The vote on the Alternative Vote is around the corner. Yet all I seem to read is misinformation, confusion, and politicking. I find the whole process slightly distasteful. Here we are with a chance to change our democratic system, when what we need is a decent, rational debate and to ensure that everyone understands the choice – yet all we get is polemic.
The tactics being used by the anti-AV campaign do remind me very much of the confusion marketing campaigns that are used in financial services. There the aim is to confuse in order to either gain extra profit via stealth charges or to prevent people switching elsewhere by making things more confusing – and it’s this second technique that is being used here.
There is also the use of attacking current political personalities to symbolise a vote that is about the future structure of our electoral process; though I suppose we’ll never get away from that.
It’s done to take advantage of the in-built advantage of the incumbent candidate – or in other words, to play into the hands of the fact most people don’t like change – even if it’s for the better.
So let’s cut through the crap and say it loud and plain…
AV isn’t complicated, you simply rank everyone in order down to as many preferences as you have. If you only have one preference you only put one vote, if you have more you put more."
An easy example
Imagine someone was a Green supporter and the following candidates were standing in an election:
- Revolutionary Communists
- Green party
- Lib Dems
They’d obviously put Greens as their first preference. After that it’s a question of "if the greens weren’t standing who would I vote for?"…If the answer was the Lib Dems they’d be 2nd preference. This continues down until you have no preference between remaining choices.
This is then reflected in the count. If your first preference gets the least votes, your vote goes to who you then prefer out of the remainder. Ultimately it will often end as if the election only had the top two candidates and you will have made your choice between the two.
The impact of AV
Now at this point I should declare that I am a supporter of the AV system, I think it’s fairer. Yet my aim here isn’t to persuade you of that, it’s just a quick blog to ensure that people understand the choice (I’m assuming most people understand how the current system works).
Where the controversy comes in is the impact on the voting system. Many believe that it would lead to more coalitions and I think that’s probably pretty accurate. Afterall, very rarely does any party even get a majority of the voters to vote for them, so if you make it more proportionate (as this is likely to do, though it’s not guaranteed but I won’t overcomplicate it) then we’ll have more coalitions.
Therefore that’s the first element of the choice – knowing the impact and questioning whether that’s good or bad. Yet it is also worth considering whether the over-arching fairness of the system is more important than the result. So here’s a short summary of how each system is likely to result in each constituency.
First Past the Post gives the LARGEST MINORITY of people their FAVOURITE candidate"
Alternative Vote gives the MAJORITY of people their LEAST WORST candidate"
Which of these two is more fair is up to you – certainly it’s not an easy answer, I have my view you may differ. Yet it is important at this crucial opportunity everyone ensures they consider the two options and have their say.