'Is AV really so complex? Or is it just confusion marketing?' blog discussion

edited 19 April 2011 at 10:04AM in Martin's Blogs & Appearances & MoneySavingExpert in the News
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  • What drives me is that it's the FPTP system that gave us a government whose policy was never voted for by anybody, and who insist on treating the electorate as idiots to be ignored as far as possible. Not only have we not had any meaningful action to prevent a recurrence of the financial meltdown, we now have MPs complainign that the new system of expenses just isn't fair.

    We need to make them feel truly accountable to all the electorate, and not feel free to actively campaign to a small percentage of the voting public.
  • jamesdjamesd Forumite
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    Blue_Eddie wrote: »
    What drives me is that it's the FPTP system that gave us a government whose policy was never voted for by anybody, and who insist on treating the electorate as idiots to be ignored as far as possible.
    Agreed. It's one of the strongest reasons to vote no, since that keeps the chance of a repeat performance as low as possible, instead of making it the likely result in most elections.
    Blue_Eddie wrote: »
    We need to make them feel truly accountable to all the electorate, and not feel free to actively campaign to a small percentage of the voting public.
    So you're going to vote no, right?

    Or are you planning to vote yes and stick with another coalition where the minority Liberal Democrats and other smaller parties get to play kingmaker again and let all the parties throw away their manifesto undertakings?

    The reason the Liberal Democrats insisted on this as a key part of the price for them working with the Conservatives is that they know it'll make them kingmaker in many more coalition governments and magnify their power to a level far beyond the level of their support they get from votes. While the current system keeps the chance of that to a fairly low level.
  • jamesdjamesd Forumite
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    but coalition governments are more likely nowadays, because of the way people are voting - hence the reason we are in a coalition which happened under FPTP.
    That happened because a lot of people were really annoyed at Labour and Brown, but not enough of them were willing to vote Conservative. So we ended up with the current fairly unusual situation.
    This should not be a vote for or against coalitions, as these will become more common no matter what the result is. This should be a vote about what the fairest way to elect members of parliament within a constituency.
    It's about elections for the House of Parliament, not local government elections. People should vote in the way that is most likely to give them a system for selecting a national government that can't renege on its election promises without being held accountable at the next election. Coalition governments that AV favours let the politicians off the hook and magnify the power of smaller parties. That's a recipe for even more unaccountable governments.

    I'm not in favour of a change to the system that makes it easier for politicians to get off the hook for not doing what they say they will do. They need to know that if they do go around ignoring voters and their promises, they are going to be voted out, not just have to rejuggle their coalition a bit.
  • MrChipsMrChips Forumite
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    It seems to me that when considering the choices available one should consider what, if anything, is wrong with the current system and whether AV offers any sort of improvement.

    Flaw 1: voters in safe seats have votes which don't count for anything. Unfortunately I don't know the statistics off hand but my feeling is that a significant number of constituencies have not changed hands for several elections are are unlikely to in the near future. The FTPT system means that anyone who lives there but doesn't support the winning candidate might as well not bother voting and in all liklihood some of them don't. That reduces turnout which makes it look like the country "doesn't really care" who runs it (reducing accountability) and means the results don't give a true picture of the feeling of the nation when overall numbers of votes are tallied.

    Does AV improve this? In my opinion yes. If the seats are ultra safe (i.e. more than 50% support for the leading candidate) then no, but I think that these seats are rare, and most safe seats tend to have around 40% votes for the leading candidate only. In such cases where there are candidates/parties who strongly divide opinion, there is a greatly improved chance that the remaining 60% can unite behind an alternative, unlike the existing system where the remaining votes are "wasted", being distributed amongst 5 or so other candidates.

    Flaw 2: tactical voting. Under the FPTP system in seats which are not "safe" people who support a candidate considered unlikely to win face a dilemma whether to vote not for their preferred candidate but for their favourite of the top 2 or 3. This means results do not truly reflect the views of the nation. Can a system which encourages people to vote for anyone other than whom they actually support be correct?

    Does AV improve this? Almost by definition yes as people in this position can still rank their preferred candidate as number 1, safe in the knowledge that if indeed the candidate does not fare well they can switch their vote to another candidate.

