Tuesday, 25 January 2011

An AV analogy

The claim that AV is too confusing, or isn't something people will understand or use always seems false to me. Millions of people every year vote in the X Factor, and this in itself is a form of alternative vote. It's not exactly comparable as people can join and exit the vote as they please, and people get more than one vote...

But the process of everyone positively voting for who they most like from a list, and eliminating the weakest before doing the process again and again until a winner is found is not so much a foreign and abstract idea, more an every day commercial reality in our entertainment industry.

This doesn't stop people from thinking it's unfair though, so I thought of this little analogy to help you understand that while it is not perfect, it is clearly a fair and inclusive system.

Miss Jones is an English teacher for 30 students, and she wants to get them to study with material that will enthuse them and encourage them to keep reading outside of class. Rather than picking a book thinking she knows exactly what the kids like, or doing a straw poll, she picks several genres out... adventure, horror, poetry, comedy or romance.

Each of the 30 students are asked to write down which type of genre they'd like and when everyone's done to hold it the card up with their choice.

The first time they all do this and the results are...

Comedy: 8
Horror: 8
Poetry: 3
Romance: 1

Romance isn't very popular, it seems..but then they are a class of mostly boys, maybe that's not surprising. The student that voted for romance is asked to change their vote to one of the remaining four, Adventure, Comedy, Horror or Poetry.

The student decides if they can't read Romance in class, they'd prefer Adventure, leaving the result as...

Adventure: 11
Comedy: 8
Horror: 8
Poetry: 3

Those three students wanting poetry are a little disappointed, but know they can change their vote now. The genre's of Adventure, Comedy and Horror clearly have a lot of support in the class; the poetry students are happy to be able to say that if they can't have poetry, 2 of them would prefer comedy, and 1 would prefer horror.

Our results now stand as...

Adventure: 11
Comedy: 10
Horror: 9

With horror the least favourite now, those that voted for that have an opportunity to change their choice between Adventure and Comedy. 6 decide to go with comedy, 3 with Adventure...

Adventure: 14
Comedy: 16

Comedy wins it, the class has spoken and after having been focused on reallocating their choices based on the popularity of genres everyone else in the class gave, it's clear that the majority would prefer to read something funny. Unfortunately 14 people may feel that they've lost out. However if the teacher had only taken that first vote then 16 people, or more due to the nature of only one vote, would have felt they lost out.

So which is fairer? To me it's clear...the system that leaves less people feeling like they've lost out is king.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Labour leadership election 2010, and AV

Labour's leadership election produced the right result. There is plenty said by people about how the wrong man won, how it was David's win stolen by Ed...I don't particularly care, both to me lacked the direction I wanted to see from the party.

What irks me is the claim that AV as a voting system is shown to be bad because of this result. Utter tosh, on three levels.

1. The result was conducted in terms that everyone understood, as has happened in the past, with a defined electorate - all of which have the right to a say
2. The AV election for the Labour leadership is a weighted system, so not every person's vote counts the same. A Labour MP has a bigger say than a member, who means more to the result than a union member. This is incomparable with the system proposed for the UK General Elections.
3. The result was, on a person by person, one person one vote basis Ed's win with a clear margin anyway. So Ed won not only under the system as designed (as wrong as that weighted system may or may not be), but he'd have won under a normal AV election too.

Round 1: 114205 votes for David, 125,649 for Ed.
Round 2: 118175 (+4370) votes for David, 137599 (+11950) for Ed.
Round 3: 127389 (+9214) votes for David, 149675 (+12076) for Ed.
Round 4: 147220 (+19831) votes for David, 175519 (+25844) for Ed.

Is that simple enough to understand? In FPTP terms, without weighting, Ed won. In AV terms, without weighting, Ed won. In AV terms with weighting, Ed won. The only situation that Ed didn't win was the fictional, and completely redundant argument of if FPTP had been used with the weightings. Ed even gained more support every round compared to David!

Should only MPs and Members be able to vote on who leads the Labour party, that's what this result *really* asks. The voting system is not even in question, the only "problem" here is that those who are directly involved with, and directly pay money to, the Labour party clearly wanted David more...but the union's bought in vote changed that. If the result was unpalatable it wasn't because of the system, it's because unions have had the right to let their member's voices be heard in the leadership election too.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

THAT running analogy...and why it's still wrong.

Some people clearly aren't yet in tune with how to make an analogy that works. The one that always bothers me is the "running a race" analogy for FPTP and AV.

For a start, a race is not a good analogy to FPTP. Sure, on the face of it the example seems to fit, everyone's in a race, the winning line is the close of polls, the person that crosses that line fastest (or with the most support in real terms) is the winner.

