AV. But if most people in a constituency want to vote BNP we should not be looking at rigging the voting system against them as the best way to stop them getting into parliament.
For the BNP to be elected under AV, they would need more than 50% of the vote to have expressed goodwill towards them by giving them a preference.
Frankly, democracy means the power of the people, and if a majority want to vote BNP then we should let them express that, even if we find the message abhorrent. There are better ways to confront the BNP message than to attempt to use the voting system against them.
But FPTP is the system that means more seats are gained by extremist parties. If you look at Council seats, second and third and fourth preferences of voters voting for other parties would in very many cases have transferred against the BNP in the Council seats that they have won.
7) Because it is really not that complicated…
First Past the Post predates mass literacy thus only requiring an X – but most people know how to write their numbers these days. And to prove that the press is making a meal of it and that it is not difficult, here’s a group of school kids to explain!
8 ) Because the line from the No campaign that “it’s more difficult to predict” is actually a benefit…
It should mean less lazy journalism and pollsters in the run up to elections.
9) Because “it costs money to change” doesn’t mean it is the wrong thing to do
Here’s the Spectator on why… and a challenge on the figures (which No campaigner chair Margaret Beckett described on Radio 4 Any Questions today as having been extrapolated from the costs of introducing electronic counting machines in Scotland…).
£250 million sounds like a lot of money – but £20 million? A drop in the ocean and nothing compared with e.g. the NAO report that fraud, customer error, and DWP staff error costs £900 million per year each last year! (That’s a whole other issue that needs sorting).
And was it cost effective to extend the vote to women in 1918? To younger voters in 1969? Would it have made it the wrong thing to do?
10) Because there isn’t going to be a referendum for AV Plus, D’Hondt, pairing or an STV system around any time soon
AV retains many of the familiar things about FPTP (ability to have landslide governments, smallish constituencies represented by one person) – whether you see those as good or bad depends on your view of FPTP and proportional representation systems. Actually, there’s not a massive difference between AV and STV if you realise that it is how STV would play out if used in a single member constituency…
But honestly, AV is the only show in town as an alternative to FPTP.
If it’s not enough of a change for you, by all means vote no. As blogger Neil Harding points out, that’s rather like saying no to a minimum wage becasue you support a £8 level not a £5 level…
But I’d urge you to take part, and obviously – given this post – to vote yes. What have you got to lose?