The AV Referendum - Why I’m Voting "No"

Wednesday 4th May, 2011
Over the past couple of days I have been debating AV quite extensively with friends, family and colleagues along with complete randoms from twitter and my blog. My previous blog entry on the topic created quite a good bit of discussion allowing me to thrash out my thoughts pretty well. Ultimately, I've come to the conclusion that I am going to vote "No" to alternative voting and thought I would share why.

1) The referendum isn't asking me if I would like to change the current voting system, which I do, it's asking me if I want to implement AV, which I don't. I actually want Proportional Representation (PR) which AV isn't and never will be anything like.

2) AV doesn't address the problem of candidates winning elections with less than 50% of the vote, they still can. This means that, in many seats, voters will still be represented by a candidate that less than 50% actually voted for. This would be one of the main purposes behind a new voting system for me and it doesn't fix this issue, only something like PR can - which AV isn't.

3) The current First Past The Post (FPTP) voting system allows political parties to form a Government without half of the country having voted for them. This is true. It will also be just as true under AV. This is partly due to candidates being able to win seats with less than 50% of the vote, as explained in point 2, but also a fundamental side effect of splitting the country into constituencies of different sizes. Basically you could win 3 constituencies, and therefore 3 seats, with say 50,000 votes for you across those constituencies. Another party could win just one larger seat with 60,000 votes. They have 10,000 more votes, some 20% more, but only have one seat not three. As the party that wins the most seats forms the Government, then you can actually form Government with less overall votes that the opposition. This will not change under AV. People are highlighting this as a failing in our current, "dated", system, but fail to inform referendum voters that AV won't in fact fix it at all. The only true way to fix that issue would be to have something like PR, which AV isn't.

4) We already have the current system. It's not a case of deciding where to go next, A or B, it's a case of staying where we are or moving on. Do you want to stay in your pyjamas, save money and have a quiet night in? Or do you want to get up early, get washed, dressed and spend money on something different. For me to get ready and go out, I need to be absolutely sure that spending the money is the right thing to do. Can I conclude, beyond reasonable doubt, that AV is the right thing to do? No, I can't, so I'm voting no.

5) I struggled for a long time to actually find any single constituencies that could actually benefit from AV. In fact, I even put out some appeals on-line to ask people to link me to any results that indicate this. Eventually somebody finally linked me to Aberconwy in Wales, which is a most excellent example. At a glance, the Conservative winner has manager to poll 3,400 more votes than the 2nd place candidate, almost 50% more, and it looks like a clear win. But, if you look in more detail, you can see that actually around 60% of the vote is for Left Wing parties whilst the Right Wing winner only took 35.8%.

AV would indeed likely change this result. In fact, it could change it so any one of the top 4 candidates could win, even Plaid Cymru who actually came 4th last time. But not everybody wanted Plaid Cymru to win, over 82.2% didn't. Not everybody wanted the Lib Dems and not everybody wanted Labour. Whoever was the winner under AV would likely leave over 50% of the electorate with a winner that wasn't actually their first choice. Sure, for some, it may be better to have any left wing party over the Conservatives who stole the seat - but is this what they really wanted? No. What they really need is something like PR, which would give each party a bite of the cherry as large as the votes they receive. AV isn't this, so I'm voting no.

6) I believe none of the "yes" campaign examples have been particularly balanced. Using the poor pub/coffee analogy in their TV broadcast was the last straw for me. I explained in my last blog how I felt this was ridiculous and misleading when they put it on-line. It really wasn't suitable for TV, in my opinion. If such a biased analogy is the only way they can get people to buy into AV then it just confirms for me how weak an option it actually is and I should be voting no.

7) People keep citing AV as being a way of keeping parties like the BNP out. AV would allow me to cast my votes something like #1 Labour #2 Lib Dem #3 Conservative #4 BNP - meaning that even if my preferred left wing parties didn't win, my 3rd Conservative vote might keep those pesky BNP candidates from winning. To do this currently, they tell me, I might simply have to cast a single tactical vote for the Conservatives and ignore my preferred vote for Labour.

So, let me get this right...AV is good because it makes it easier to fiddle the system? This isn't Big Brother, we aren't voting people out...we're voting people in. What sort of an insane system would encourage me to vote for a party that I don't have any belief in? If I'm a Labour Party member, why would I ever want to vote Conservative? If I'm a Conservative Party member, why would I ever want to vote Labour? All this to exclude a minority party? I thought the whole idea of a new voting system was to make it more fair, not to make it easier to stamp on the people you don't like. What about other minority parties like UKIP, the Greens or those Independents who sometimes do a great job for their local consituents? AV isn't going to help if it gives people who don't like them the opportunity to just rank them bottom and kill their chances. What we need is PR, which AV isn't, so I'm voting no.

8) I really would like a change in the voting system but I genuinely believe that AV won't work. If it does succeed, and people are happy, it will ruin our chances for moving on to a much fairer system like PR. If it doesn't succeed, the PR naysayers will use it as a perfect example of how referendums are a waste of money and that the public don't really know what they want. I think it will completely ruin any chance of PR in my lifetime. By saying "yes" to AV, you aren't telling anybody that you want PR - you're telling them that you believe in AV. If you don't, the only way to communicate this is to vote "no".

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