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".

  1. 1) Marc Said: (04/05/2011 16:00:52 GMT) Gravatar Image
    The AV Referendum - Why I’m Voting No

    1) This is making the great the enemy of the good. The question of whether AV is better or not than FPTP is entirely relevant, even if you don't want AV. You may not think AV is better, but the question remains pertinent.

    2) How can a candidate win with less than 50% of the vote in AV? That's by definition impossible unless the vast majority just votes for one candidate (and if everyone did that, hey, that's FPTP!). If people are voting for candidates as second or third choice, _then that counts towards the 50%_. You don't vote for someone you don't endorse at least preferentially.

    3) Given this is dependent on (2) and I don't follow how you reached your conclusion in (2), I won't address this one.

    4) There seems to be a large excluded middle ground in "beyond reasonable doubt" here... This isn't an exact science and nobody has a magic crystal ball. You seem to be placing the bar awfully high.

    5) This is a really confused argument. Yes, AV might elect a winner that wasn't actually the first choice of 50% of the electorate -- but at least under AV the candidate will have been the second- or third- choice of 50% of the electorate. Rather than in FPTP, where a candidate can get elected _even if the majority do not want him_.

    6) Biased? Maybe. Irrelevant? It's completely relevant. I'm a left-wing voter. I would rather see a Labour, LibDem or Green candidate (the Cats/Beer) elected over a Tory (Dog/Coffee). However, under FPTP, rather than vote for my principles, I have to consider voting tactically in case us splitting our votes between the left-wing beer-drinking cats too much lets in my least-prefered coffee-drinking dog candidate win.

    7) Again, this is an incredibly confused and back-to-front argument. "What sort of an insane system would encourage me to vote for a party that I don't have any belief in?" -- I'll answer that. FPTP. FPTP forces me to vote tactically. AV actually creates a situation in which I don't have to and can simply and honestly vote for my preferences.

    8) Alright, this is your strongest argument, and I have to concede: it's a gamble. I think most people who are in the Yes camp want a more proportionate system than AV, such as PR or STV.

    But that's not the choice we're being offered. The choice we're being offered is between FPTP and AV.

    Why do I think you're wrong in your assessment in this gamble? Because the boundary changes that are being pushed through this parliament will make the Tories stronger, and the Tories will _never_ give us electoral reform, because they know that they can not achieve a majority under AV, PR or STV as easily as they can under FPTP. FPTP lets a party rule with 35-40% of the vote (see the recent Canada election).

    So if you want PR, I'm afraid I think you're betting on the wrong horse.

  2. 2) Ben Rose Said: (04/05/2011 16:43:19 GMT) Gravatar Image
    The AV Referendum - Why I’m Voting No

    I wondered whether to allow comments on this, as my mind is made up, but now I'm glad I did :)

    1) The question is if I want AV or not. I don't. Nothing to do with enemies, I just don't want AV. In the last review of electoral reform, conducted by Roy Jenkins, he surmised that AV was of little use. Still, I looked into it myself in great detail (linked in previous blog)and came to my own similar conclusion. Before this opportunity, I wanted PR. Now I'm being offered PR. I've decided that AV is not a substitute for PR and so my answer is no, I don't want AV, thank you.

    2) Again, we covered this in great detail in the previous blog- I suggest you read it. I believe that, even under AV, it will be quite frequent for the winner to have less than 50% of the vote. It can happen any time a voter doesn't vote for all of the candidates. I'll never cast a vote for BNP/UKIP/Conservative and highly unlikely Lib Dem these days so it's entirely possible. This is covered clearly on the electoral reform leaflet, page 8. In the Spelthorne results I linked in my last blog, there were 9 candidates. I know I couldn't rank them all.

    3) It's not at all dependent on it, but part of it. Even if every candidate did win with >50% of the vote under AV, it would only be for that seat. If you won all the big seats and somebody else won more seats smaller seats, they would form a government...even though you had more votes.

    4) PR is an exact science, that's why I want it. I don't find AV as being anything like this directio.

    5) If I put somebody 3rd place, do I really want them? There may only be 3 candidates! This is quite subjective. I find it hard to argue that, if you ranked the winner 3rd or 4th, you really wanted them to win.

