Yes to AV

It’s wall of text time!

I think the No to AV campaign is based on mistruths, and preys upon the public’s fear of change. Here’s some of the issues I take with their logic.

First of all, the idea that people get more than one vote. Except of course, their first preference vote must first be eliminated, so in reality they only have one deciding vote. The issue at hand is that somehow one vote each is equality. Well it’s not, when the vote is split between similar candidates. This often leads to a minority winner because two similar losing candidates split the vote between. The real issue for the Conservatives of the No to AV campaign is simply that AV works against Conservative favour, because their opposition is split amongst so many different parties united in their disdain for Conservatives.

Does everyone having one vote mean votes are all equal? Yes if there are two options. If there are three or more options, anyone who votes for a party that has no chance of winning is throwing their vote away and having no say in their representative.

Is it fair to have a system that works in the favour of certain political parties? No I guess, but then FPTP works in favour of Conservatives. AV does two particularly important things. First, it allows people to vote for their genuine first choice, instead of being forced to vote tactically to avoid an unwanted result. But it also allows them to place their second or third choice vote for a more viable candidate, which they might otherwised be forced to be their only vote in FPTP whilst not being a close match to their political ideals.

Secondly, it moderates extremist votes. For example, first choice BNP voters will likely have their votes recounted in favour of Conservative or Labour (or anyone else for that matter), whilst still allowing their horrible views to be expressed democratically. It won’t help BNP get in, because thankfully there’s nowhere in this country that over 50% of the population would express a BNP preference.

The system is hard to explain at first that much is true, but the idea that people won’t understand it is just insulting, quite frankly. Sure, you’re stupid, but I’m not [satire]. The truth is, people don’t really need to understand the counting method perfectly. What they need to know is that they vote their preferences in order, and that the winner will have more than 50% of votes expressing a preference for that candidate. It eliminates the least popular, and emphasises overall candidate support. The actual runoff voting doesn’t even occur unless nobody wins the first round by 50% of the first choice vote.

Need a refresher though? I’ll try to sum it up quickly.

  1. Voters place their preferences on the ballot in order, eg. 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on. They can vote for as many or as few candidates as they like.
  2. Once polls close, a first round of counting is initiated. All the first choice preference votes are counted. If someone gets over 50%, they win.
  3. If nobody has over 50%, the last place candidate is eliminated, and all of their ballots are recounted for second preference votes. These votes are distributed correctly amongst the remaining candidates. If someone gets over 50%, they win.
  4. This process is repeated until someone gets over 50%, or a majority.

Too long? Didn’t read? Watch a video featuring Dan Snow:

He’s Dan Snow! Son of Peter Snow. No relation to Jon Snow from Game of Thrones. He’s a nice guy!

It’s fairly simple really. It’s a system that ensures a majority of voters have expressed a preference for the winning candidate. It means your vote will be much more likely to ensure a winning candidate you would rather have.

Just to present the opposite side, here’s the No to AV ad I saw last night that got me so angry that I punched a hole through the space time continuum to today so that I could write this angry rambling nonsense.

Seriously? Do you trust a blind man. He’s blind. That’s unfair. He’s a liar, and an adulterer. Seriously though, I’m kidding. Not about not liking David Blunkett. He’s an awful man. You remember the ID cards thing? Blunkett. Talk about the blind leading the… No, I’ll stop.

One charge levelled at AV in this ad it is how much it will cost. Like most of these throw-a-figure-out-there scare tactics, it is pretty much nonsense. Now I may be wrong, but I don’t think it’s that hard to scare a cab driver into spouting right wing lies on or off camera. £250 million? For what? The proposed AV system is countable by hand. The proposed counting machines are no more required than they are in any other election system. That number does not actually stand up to reason.

They say First Past the Post works so why change it? It works does it? Does it really? Why then do I hear almost everyone around election time expressing a very clear opinion that their vote won’t count so why bother? The youth of today are disenfranchised by the whole political system because they all too often live in a seat where at best only one of two parties will win. If they vote at all, they’re often voting tactically. Under AV, you can feel proud to vote for a party with no chance of winning (and isn’t that what you’ve really always wanted?), without wasting your vote. Conservatives don’t care about that because the right wing of UK politics is far more uniform than the left. They benefit from the split vote effect.