But let's think..if you're Usain Bolt, do you run slower if you've got more people competing against you, or faster? Under FPTP if you're a strong candidate, more candidates in the running just takes more support from you (or makes you slower, see?). Now under what reality can we say that racing the 100m is therefore analogous to FPTP as a system?

So, for a start the whole "FPTP is the first person crossing the line in a race" thing is bollocks.

But then, because on the face of it the analogy *appears* to be good, the attempt is made to shoehorn AV into the same discussion of a single occurrence of a race.

AV, according to FPTP supporters, is like everyone finishing the race and then giving the medal to the third place runner instead of the first. Really?

For a start trying to boil down a whole election under AV into a single running of a race is a false analogy. If we're going to be accurate then AV is a full competition of running events, from qualifying all the way up to the final. In the first round we run the race and the slowest runner is told to go home. It's run again and the slowest runner in that race is asked to leave. This happens over and over again until either the first place runner has beat the combined times of the remaining runners, or we're down to a straight one-on-one sprint.

No "third place" person ever gets the medal, it's always the first place runner that'll win the race under AV, but the field of runners will have been systematically reduced by taking away the slowest...the same kind of practice that happens on any professional athletic stage.

As you can see, the running event is actually much more analogous to racing than FPTP, despite the racing analogy being "owned" by the FPTP crowd, but only if you use the analogy correctly...in which case it completely fails to represent FPTP as a system.

Would any of you say that it is wrong to run qualifying rounds in the 100m, eliminating the slowest, until we end up with a race between the two fastest? Perhaps you oppose the whole ethos of competitive sport as much as you oppose AV?

So, in conclusion..again...please keep your analogies relevant!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

What is AV to me?

AV is a voting system that is fairer than FPTP. Why?

AV lets me keep a link to my constituency MP, like with FPTP.

AV lets me vote for who I want to win the election, like with FPTP.

AV also lets me vote in a way that also lets me vote against a candidate I don't want in the election, without tactical voting, UNLIKE FPTP.

AV is transparent, or at least much more transparent than FPTP, because I know full well who everyone is voting for in my area. Politically I can see the *real* politics of my neighbours, not the potentially obfuscated votes that could have been placed tactically.

With this, under AV, I know exactly how large the extremist/fascist vote is, and how much of a problem it is that needs to be tackled, unlike FPTP.

With AV I know that my MP can never be elected while being, initially, the most disliked candidate, unlike FPTP.

AV free's me to care only about my own preferences, not to worry about what everyone else's preferences may be, unlike FPTP.

With AV candidates don't only have to concentrate on the swing vote in their constituency, about 5-10% of the electorate...but ALL of the electorate, to get further preferences, including opposition party die hard's, unlike FPTP.

With AV I know that my MP can never be a BNP member without 50% of the voters ultimately wanting them, unlike FPTP.

With AV I know that the winner will have a much, much greater chance of being shown to have endorsement by over 50% of the voters involved than under FPTP.

With this, I know that under AV our MPs will have a greater understanding of what type of politician they're looking for... capitalist, socialist, leftist, rightist, conservative or liberal, and have the opportunity to represent us properly. This opportunity of understanding is significantly lower with FPTP.

With AV I know that a fair proportion of MPs, up to two thirds as it stands, will know that their vote is only secured to parliament by voters that don't necessarily prefer them in parliament in an ideal world, and could switch their endorsement easily. This also isn't known under FPTP.

Therefore with AV I know that my parliament is locally representative, unlike FPTP.

With AV I know that coalitions are no more or less likely over time than with FPTP.

With AV I could even have multiple members of my party stand in the same election, with no fear of splitting the vote, allowing me to rank *better* MPs within parties, if it were to be put...unlike FPTP.

This is why, despite my greater wish for PR, I support AV fully. It's a better system, a system we can trust more, and we should be supporting it for it's own merits as much as a potential route for greater reform.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

How To.... make an analogy

Dear AV/FPTP debaters.

I know making analogies are hard, they're perfect tools for representing the complexities of voting systems in "every day" ways, but they're being abused, misused. Right now, if they were living things we'd have a government task force cracking down on this abuse right away. But they're not...so here are a few handy hints.

Choosing your setting

When talking about FPTP or AV you are talking about voting systems where multiple people are making independent decisions that will affect a change or direction for one thing that affects all participants. An accurate example may be multiple people choosing where to collectively go for dinner, or multiple people deciding where to put the printer in the office.

It'd be false to have multiple effects in play, as this wouldn't represent the "MP" factor of the single member constituency.