    Flaw 3: representation in parliament bears little resemblance to numbers of votes cast. As an example the "winning party" typically has more than 50% of seats on somewhere around 40% of the vote. Whereas a party, eg Lib Dems, which can pick up 25% of the vote can get less than 10% of the seats. For a country that likes to preach to others about being a civilised democracy, that doesn't sound quite right to me.

    Does AV improve this? Not necessarily. Will it make it worse? I don't think so.

    OK, what about arguments against AV that have been put forward.

    Argument 1: More coalitions, less accountability. This remains to be seen and depends on how voting patterns play out. At the end of the day I still remain to be convinced that coalitions are actually a bad thing. It seems a more natural state of being to me that situations are not black and white and that people with different opinions need to work together to reach a balanced conclusion. The alternative is to swing from one pole to the opposite every 5/10 years or so with the new government trying to undo and distance itself from the work of the previous government. Some say that parties won't have to keep their manifesto promises - since when have parties had to do that under FPTP?!

    Argument 2: More expensive and complicated. I think a previous poster has already covered this one. There is no material difference.

    Argument 3: More power for minority parties. This won't be possible unless they get more than 50% of votes in a seat, and surely if they manage that they deserve some power, even if you don't agree with them. That's democracy.

    Argument 4: FPTP is more British. Thanks Lord Reid.

    It won't surprise you that I am in favour of AV for the reasons above. Proportional representation would be a better system, but we can only vote for what is on offer. It is in the vested interest of the party in power to retain the system that got them there so you can be sure that if FPTP is kept it will be a loooooooong time before another referendum on voting reform. AV would be better than FPTP and a first step on the way.
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  • GooeyBlobGooeyBlob Forumite
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    neilleeds wrote: »
    There are further rounds of counting until there are two candidates (if nobody has yet got 50%) and at this point one would have more than 50%.

    Not necessarily, as some voters may not rank all candidates. For example, in a seat contested by 6 candidates, a voter may only wish to vote for 3 or 4 candidates because he/she doesn't like the others. If those candidates are subsequently eliminated, his/her vote is then discounted. So by the time the contest is down to the last 2 candidates, a number of voters will not have specified a preference for either.

    Under AV, it's still quite likely that a number of MPs would be elected with less than 50% of the vote, even when 2nd/3rd/4th etc preferences have been taken into account.
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  • trotter09trotter09 Forumite
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    Azari wrote: »
    No, it's not complicated because it's not complicated.

    Unless you happen to be an idiot.

    Absolutely. AV is as simple as can be. You put a 1 against your first choice, 2 against your second choice, etc. So if you want to vote yes, you vote like this:

    YES 1
    NO 2

    What could be simpler?
  • PasturesNewPasturesNew Forumite
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    I don't know anything about it. This is the 2nd thread I've spotted about AV in the past 2 days. Does it matter then? Why would I need to care/know?
  • MrChipsMrChips Forumite
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    I don't know anything about it. This is the 2nd thread I've spotted about AV in the past 2 days. Does it matter then? Why would I need to care/know?

    How will you decide which way to vote without knowing a bit about it?
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  • GooeyBlobGooeyBlob Forumite
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    trotter09 wrote: »
    Absolutely. AV is as simple as can be. You put a 1 against your first choice, 2 against your second choice, etc. So if you want to vote yes, you vote like this:

    YES 1
    NO 2

    What could be simpler?

    You could just as easily vote like this:

    YES 1

    If you put a 2 by the NO option, this means you vote NO if the YES option is eliminated.
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  • MrChipsMrChips Forumite
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    Consider the following hypothetical example. Party A is supported by 40% of the voters and Party B is supported by 60%. Party B wins the election.

    In the run up to the next election there is a split in Party B and a new party (Party C) is formed with half of Party B leaving to join the new party. As Party B and Party C have similar ideals they produce almost identical manifestos and supporters of both parties would be quite willing to vote for either of them.

    At the next election the results are Party A 40%, Party B 30.1%, Party C 29.9% and Party A is elected the winner under FPTP even though 60% of the electorate would prefer the proposals set out in the manifestoes of Parties B and C over Party A.

    Under AV, one of parties B or C would win (Party B in this example as Party C would be eliminated after the first count).

    People may disagree about which is the fairer outcome but in my mind Party B is a more deserving winner than Party A.
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