    6) Voting tactically isn't in the rules and wasn't intended under FPTP. You're supposed to pick the one you want to win and, if they have the most votes, they win. If they don't, sorry, you're in a minority. I also don't believe AV will reduce tactical voting at all, perhaps increase it in some cases. Ultimately, PR would give a better balance.

    7) AV just asks you to write an X in the box next to your preferred candidate. It's not exactly hard.

    8) Correct, we're only being offered AV. Most people don't want that they want something else. If you don't want it, vote No. We were promised a reform on PR, we didn't get it. Voting yes will show you're happy with the option - if you aren't, vote no. I'm not.

    The boundary changes will likely affect AV just as much, don't see why it won't, only PR will address this. AV isn't that, so I'm saying no.

    "FPTP lets a party rule with 35-40% of the vote" - yes, so does AV. You only need >50% of the seats and the constituencies do NOT have an equal number of residents.

    "So if you want PR, I'm afraid I think you're betting on the wrong horse."

    PR isn't in the race, that's why I'm voting no.

    Thanks for your input.

  3. 3) Keith Milner Said: (04/05/2011 16:58:24 GMT) Gravatar Image
    The AV Referendum - Why I’m Voting No

    I think what a lot of people missing is that AV isn't different from FPTP. It's a variation of it with a more complex local voting structure. It's still FPTP at a national level, and that's the bit that is (arguably) broken.

    At a local level, where AV actually operates, the current voting system is OK: the candidate with the most votes wins. Yes that may not be an absolute majority, but is there any fundamental reason why it should be. This sort of voting has worked well and has been the primary voting system for all kinds of things for decades. It's not broken, so don't try to fix it!

    Where things could be considered broken is at the National level. This is where the current system allows a party to gain political power disproportionate to the number of votes they received. If you need to fix anything, this is it, but AV doesn't consider this at all.

  4. 4) Marc Said: (04/05/2011 17:43:49 GMT) Gravatar Image
    The AV Referendum - Why I’m Voting No

    1) The problem I have with this reponse is that you are entirely stripping the question of it's context, and the context is a complicated political situation which can not be simplified to a simple question of whether you want AV or not. Or at least, I think it's not sensible to completely remove this context. But more on this later.

    2) The point I'm making is that the worst-case scenario for AV here (no candidate gets to the 50% mark because nobody votes for second/third preferences) is strictly equivalent to how FPTP works! So AV is strictly better or equivalent to FPTP here. The best criticism you can hold against it is that it's a weak improvement that doesn't justify the cost, but it remains an improvement, and what we're really haggling about is whether said improvement is worth the cost. (Again, not divorcing this particular point from context.)

    3) Okay, I agree that AV gives no improvement over FPTP when it comes to constituency size.

    4) I disagree, but more on that in point (8).

    5) Yes, if you vote for someone in 3rd place, you are saying that you want them -- at least, before all non-voted-for candidates.

    6) But Tactical Voting is a reality and exists. You can't ignore it just because it's "not in the rules". No offense but that's an absurd thing to say. People can vote however they like, to shape politics as they hope, and sometimes (or often, in FPTP) that means they will vote tactically.

    I take issue with how you define majority and minority here, too. A government that has 40% (see Canada) of the votes is _not_ a majority -- it is just the biggest minority.

    But it's this view -- that the biggest minority is the "majority" and deserves to rule -- that is the root problem of FPTP. FPTP encourages a bipolar politic -- Red vs. Blue, two big contenders shaping policy around themselves, with subtleties and nuances crushed between them. Dissent and division weakens what would otherwise be fellow travellers (a fundamental problem of the left wing parties throughout the 20th century).

    No, AV doesn't solve all these problems. Again, it's not a case that your criticisms of AV are off the mark -- they are valid. But given how manifestly _worse_ FPTP is, and how you claim support PR, it's hard for me to reconcile the cognitive dissonance.

    AV isn't _always_ more proportional than FPTP, but it's _much more likely to be_. Which is why most of the minor parties (Greens, UKIP, LibDems) support Yes, and the No vote draws the majority of its supporters from the biggest two parties (50-60% of Labour, 80-90% of the Tories).