Talking about preferences

When you vote you put down an X under FPTP, or a list of preferences under AV. No matter which way you vote you ultimately choose to put a mark next to a candidate, or to not put a mark against a candidate.

If your analogy starts to talk about levels of "care" or "weight" then beware! Ensure that you are being fair with your analogy and using this weighting in the right manner. Whether talking about FPTP or AV, you can never know how much a person "weights" their own choices. You can compare internally but not externally.

For example, I can say with full confidence that person X prefers radishes to sprouts, and person Y prefers lettuce to radishes. What I cannot say with full confidence from this information is that person Y cares less about radishes than person X.

If your actors in the analogy are making decisions, when talking about a voting system, they aren't discussing their individual beliefs with each other...they are making a statement for a single candidate. As soon as your analogy starts to compare actors' influences or intentions then it is no longer analogous with a voting system.


Adding time in to your analogy for AV should be frowned upon, but isn't always wrong. As long as actors do not change their choices, and act honestly, then decisions can take place in either an instant run off or a normal run off manner. If you find yourself in a situation whereby actors are using previous decisions made in the scenario to inform their further decision, then you too have left analogy-land.

Use these basic principles and go forth! Make your own analogy garden full of happy examples and representations of reality; free them from the abusive shackles to which they're currently cruelly contained.

Ignorance or lies? Or both?

Take a look at the blog post here by "dbirkin". It's worth a look as I think that in all honesty it is probably the most confusing aspect of the AV vs FPTP debate. It comes down to things I've spoken about before, the lack of a Condorcet method, for ensuring the winner is always the most popular, on the table. It's easy to use it against AV, but to do so without realising that it's also an argument against FPTP is false.

The problem with DBirkin's argument is he's only looking at one half of the problem, that of AV's ability to hit a specific scenario whereby the "most supported" is actually the third place candidate overall. The whole picture needs to be told to be fair to those that are trying to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each system.

This scenario mentioned above requires, statistically, for more people from the first and/or second placed parties to support the third party as their second preferences for a combined total, than the combined number of their rival's first preferences with the transfer of the third party's second preferences.

To try and visualise this, see the preference table below.

20 A voters, second preferences - 20 for C.
15 B voters, second preferences - 15 for B.
10 C voters, second preferences - 1 for A, 9 for B

In this scenario a potential vote score of 30 is available for C, and this can't be beaten by a combination of B's voters and C's 9 preferences moving to B.

However change it up a bit, to be a little bit more realistic.

20 A voters, second preferences - 10 for C, 10 don't transfer.
15 B voters, second preferences - 8 for B, 7 don't transfer.
10 C voters, second preferences - 4 for A, 4 for B, 2 don't transfer.

In this scenario the potential score for C is only 20, whereas A will have 24 by comparison, being a worthy winner.

The assertion by DBirkin here is that the scenario at the top means the whole system is worse than FPTP. So. How would it work under FPTP?

20 A voters, 15 B voters, and 10 C voters. Unfortunately, as DBirkin admits, FPTP is ignorant. We don't know specifically who people are voting for and why. But let's take one possible example, using the same figures as a FPTP scenario.

of the 20 voters for A 10 are true supporters, 2 are ex -B voters, 8 are C voters...but all vote (tactically or not) to give A support.
Of the 15 B voters, 14 want B and 1 would rather have C but don't like the rise of A support and want to try and stop it.
Of the 10 C voters all are primarily C voters.

This gives a "real" first preference count (for example, under AV) of...

12 A supporters
14 B supporters
19 C supporters.

Yet the system is such that enough people have to guess about how people are going to vote that they actually turn their first place support in to last place ranking.

The reality is that far from saying "FPTP is ignorant, but AV is a lie"...actually FPTP is ignorant, and it's ALSO a lie (we can never tell under FPTP when it's lying to us or not outside of safe seats, unlike AV!). AV can certainly be a lie...but at least it's a white lie.

What do I mean by this, white lie?

FPTP can result not only in the most preferred candidate losing, but in the LEAST preferred candidate winning (in terms of first preferences). This is the travesty of the broken system of FPTP, delivering results that are actually the opposite of what people initially want.

With AV we see more honest initial preferences, though this can still lead to DBirkin's "lie" scenario. However unlike FPTP there is no chance of the initially most hated party being voted in to power, they are eliminated in the first round. We may end up with an MP that is not the most popular, but that happens every election under FPTP currently. It's not ideal, but at least we know that the winner is one of the most popular to begin with!

So under AV, the lie can be no worse than what we have currently, and in certain situations could be more representative, or endorsed, than the lie we have to live with under FPTP. In even more situations AV will deliver the candidate who is, on balance, the most endorsed, and isn't a lie at all.

