Vote YES to AV

Tomorrow is the last chance for electoral reform in our lifetimes.

The choice is between AV, the Alternative Vote, and FPTP, First Past The Post, the current system. Other forms of voting exist, but tomorrow’s choice is simple:

  • Yes: change the system to AV
  • No: stick with the current system

Be assured: voting No is a vote for the status quo. You won’t get another choice for PR or MMP or anything else at a later date. In this respect, the referendum echoes the binary choice that is often forced on voters by FPTP.

If you believe the Conservative narrative, FPTP delivered three terms of a Labour government that left the country broken and destitute.

If you believe the Labour narrative, FPTP has delivered a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government that is going to destroy the NHS, education, and leave the poor and disabled to starve.

If you believe either (or, indeed, both!) of those narratives and still think that FPTP serves us well, I’d invite you to interrogate your internal assumptions very carefully.

Some of the arguments against AV are rather specious: in particular, I refer to the idea that some voters are counted multiple times. This is meaningless from a mathematical perspective, but it also misses the point, which is to return a candidate with broad support from the constituency. In this respect, the fact that the Monster Raving Loony candidate is eliminated early and his voters’ second preferences go to a more popular candidate does not give them multiple votes: rather, it results in the returning of a candidate with wide appeal and greater legitimacy.

AV will, for the first time, allow us simply to vote for the people whom we want to represent us. No longer will we be forced into a binary choice between the only two possible winners in a constituency. No longer will we have to second-guess our neighbours’ voting patterns in order to cast our own ballots. No longer will the ballot choice resemble a dilemma from a dissertation on game theory. No longer will the direction of government be determined by the votes of a few tens of thousands of swing voters in marginal seats.

I encourage you to read a couple of very good posts on the subject before you vote:

  • Is AV better than FPTP?—a mathematician’s analysis of the subject that addresses many of the No to AV campaign’s arguments
  • On AV—a discussion of the relative merits and demerits of AV, FPTP, and PR

Vote yes tomorrow. Vote for a better system. Vote for a change, because it’s your last chance in this lifetime.


  1. Ed

    Wrote at 2011-05-04 20:32 UTC using Chrome 11.0.696.57 on Mac OS X:

    I found interesting too – especially the initial summary.
  2. Dan

    Wrote at 2011-05-05 02:39 UTC using Firefox 4.0.1 on Windows 7:

    Also, Antony Green, the Guru of the Australian voting system (where we have a system – CPV – very similar to the AV you’re voting on) is worth reading on this subject:

    Our system is awesome, and AV is even better. Hope you guys manage to get it in.
  3. DaveK

    Wrote at 2011-05-17 23:38 UTC using Firefox 3.5.3 on Windows XP:

    Well, it’s all over now, but I thought I’d explain my reasoning anyway.

    >“Tomorrow is the last chance for electoral reform in our lifetimes.”

    I don’t think that claim is backed by the evidence. When I was a kid in the late 70s, there was a referendum for Welsh devolution that voted against the idea; twenty years later there was another one, that voted for, and now we have devolved government in the regions. I think it’s reasonable to infer from that to other constitutional changes; they really aren’t “once in a lifetime” opportunities after all.

    Given that, I decided it was worth sacrificing this one particular chance for reform, because I reckoned the chance of destroying the coalition through stirring up internal dissent was our best chance to stop then doing irreparable and unreversable damage to the NHS, which is something I value above almost all the other achievements of civilisation. It’s a conscious trade-off, and of course anyone else’s M may V.

    Further to that, I think it’s also arguable that if we accept a not-what-we-really-want change now, that would be more likely to mean we wouldn’t get a chance to vote for a better system again in the near future, than if we reject it now. It’s hard to convince people to back constitutional change, and I think that trying to win repeated referenda making repeated incremental improvements is a less possible outcome than passing on one and trying to win a better one later. The public’s patience will rapidly desert them if it seems like we don’t know what we want and are just trying to engage in repeated tinkering; it’d be easier to get a more actually proportional system through by having one vote on it in the future than by trying to persuade people to keep chopping and changing over and again.

    So, that’s why I voted against. I totally agree with you that there were a bunch of specious arguments about supposed multiple counting trotted out by the No side; that was silly of them, and I think the reasons that I decided for were better more reasonable arguments, whether anyone happens to agree with them from their own perspective or not.

    (Also, not convinced by the “no longer will a ballot resemble an exercise in game theory” argument either; it’ll just represent a different exercise in game theory instead. As long as there’s any system at all, people will always try to second-guess it, hence game theory will arise.)