    Now as to the point that AV won't solve Tactical Voting -- in its entirety, fine. But simple common sense tells me that it will remove a lot of the key areas of tactical voting (UKIP voters who vote Tory, Greem/LibDems who vote Labour, etc.) Those voters will be able to list their preferences without the nagging fear that voting true to their heart (in my case, Green) might allow a more-unwanted minority to steal the lead and rule with a minority of support. Heck, I wouldn't have to vote tactically under AV, I can tell you that much.

    7) I assume you meant, "[FPTP] just asks you to write an X in the box next to your preferred candidate. It's not exactly hard."

    Please don't take this the wrong way, but your previous comment in (6) and this one makes me feel forced to ask -- don't you understand Tactical Voting? It sounds naive.

    Sure, voting under FPTP isn't hard when you've got the ballot and pen in hand -- until you bring in the monster of Tactical Voting into the equation. (Sorry if that's "against the rules" -- but it's not going to go away.)

    This puts the lie to the notion that FPTP is simple because once you start impacting the assessment of your vote beyond putting a mark on a piece of paper, it forces you to wonder if you want to vote for someone whose policies you truly believe in -- or instead vote to keep someone else out.

    And if you followed the mess of the pre-General Election predictions last year (BBC's Swing-o-meter, all the political analysis that amounted to a lot of guestimation), I don't see how you can disagree that FPTP, while simple at the putting-pen-to-paper level, causes a whole morass of overly opaque complications at a higher "strategic" level. (And it'd be naive to think political parties don't look at the strategic view.)

    8) This refers back to point (1) and (4): the question of which vote, Yes or No, makes a subsequent PR referendum more likely, sooner.

    The scenario that many in the Yes camp dread is that a victory of the No vote could well solidify the old guard's position and entrench FPTP. Nobody has a crystal ball, if you are worried that a Yes vote will give us AV for a generation (and, to be fair, it's a very understandable worry), you should be just as worried that a No vote will leave us with FPTP for a generation. You can not sensibly reject this question and context.

    As I said, no-one has crystal ball. But the majority of the Yes camp are fellow travellers in the cause for more proportional voting reform beyond AV: the Greens, the Lib-Dems, some parts of the Labour party, UKIP -- the majority of these people don't want AV but see AV as a stepping stone towards PR or STV. These smaller parties will be strengthened by AV (heck, that's one of the reasons they support it and Labour/Tories are against it), and will be able to get more power to push us towards PR or STV.

    Contrast this with the certain knowledge that we will have to fight tooth-and-nail to gain any kind of reform from the Tory party, and that FPTP makes the Tories stronger, and hopefully I have clearly laid out to you why I consider PR to be considerably more probable following a Yes vote than a No vote.

  5. 5) Marc Said: (04/05/2011 18:21:16 GMT) Gravatar Image
    The AV Referendum - Why I’m Voting No


    Here's an article that supports the point: If you want PR, vote Yes tomorrow

    { Link }

  6. 6) Keith Milner Said: (04/05/2011 18:51:41 GMT) Gravatar Image
    The AV Referendum - Why I’m Voting No

    "The best criticism you can hold against it is that it's a weak improvement..."

    Where did this come from. Where is the evidence that it is any kind of improvement?

    The trouble with AV is it focuses on changing the wrong bit of the system: the local bit. The local bit already works. The problem is not the local voting system. The problem is that the results of local voting are rolled up in a semi-arbitrary way and used to drive the national result.

    The local bit works. People understand it, people generally like it. It's easy to understand, easy to administer, and less liable to be the subject of expensive and damaging legal challenge. How doe changing this to a more complex system that people don't understand and which cost far more to administer constitute an "improvement".

    It is actually the opposite of "improvement". It's degrading the local voting system whist providing zero benefits at the national level.

    You need to realize this, instead of assuming that any change is an "improvement".

  7. 7) Marc Said: (04/05/2011 19:15:11 GMT) Gravatar Image
    The AV Referendum - Why I’m Voting No


    I completely, fundamentally disagree. FPTP encourages tactical voting at a local level (e.g. left-wing Green or LibDem voters who vote Labour ot keep the Tory out, or UKIP who vote Tory to keep Labour out, etc. etc.), and I consider tactical voting to be a sign of an electoral system that doesn't deliver actual, meaningful choice. _That's_ a local problem.