To use this argument of results being a "lie" against AV is to also use it against FPTP. It is not an argument against reform, but one of criticising the practice of using non-Condorcet methods...of which both AV and FPTP can be described. We don't have a Condorcet method on the table, we have only AV or FPTP; In that comparison it's clear which system provides the more fair results.

AV a lie? No more so than FPTP already is, and no where near as ignorant or potentially unrepresentative on a local level.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Prescott's slur on Clegg, misreading the data!

THAT'S why Clegg supports AV RT @tobyperkinsmp Lib Dems would support Tories 2nd ahead of Labour by 51% to 16% #no2av http://bit.ly/ep7xDG

From the fingers of @JohnPrescott. *Sigh*.

Check out the YouGov survey for yourself. Here are the facts...

1. The survey shows Lib Dem support at 8%.

At this level the Lib Dems aren't going to affect anything nationally other than to increase the majority of one party or the other. So much for "increasing coalitions" eh? At 8% the Lib Dems will only effect the outcome of something like 15% of all seats (these are seats where the two main runners are within that 8% of each other, if the spread was even and none of those seats contained Lib Dem in the top two runners...so obviously a rough estimate).

2. The survey shows that these 8% currently support a Tory government led by Cameron, rather than a Labour government led by Ed Miliband.

Does this show that Lib Dems prefer Tories to Labour? Or does it show that this core support of 8% are going to currently support the party line of supporting the coalition? Is it a statement of support for the Tories or for Cameron? Is it that they don't like Labour, or is it just Ed that they dislike? This is such an open an ambiguous question from the get go.

3. The survey also shows that Lib Dems (at the time of the Election), who may have no switched to support other parties, prefer Labour to Tories (or Cameron to Ed, etc) by 27% to 38%.

This shows that what has happened here is that people claiming to support Lib Dems are now the mostly entrenched and loyal. All the Labour-friendly voters have, it seems, decided they don't want to vote for the Lib Dems any more.

4. Clegg and Lib Dems put AV on the table around the time of the election, so when the Lib Dems were more likely to shift support to Labour.

Prescott now choosing this survey to make a partisan jab at the Lib Dems and Clegg by aligning them with the Tories on reform is an extremely pathetic and narrow view of the data that has been presented. Unless John thinks that Nick is a fortune teller and knew exactly how the support for his party would wane and switch by joining the coalition and acting the way he has, before he did any of it?


Friday, 14 January 2011

AV and Plurality

Plurality. It is the ultimate aim of electing parliaments and MPs. No representatives that haven't got the absolute most support of everyone (all opinions considered).

AV nor FPTP deliver this in every situation, sad as that is given the options we have in this referendum coming up.

But we need to judge the systems on the merits they have, in comparison to each other. A condorcet method, nor a PR-esque method if on the table. We're being asked do we want to stick with what we got or go with AV. To make the move to AV we need to know it's an improvement.

I think it demonstrably is, but some get caught up on this whole plurality lark.

Right now we have FPTP which returns MPs from 2/3rds of the constituencies of our land, somewhere near 400 or more seats, a huge number, who don't necessarily have the most support from their constituency. By using FPTP we are opting for a "simple" system that doesn't give us enough information to tell if local voters can be happy and feel they are properly represented nationally.

This isn't to say those MPs *aren't* the most popular, but with our simple FPTP system we cannot know. We are simply making an assumption that they are because it is logistically easy for us to do so and ensures that winners can be reported first thing on a Friday morning.

AV ensures that at the very least the constituency gets an MP that it doesn't hate...or more accurately ensures that the candidate elected has the endorsement of over 50% of the original turn out, and where that candidate doesn't (as can happen under FPTP in those 400+ seats) at least unlike FPTP we can ensure that they are the least hated candidate.

AV is not a system where one vote is used by every person to go in to a perfect equation or system that ensures the absolutely most popular, the "plurality choice" is elected. It's disingenuous for anyone on the "Yes" side to claim otherwise. Instead we have to think about the break down of the system and what is being asked.

Everyone is given a first choice, and that first set of preferences decides who the most popular MPs are. From that point we know the last placed candidate, the least liked. In the second round we aren't asking everyone to vote again, as in a "run off" system, but to have pre-placed their preferences so that if their candidate is removed to enable their vote to move to someone that is still in the running.

This isn't the way to gain a view of plurality. But the system isn't trying to attain that, it's a series of FPTP elections held sequentially, with a diminishing list of candidates at each stage. Those supporting the weakest candidate are essentially being asked "Look, you can't have that choice, choose from this lot instead".

