Monday, April 18, 2011

Dear Cru - How Should I Vote on AV?

A fan* writes: Does anyone else (like me) just not get how AV is supposed to be better than FPTP??? I have had it explained about the 50% of the votes bit, but how does ending up with someone who may have been many peoples 2nd or 3rd choice getting elected, become better? also it's hard enough with todays lot to even find a credible 1st choice! how the hell are we supposed to find another two???

OK listen carefully. The problem with politics is (I agree) that there are never any good candidates you really want to vote for. Why not? Well here's the trouble: imagine you have brilliant ideas and want to be a politician. You have two choices right? You could spend 20 years sucking up to one of the major parties even though you disagree with most of their policies and think their leaders are a bunch of corrupt dickheads. OR you could run as an independent or part of a smaller party (maybe your own, new, party) with a list of policies you actually want.

But here's the problem. Option one won't get your brilliant ideas into politics. It will just waste your life working for stuff you don't believe in.

But option two is worse. If you stand for election under the current system (FPTP or first past the post) you will simply split the vote for the party who is nearest to you. So lets say you're against student top-up fees. People now have to choose between you (no top-up fees), a "reduce the top-up fees" candidate, a "keep the fees the same" candidate" and an "increase the fees" candidate. So every vote you get is one less person voting "reduce the fees" or "keep the fees the same" and good news for the "increase the fees" candidate. In fact running as a candidate yourself significantly increases the likelihood that the ultimate winner will be someone who you completely disagree with.

However with AV your supporters can vote for you #1 and maybe that's enough to win and they can put "reduce the fees" #2, and "keep the fees the same" at #3. What they're saying is "if I can't have exactly what I want, I'd like the nearest thing available". Which should surely go without saying.

And importantly it means that new and independent candidates are encouraged to stand. Bringing more ideas into the system and giving us all more choice and more likelihood of finding a candidate we do believe in! And you can vote for them without "wasting" your vote. So you don't have to resort to "tactical voting" to keep hated parties out! You can actually vote for who you want to win and put your tactical choices as #2, #3,...

It's loads better than the current system. You should support it.

*not necessarily a fan of mine.


Steve Hemingway said...

You conclude by saying "And importantly it means that new and independent candidates are encouraged to stand." The problem is that they're still not going to get elected. I agree that getting votes but no power is better than nothing, but it's a pretty poor kind of consolation prize. Are indpendendents really going to keep standing once they've realised that?

You also say "So you don't have to resort to "tactical voting" to keep hated parties out! You can actually vote for who you want to win and put your tactical choices as #2, #3,..." Well, yes, up to a point. But what if you hate the ConDems *and* Labour? After all, they are increasingly homing in on indistinguishable policies, a sort of New Labour Lite. All we will discover is that a large part of the population support UKIP (or Green) policies at the ballot box. But we already knew this from opinion polls, and it hasn't affected policy very much.

Unknown said...

Great argument, I haven't heard that one before. It makes me sad not to have read that in the press somewhere (though I have been following the AV arguments very loosely).
However, I did find this article very convincing. I wonder what you think, if you have the time to read it.

Cruella said...

Yes I've had a peek at the article William. The main points are (1) AV is not as good as PR. I agree. But PR is not an option. If PR was on the option list I would definitely want it. But it's not - so we're choosing between FPTP and AV. AV is better.

And (2) what about if the last candidate to be knocked out has voters with second and third choices that would have affected the result if counted. Yes as with any voting system we can design a way to get a freak result. Right now with FPTP we can have a winner with only a tiny percentage of the vote provided there are dozens of other candidates picking up tiny percentages of the vote. And with AV you could - in theory - end up with a situation where you get a weird result that a minority (and it would have to be a minority) are unhappy with. But you also can't have a voting system where everyone gets what they want.

All we're asking is - is AV better than FPTP and the answer is clearly YES.

Cruella said...

And Steve - firstly because people don't need to vote tactically the likelihood of new, independent candidates getting elected is higher and the likelihood of them getting enough votes to frighten the big parties is also higher.

And yes you may well hate the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems. But right now with FPTP if you vote for none of them you might as well (with one or two tiny exceptions) throw your vote away. So people end up voting Labour cos they don't like the ConDems or Tory cos they hate Labour the most, etc. If you really have no preference between Tory Labour and Lib Dem you can simply vote for your first choice and leave it there. If you do have a lesser-of-three-evils view you can express it and if not enough people vote with you on your first choice yours still won't have been a wasted vote.