Or that will be the question on May 5th, when we go to the Polls to vote in the local elections next year. Along side voting for who you would like as your local representatives, you will also be asked to vote on if we should stay on our current voting system, called First Past the Post, or do we move to an Alternative Vote system.
So what is the difference. Well the First Past the Post (FPTP) system relies on everybody voting for their favourite candidate and the candidate with the most votes wins. Simple enough
Alternative Vote (AV) involves you ranking the candidates in order of preference. When they are counted, all the first choices are used and the totals compared to see if anyone has over 50% of the vote. If not, then the candidate with the lowest number of votes is knocked out and their votes redistributed according to those votes second preferences. They are totalled to see if any candidate has got more than 50% of the vote. This repeats until a candidate has got 50% of the vote. Phew – Simple as that…
So, why? Whats the point in the change? Well, the current argument is that candidates get elected from maybe only 30/40% of the electorate on the FPTP system and that AV elects candidates with more than 50%. The Pro-AV group claim that this gives the candidate a greater mandate.
Do I think this is a good idea, well, No I don’t. On a number of grounds. Firstly, using AV does not give you a greater mandate, as it’s not everybodys favourite candidate, its people’s second or third or fourth favourite. Also it is still only measuring those people who Vote, and I think we have bigger problems with people not voting rather than the voting system itself.
Look at the Gloucester result (as much as it pains me),
|Jeremy Hilton||Liberal Democrat||9,767||19.2||+5.6|
|Mike Smith||UK Independence Party||1,808||3.6||+1.2|
|Alan Platt||English Democrats||564||1.1||+1.1|
Richard Graham won with 40% of the vote with Parmjit getting 35%. But only 64% of the population turned out and voted anyway. Even if this this had been rolled up with AV and someone had won with over 50%, that would still have been only 32% of the voting population. Hardly a mandate in the way the Pro-AV folks want.
Also, when it comes to the count, how complicated is it going to be to sort out and do in an open and honest fashion. It will take forever. Having been a Counting Agent this year, then it was hard enough to keep track as it was.
I wanted to try and draw a comparison to the Labour Leadership vote, but that is not as easy, because of the different value of every bodies vote (MPs, Members, unions etc) but more fundamentally I think the emphasis was different. People were voting for who they thought would be best to lead, with all members having roughly the same core values. The Parliamentary elections are much more adversarial in nature.
So no, unless someone can show me some really good reasons to vote for AV, I will not be voting for it.
I think we will be much better off getting people out to vote as a priority. I would even like to consider making it a legal requirement to vote, even if you spoil the ballot paper, or have a “none of the above”. But this would have to be coupled with a simple and secure way of voting. Maybe more postal voting and/or internet voting.
- Labour veterans oppose AV change (bbc.co.uk)
- Labour MPs back ‘no AV’ campaign (mirror.co.uk)
- Labour Ex-Ministers To Fight Voting Reform (news.sky.com)
- AV: the Party shouldn’t take sides (lukeakehurst.blogspot.com)
- Conservative and Labour heavyweights unite to crush Nick Clegg’s plans to change Britain’s electoral system (dailymail.co.uk)
- AV is not a democratic solution | Robert McIlveen (guardian.co.uk)