Come the end what we're doing is collectively judging our candidates. We're coming to a consensus in each round of elimination as to who is the worst of the candidates remaining, but not then (like FPTP) telling those voters that support the worst candidate in that round that their further opinion doesn't matter.

This isn't plurality, but it doesn't mean that it isn't fair; it's just a system that delivers a different way to come to a consensus over the right candidate for the constituency.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Do all votes count under AV?

As always I can rely on @CharlotteV to bring up a deceitful and twisted argument to try and persuade people to vote No. Her latest today is that (supposedly) unlike FPTP, not everyone's vote counts under AV.


Don't be fooled in to thinking that because some people are taking the perfectly acceptable option of "spoiling" their ballot if they have no preferred candidate left in the rounds of counting, that their vote somehow hasn't counted or has been worthless.

Where votes count

We all know how FPTP works. One person, one vote, one candidate. Simple, done. It does mean that if you're not supporting a candidate that is the winner last time around, or is within 10% of the vote share of the winner last time, that your best bet is to either vote tactically or not turn up at all, but it's simple.

Charlotte Vere wishes to make us believe that AV, by comparison, ignores voters. This is the stock line of attack for the No to AV campaign, take a truth and then pretend the opposite is true.

@robertcp Under FPTP every vote is counted. Under AV, not every vote is counted - only those with sufficient no of prefs. #no2av

AV and choice

AV gives more voters a larger voice. It allows you to vote for your candidate, and then let the constituency know that if your preferred candidate is gone that you'd also be happy to be represented by other candidates in a specific order of preference. This could be all the other candidates, or perhaps not all of them. Maybe you hate Tories, or Labour, or Lib Dems, and you'd never put your vote to them.

Charlotte is claiming that because those people that choose not to put down full preferences can find themselves in a situation where their ballot is exhausted in the final round of counting, for example by leaving a preference for the Lib Dems and Labour blank and those being the final two parties standing, that their vote is not being counted.

This doesn't mean their vote hasn't been counted any more than their vote isn't counted under FPTP. Their first preference was counted, perhaps that kept their first preference from being eliminated early and thus has instantly effected the election outcome. When their first preference was knocked out their vote transfered and started to count towards a different candidate. Under FPTP this vote would have already run it's course, yet under AV it is instead given to someone else to reflect that voters preference over who represents them out of the remaining field.

All along, their vote has been counted, has been a part of the process that has decided who gets eliminated or not, who goes through to each round, but then Charlotte thinks because an unfortunate outcome (for that voter) in the final round of counting their vote no longer counts when their ballot of preferences is exhausted?


Think about it. Essentially what is happening here is that, when it boils down to it, the constituency as a whole has said that they want either candidates from Labour or Lib Dems (in the above example) to be their MP. If those two were the only choices under FPTP, and our example voter decided not to turn up, or to spoil their ballot, because they couldn't vote for either of them...would that be someone's vote "not being counted"? No. It's an active choice by that voter to not endorse the candidates on offer, to make an indirect statement that the election has not enabled or encouraged them to endorse one candidate or the other.

This is exactly what is happening under AV, the voter has, by not putting all preferences down, stated that if the result comes down to being between prospective MPs that they do not wish to put preferences down for, that they would rather not "turn up".

They have under AV, unlike under FPTP where your chosen candidate needs to be either the last winner or within 10% of the winner to have a realistic chance of winning, at least had the opportunity to try and influence the result, to give much greater information about their political opinion...but like FPTP aren't forced to vote for a candidate that they can't support.

This isn't votes not counting, it's voters having the choice to vote for exactly who they want, or not vote if their choices are too limited. Their votes in the first round have counted just as much as under FPTP, and then every vote counts MORE than under FPTP through the expression of deeper political preference in each further round.

So there we are. As I say, No 2 Av will take a truth and pretend the opposite is true. They have here decided that they don't like the fact that AV gives people more of a voice, to make their vote work harder for them, and are instead attempting to mislead people in to believing that AV ignores your votes instead. Disgusting.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Instant or Non-Instant run off?

I just want to start by saying this is a stupid argument to even be commenting on. We haven't got run off voting on the table and it never was on the table. The introduction of "Why not use Run-Off Voting instead of Instant Run-Off Voting (or AV)" Is an argument intended to obfuscate the debate and detract us from what we should be doing... extolling the virtues of AV over and above FPTP.

But, here is a post that explains why the argument is bunkum anyway. Don't engage with trolls for long periods of time, just give them this link!


