Desperation and Mud slinging

Posted on Sun 24 April 2011 by alex in general

It's unfortunate as we roll towards the referendum in May that the debate has become one framed around mud slinging and pandering to fears without actually discussing the system itself.

Item one for the prosecution was the "No to AV" campaigns leaflet that arrived on my doorstep claiming that they believed in "One Person, One Vote". The implication of which was the proposed AV system somehow gave some people more votes than others. This is of course completely distorting the mechanism which AV follows. Anyone voting under AV can only lend their vote to one candidate at a time, there is never a situation where their vote is counted for another candidate at the same time.

There have been many attempts in the media to explain the proposed system using various metaphors and graphic devices. I'm beginning to think this plurality of explanations is part of the reason the public are so confused about how the system works in practise. At the risk of increasing the confusion I've come up with my own preferred way of explaining the system.

Imagine the candidates all stand in a playground with 100 voters. When the vote is called everyone forms a line behind their preferred candidate. Assuming that there are not more than 50 people stood behind one candidate the candidate with the least number of supporters is withdrawn from the race and their supporters go and choose who they wish to support now. Notice crucially that the number of voters (and hence votes) being counted has not changed. The process is repeated until more than 50 people are stood behind one of the candidates. So while it's true that the final winning candidate might have not been in the lead in the first round notice how they now have the votes of more than 50% of the voters involved. Granted they may not be the first preference of everyone but more voters would prefer them to represent them than any other candidate, including the candidate that might have won under First past the Post with only 29.4% of the vote. While under the old system the views of 70% of voters are disregarded the proposed AV system would mean at least 50% of the electors have had a say in their representative.

As you may be able to guess I'll be voting "Yes to AV" on May the 5th. I sincerely hope you will to but even if you won't please do go to the polls on May the 5th. This is one vote that really will be decided by a majority.