Let’s use a made-up colour-coded example that could be easily summed up in a chart but I’m not going to make a chart for the sake of a futile rant:

  1. There’s an election okay? With me so far?
  2. Labour win 40%, Conservative win 41%, and all the others win 19% total.
  3. Under FPTP, Conservatives win narrowly, Labour loses narrowly, and the rest of the votes are dismissed as meaningless. Following?
  4. This is where it gets more tricky. Of the 19% who voted for neither Labour nor Conservative let’s say 9% is for an ex-labour independent candidate, 7% for an ex-Conservative UKIP candidate, 3% for the Socialist Worker’s United Independence Coalition Senior Citizen’s Party.
  5. Under AV, let’s assume everyone used their second preference. First out is the Socialist’s Parks, Recreations and Lemon Grove Assasinations Committee, and of those votes almost all highlighted Labour as second preference. So let’s say 3% to Labour. Could be to anyone, but in this case it’s Labour, just because it’s easier for you dummies to understand. You’re so stupid you couldn’t possibly understand [satire]…
  6. Labour now have 43%, which is more than Conservatives, but still not enough.
  7. So now the UKIP asshole gets knocked out, and from the ballots every one of them states Conservatives as second preference. So 7% goes, you guessed it, to the Conservatives. Could be only half picked Conservative as a second preference, could be none of them even stated a preference, but in this case they all voted Conservative. Stop asking questions you stupid idiot. You’re so stupid you probably think that Carly Simon song is about vanity [more satire, now with added out-of-date pop culture references].
  8. Conservative now have 48% to Labour’s 43%. And yet & yet, what about that remaining 9%? Let’s have a look shall we?
  9. The Ex-Labour independent’s voters obviously all picked Labour second choice, and so all of his 9% goes straight to Labour.
  10. Labour now have 52% to the Conservatives’ 48%. Labour, with more than 50% of the vote, win this election. The people have spoken, and slightly more of them would rather a Labour candidate win than a Conservative candidate.
  11. Simple right?
  12. But it doesn’t matter now because living under AV there’s no money left because they needed to buy supercomputers to read dots off a piece of paper. Also the BNP have taken over and Nick Griffin is now a Tsar. And all the other countries of the world are laughing at us for using such a redonkulous voting system.
  13. I am joking. I would never use the word redonkulous. It’s called satire. It’s called clumsy cack-handed satire.

Oh, and my personal favourite argument is that only three countries in the world use AV. Really? Because you know AV is used throughout the UK for electing party leaders (Labour AND Conservative don’t you know?) and group representatives for all kinds of official bodies, in local elections, mayoral elections. It is also used successfully in Australia for their House of Representatives (though voting there is mandatory which is obviously unpopular). The fact it’s not in widespread use for parliamentary elections does not mean that’s because everyone thinks it’s bad. It’s because the FPTP system is entrenched.

The best thing about AV to me is that in theory it discourages campaigning based on a zero-sum game mentality. Of course, due to the way that practice is also entrenched, that stuff will probably keep right on rolling along for some time. The system allows a more clear representation of actual candidate or party support regardless of whether or not that candidate or party actually wins. People can vote with their beliefs without feeling they are wasting their vote, which prevents vote-splitting. Minority parties will be better represented in the numbers, though they will only be more likely to win in a case where a split was significant. It encourages positive campaigning so that people will vote for their hopes and not against their fears (which ironically is how the AV system will likely get shot down on Thursday unfortunately). That sounds like a good democracy to me.

So yeah, I am voting in favour of AV this Thursday, and I reckon you should too. I will be very interested to see the regional breakdown of results, and find out what correlation there is between No and Conservative constituencies. Also you should vote in the Scottish elections to if you can. They make it easy for you, they put both votes in the same place.

Vote YES to AV. Or no if you disagree to it I guess. Whatever.

One thought on “Yes to AV

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