In case you're adverse to reading long articles... IRV, or AV, would produce no different results in the UK, given our political makeup, than Non-Instant Run-Off Voting. To try and debate the fairness of IRV versus Run-Off Voting in the UK is to ignore that ours is a three party politics, and is a debate only introduced to try and wrong foot someone for kudos points that really aren't cashable anywhere outside of debate club.

The differences

The differences between AV and Run-Off Voting are small but important. AV asks individuals to give an honest preference list to be used to elect the highest supported candidate in an elimination style election. Run-Off Voting asks individuals to, round by round, state who they'd prefer from the remaining candidates while being able to alter their preferences based on who's left in the running.

It sounds similar, and in practice they are as good as identical, but there are some scenarios where not having an instant run-off is beneficial.

They are few and far between, and tend not to occur unless there are four highly supported candidates in the running for one post...but to clarify here is the situation under which AV is deficient...

How it works

Candidates A, B, C and D all have around 20% of the vote. Candidate A is most supported by first preferences, D least supported. The trouble (under both instant and non-instant run-off systems) is that D supporter's second opinions are now read before the supporters of A, B, C.

This happens regardless of system, D has no chance of winning. Under a non-instant system, however, D may look at the landscape different. Perhaps D supporters thought that they wouldn't be going out in the first round, and so their second preference was ill-chosen. Whereas under AV all of D's votes may have transferred to C, under a non-instant system those voters might choose to support B instead based on the numbers.

The real world

But in reality how is this really going to work? Most seats only have three main parties contesting them, if they even have more than two parties in the running. Those parties are the Lib Dems, Labour and Tories. Statistics from after the election show that Lib Dems would tend to give their votes almost equally between the two other parties, while the other two parties split almost equally between the lib dems and not voting for anyone else.

In seats where Lib Dems are the least popular of the last three remaining parties, they will most likely not change the status quo, unless the constituency itself is specifically more socialist or libertarian in it's blood. In seats where the Tories are the least popular of the last three remaining parties they'll give what votes they will to the Lib Dems, which may or may not push the Lib Dems above Labour. The same happens in reverse if Labour are the least popular of the three remaining parties.

Given this knowledge we have of people's opinions, are we ever going to be in a situation where the Lib Dem supporters being knocked out before the final round would have put their preferences down mostly for Labour under AV, but would have changed that to Tories under Run-Off Voting? No, we're not. Equally are Tories or Labour ever going to vote for each other because they have an opportunity before the next round of voting in a Run-Off election, as opposed to their original preference for Lib Dems under AV?

Those that are trying to obfuscate the advantages of AV by talking about Run-Off Voting are doing so without any sense of reality. AV is, at the end of the day, a way to put your true preferences on a piece of paper and let the collective opinions of the local area combine to find the best candidate in a knock out format. The idea that those true preferences would then change in such a polarised political society as ours is laughable.

The exception?

There is a statistically fantastic thing that can happen whereby voters could be better off trying to vote tactically for someone else...for example Tories could recognise that by coming last their second preferences would transfer to Lib Dems instead of Lib Dems transfering to Labour, thus denying Labour a seat.

The likelihood of this scenario being present, however, is a) extremely unlikely and b) relies on voters knowing for sure what multiple levels of opinion will be in their constituency. Is that relevant in this argument?

It may well be an argument, a relevant one, for the condorcet supporters among us, but not for Run-Off voting, where exactly the same action is needed as under AV, with no additional opportunity to "rig" results due to the lack of diversity of supported candidates.


Again, just think... will a pause between voting rounds really make Tory voters vote for Labour as a second preference when they wouldn't have done so under AV?

So, aside from the use of the diversion tactics of the No camp to talk about systems other than the AV or FPTP on the table, this particular diversionary tactic doesn't even make any sense given how the results between instant and non-instant run off systems with our particular diversity of political opinion are almost indistinguishable!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

AV, Spread of Opinion, and how it ISN'T a cause of coalitions

I've posted about this before, that the voting system under a single member constituency system isn't the cause of coalitions, nor is it the defense against them...that in fact it's spread of opinion nationally, and how groups of people congregate in their constituencies under a political landscape that has more than 2 parties achieving sizeable support.

In the comments I gave a worked example, so I thought I'd give it it's own post for clarity. Take a rather basic example of 5 equal sized constituencies, they have the following (very) rough make up....

1: Tory 60%, Labour 30%, Lib Dem 10%
2: Tory 40%, Labour 30%, Lib Dem 20%
3: Tory 30%, Labour 45%, Lib Dem 25%
4: Tory 25%, Labour 30%, Lib Dem 45%
5: Tory 20%, Labour 45%, Lib Dem 35%

The Tories achieve a total vote share of 35%, Labour 36% and Lib Dems 27%

Under FPTP this returns Tory - 2, Labour - 2 and Lib Dem 1. Hung.

