Thursday, 24 February 2011


Given people around me start to start families, I'm starting to see a key similarity between those that are saying they're voting "No" in the AV referendum because they want PR, and 2-3 year olds.

No doubt if you know of someone with a young child, or maybe if you've watched any of those "I need parenting help" TV programs, you'll have knowledge of the same mind-numbing lack of logic that is perhaps excusable in kids under the age of 5, but not so much for adults of voting age.

"Would you like some ice cream?"
"NO. I want chocolate cake"
"Well...we don't have chocolate cake, how about we get some chocolate cake another time?"
"I want it now"
"So you don't want ice cream?"

It's not a specific example I've seen, but in the vein of many of the examples you'll find out there. And it is, without pulling any punches, childish and narrow-minded.

With the referendum we are being offered an improvement over the current system on 5 levels.

1) Inclusiveness

In 2010 25% of people voted in such a way that their votes meant less to the over-all result. They are everyone that voted for a 3rd or worse placed candidate in their constituency. By voting that way they made a choice that made so little difference that they might as well have stayed home. It wouldn't have changed the winner, it wouldn't have changed the majority the winner had. Yet if they *had* voted tacitically (essentially making an AV result, without the rounds of AV) their vote would have made a difference, either increasing or decreasing the winner's majority to a more accurate show of like/dislike on policy areas, or could have changed the winner completely.

AV stops this unequal practice of people's votes being worth less than others (unless the voter chooses to make it so), by removing the last placed candidate and simulating another FPTP election as if that candidate hadn't stood, etc, etc until a winner is found.

2) Transparency

Along with the above comes transparency. We're ultimately diverse beings with diverse opinions. I personally appreciate Labour's approach to funding of public services, but I dislike their authoritarian streak. A Labour government tempered with a liberal edge would be my perfect party or coalition of government. But I can currently only vote for Labour or vote for Lib Dem. If I make the wrong choice, along with many other people in the constituency splitting their "left wing liberal" vote, then a Tory could win despite the opinions of people not fitting that bill.

AV enables us to say what we really feel, it's not tactical it's just honest. And furthermore it gives us and the parties much more information about the type of policies the constituency really wants, and better informs governance as a result.

3) Honesty

And this transparency can only be achieved because AV enables a much greater level of honesty. Sure, there are situations where tactical voting can exist, though it is much less rational or possible under AV than it is under FPTP. The vast majority of seats will see people simply being able to state their true preferences, to say who they really want.

Currently people might be forced (or feel forced) to vote negatively under FPTP, not through an honest wish for that candidate to win, but to stop someone else. AV ensures that your first vote need NEVER be a tactical one, and always an honest choice on who you want to represent you.

4) Representativeness

And as such AV is clearly more representative. By running elections in such a way that we ask the question "What if the election under FPTP had been run only with the most popular candidates?" As such we whittle the list down, keeping the most popular candidates in, and eventually selecting the most popular of them.

Now representativeness can be measured in other ways, you can also claim there may be a more representative result available than under AV, but the fact remains that the result under AV will be a more knowingly representative one than under FPTP...even if the same candidate wins that would have under FPTP, we know exactly how much more they're supported by people than first appeared, or how much less.

5) Choice

All of the above are available as improvements because the choice for voters is moved to being an active and free participant to whatever level they wish. If they want to still put a single "X" down under AV, they can. If they want to preference everyone, they can. FPTP drains this up front choice from voters, making them decide between honesty and tactics, only informing them of how "equal" their participation is after the result, not guaranteeing it from the beginning to whatever level they wish it to be the case.

These above are not opinions, the are logical facts. If you wish to ignore them then that's your choice, but you are acting the same as that immature and illogical child. The only difference is you don't have the excuse to not know better.