Under AV, we (for the sake of this example) assume the second preference always goes to Lib Dem from Tory or Labour, but from Lib Dem it always goes to Labour.

The new result under AV would be Tory - 1, Labour - 2, Lib Dem - 2. Hung as well, though potentially with a much strong "massive" coalition of Labour and Lib Dems.

Now see what happens if the constituencies change to the following. Note that I'm not changing the proportional share of voted "nationally" (or across all constituencies), only how they're share is balanced in each area...

1: Tory 44%, Labour 41%, Lib Dem 10%
2: Tory 56%, Labour 39%, Lib Dem 10%
3: Tory 25%, Labour 45%, Lib Dem 30%
4: Tory 15%, Labour 30%, Lib Dem 55%
5: Tory 35%, Labour 25%, Lib Dem 40%

FPTP would now return Tory - 2, Labour 1, Lib Dem - 2

But under AV we'd now have Tory - 1, Labour - 1, Lib Dem - 3.

Notice how in the first example the hung parliament is the same proportion as in the second example, just with different people in power. But in the second example AV actually moves us AWAY from a hung parliament.

So there you have it. AV can cause coalitions where FPTP would normally have delivered a majority, but they can also cause a majority where FPTP would have delivered a coalition.

With boundary changes coming that we are still to find out the effects from, and several years of political wrangling in an obviously tense climate, it'd be insane to try and predict right now whether EITHER voting system would return a coalition or not at the next election.

In short, it's not practical (or honest) to claim that AV is a coalition making system.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

No 2 Av's new leaflet: Lies, Damn Lies and statistics

The new No2Av leaflet is out, and you can check it out here. Time for a bit of fisking...

Learn about the proposals

An education does await, but perhaps not the kind we'd expect...

Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats want Britain to change the way we vote to a method of voting called the ‘Alternative Vote’, sometimes called AV for short.

Good first spin, It's all about Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems, not all of us independent thinkers and reformers who want to move away from a system the IPPR has today described as "broken"

A referendum is planned for May, when we all get to vote whether we agree with him or not.

And the rest of the independent thinking reformers, Labour supporters, even Tory ones!

And we think it is right to be suspicious why the party that is pushing in the change is the Liberal Democrats.

Because it's the first time Lib Dems have had any power for a long while and the Tories and Labour are notorious in their inability to reform parliament and politics without a Telegraph sting attached to it?

We’re all angry about the way some politicians abused our trust with their expenses – but that doesn’t mean that the system for electing them is at fault.

Except the evidence points one way...MPs that have the safest, most incontestable, seats abused expenses the most. Marginality and fear of losing their seat seemed to keep the other MPs a little more honest!

After all, the current system, called ‘First Past the Post’ where the winner is the one that comes first, has stood our country, and many others around the world, in good stead for hundreds of years.

Same could have been said about women not having the vote, homosexuals not having equal rights, or smallpox...can't say I'm unhappy for those long standing afflictions to have disappeared.

At election after election, it has given the country the kind of government it was seeking – the occasional coalition mixed in with plenty of strong governments that reflected the type of leadership the country wanted at the time.

Except we don't know this for sure except during the deepest of our two party politics days. FPTP wasn't a problem when it was only ever "either/or" not, "either/or and perhaps". New political landscapes have brought with it a need for some better and more enlightened thinking. None of which you'll see in this leaflet.


1. It creates strong governments

It can do! As can AV! You see, as I've explained previously it is not the electoral system that creates a government's structure, but how our opinion is dispersed throughout this fine land. That's why FPTP has this time not created a strong government (though in all honesty, as far as weak coalition governments go, this one has been pretty strong on the legislation side, hasn't it?) and why it may well not do again for some time

2. It's simple to understand

So's picking a name out of a hat. Since when has simplicity been a reason to hold back democracy?

3. It excludes extremist parties

No it doesn't. The Greens are pretty extreme (though not in the "bad BNP" sense) and they got a seat under FPTP. Why? Splintering of opinion. Under AV the greens could win that seat again, or the wider view of the constituency could be they really don't want a Green MP and they could lose it. One thing is for certain, parties like the BNP can get in to power with just 30%ish support under FPTP, but would need 50% under AV.

4. It's cheap

See number 2, since when should what can only ever be described as a marginal increase in cost hold back democracy?

5. It's fair

I need to quote the lie here...

One person, one vote – unlike AV, where supporters of minority parties end up getting multiple votes.

In AV you get one vote. It transfers if your candidate is knocked out. Is it counted more than those that don't transfer? NO. It is counted in every round that it exists once, same as every other vote. EVERYONE gets multiple votes, most of them just end up being for the same person in each round which gives the illusion of being counted less.

6. It's the most widely used system in the world

So what? Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world, perhaps we should all be converting? Each country has it's own needs and quirks, and this country is one that is once again starting it's move towards a more representative and fairer political system.

7. It's quick and easy to count

See 2 and 4, since when does how quick you get the result have to hold back democracy?

So there we are, the big 7! Tada! Even if 3 of them are redundant arguments that put logistics and penny counting ahead of the voice of the voter, 1 is an outright lie and 2 apply equally to AV. So.. uh.. the big 1 reason then! "Its popular elsewhere". What an endorsement for FPTP!

But this is but a taste of the leaflet, let's carry on...

AV is not wanted

Even those who want to change the way we vote don’t want AV. Before the general election, Nick Clegg described AV as “a miserable little compromise” and the Electoral Reform Society said they did “not regard it as suitable for the election of a
parliament”. Both Nick Clegg and the ERS now support the AV system and are campaigning for us to support it as well. But we
know they’ll want to change it again in a few years’ time!

So? Clearly the idea of continued reform is too "costly", "complicated" and "time consuming" for the No2Av camp to comprehend being a good thing. The key to all of the above is that the above organisations want a different system, yet they will still take AV over FPTP. Isn't the message here that it's time to move away from FPTP and get some power back to the voters?

AV would have no effect on safe seats

The No2Av camp going completely arse about face on this one. Is it a terrible thing that people elected with majorities straight away get their seat, I'm confused! This is clearly "fight every point against AV, even if it makes no sense from my stance of supporting FPTP!" tactics.

I'll say it again, who the hell wants overwhelmingly popular MPs to not get their seat in parliament?

AV is complex

The Government will have to spend millions of pounds explaining to voters how AV works to prevent a fall in turnout at elections. In Australia, the only reason they have high turnout is because they made voting compulsory

a) Cost shouldn't be a barrier to better democracy, b) You're already sent a letter explaining the process through the post with your polling card, the "cost" is already there every election c) There is no evidence that turnout would fall in the UK, turnout is mostly linked to marginality (or likelihood of a seat to change hands) and that is increased with AV in more constituencies than under FPTP.

The winner should be the winner

There’s a very simple principle in politics and governments – whoever gets the most votes wins.

Same as under AV, yes...it's not thrown away with the bath water you know!

It’s wrong that the person who came second or third can overtake the person with the most votes and be allowed to win because the second and third choices of the little parties are counted again.

They're not, but it's a popular lie I can see will be used throughout the campaign.

Imagine applying the same principle at the Olympic Games and giving the gold medal to the person who came in third!

And the winner of "analogy that doesn't even attempt to be nearly analogous to the situation it's describing" award goes to... No2AV! I mean, what the hell? Seriously? Comparing a system of compromise and collective decision making to a race? Stellar work there Einstein.

Only three other countries use AV

Out of all the countries in the world, only Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Australia use it.

Again... so? Every country to itself on why it uses the system it does.

And Fiji have had enough of AV and are about to ditch it.

They're also currently being lead by a military leader who has previously performed a coup to take down a government that the ethnic Fijians didn't like. I don't want to misrepresent their situation but essentially their voting system changed and a bunch of nationalists kicked off about having people that aren't "real Fijians" rulling over them. Sounds pretty comparable to the UK political system to me!

More coalition governments with the Alternative Vote system

I won't copy out the rest...needless to say that this is a lie today debunked by the IPPR and, indeed, is common sense to see as a lie if you care to think about how coalitions are really formed.

But then the final bit I'm going to take (there's only a little bit more in the leaflet, most of it is pointless repitition mind you...):

The Lib Dems would always be part of a coalition government

They probably would be, but not because of AV. Why? Because this country likes three parties, and the Tories and Labour will NEVER form a coalition as one of them insulted the other's mum or something. Lib Dems are the only party either of the others are willing to sit on to get their policy book in to effect.

Now, I've already said this isn't a problem with the electoral system (FPTP is just as likely to throw up coalitions), but is it even the problem of the Lib Dems that Tories and Labour can't agree to get on for coalition's sake?

Indeed...IS IT A PROBLEM? A government that, under coalition terms, is much more likely to be representative of people's views with the best and biggest of each of their policies enacted in the same time period. What a terror that must be for the majority of the UK; A terror that'll land regardless of whether you vote Yes or No to AV in May all the same.