    People like it? Surely you jest -- FPTP has plenty of detractors that don't like it, for many reasons including both local and nationwide problems.

    People understand FPTP but AV is too complex? With all due respect, that is one of the most condescending and fallacious No arguments. There is nothing complicated about 1, 2, 3. AV is as complicated as counting. We do it all the time. AV is used in Scotland and Wales, it's used to elect the leaders of many political parties (David Davis would be Tory leader if the Tories elected their leader with FPTP), it's used for the Oscars, for god's sake.

    As to what I need to "realise", just because I do not share your opinion of the balance of changes does not mean I am unaware.

  8. 8) Marc Said: (04/05/2011 21:08:13 GMT) Gravatar Image
    The AV Referendum - Why I’m Voting No

    Here's another excellent blog that deals with a lot of the misconceptions and misinformation put out by the No camp:

    { Link }

  9. 9) Ben Rose Said: (04/05/2011 21:25:27 GMT) Gravatar Image
    The AV Referendum - Why I’m Voting No

    1) It is a simple question, it will be on the voting paper and you can tick a box. It's not an essay question.

    2) No, the worst case scenario for AV is that we have a different winner that even less people wanted as their first choice that would have wanted the FPTP winner. Some people are clearly keen to exercise their additional votes but other, like myself, don't particularly want this system but, unless we use them, the result may change. With, say, 6 candidates on a general election voting paper I can place from 1 up to 6 votes...or any number in between. This is drastically different from one person one vote. However you paint it, AV can but will never be exactly the same as FPTP as many people will indeed exercise those extra votes.

    It is indeed a weak change, but I don't see it as an improvement. If I did, I would be voting yes. I'm not, I'm voting no.

    3) I'm glad you agree that AV does not give any improvement on the national level due to constituency sizes. I will be very surprised if any elections under AV showed that the national winner, who formed the government, actually had more 1st choice votes than anybody else. This is highly unlikely based on past results.

    5) I go into a restaurant and order a steak but the steak is off, so I order the ribs, but the ribs are off so I end up with fish. I didn't want fish and I probably ordered the wrong wine. Nobody wants their 3rd choice.

    6) The FPTP rules are that everybody votes for the candidate whom they would like to win. You can indeed vote for whoever you like. Now, if you really want the Green candidate to win, you should vote for the Green candidate...not the Labour guy, in case the Tory wins. Sure people do exactly that, the aforementioned "Tactical Voting" but that isn't how the FPTP system was designed to work. It's your choice to implement tactical voting and also your choice to not vote for the guy you really want.

    If you vote for the Green candidate and then the Tory wins, then that is because he is the most popular. He won. That's how it is intended and is fair. If you vote for Labour, who you didn't want (you wanted Green) and then the Labour guy wins then that is because HE is the most popular. He won. The Green guy wasn't as popular as you thought and clearly you wanted the Labour guy. If you'd wanted the Green, you would vote for him. In that same election, some people WILL vote Green. They wanted the Green guy to win, you didn't.

    That is how the FPTP system works.

    I don't care about Canada, I don't live there or vote there. To form a Government in the UK, you need a MAJORITY of seats, not votes. You seem to not comprehend how the current system works which is perhaps why you seem so desperate to change it. The number of votes nationally has no relevance to who forms a government, it's who wins the MOST SEATS. It's what Tony Blair had but Gordon Brown didn't, and why we now have a Tory/Lib-Dem coalition - together those two parties had the MOST SEATS.

    In a General Election under both AV and FPTP you just need the MOST SEATS, not the most votes. You can have considerably less than 50% of the national vote. Only PR will fix that. I want PR, but AV isn't PR, which is why I am voting no.

    You fail to understand that, even under AV, all the SEATS end up in a FPTP system. Those with the MOST SEATS form the government. AV doesn't change this, at all.

    FPTP didn't create red vs. blue. In fact it was always blue vs. yellow - the red came along much later when working classes were being treated like shit. That took votes away from the yellow who didn't have the time for them and now the yellow vote has continually shrunk to a point where they feel under-represented and would like change. What would possibly be more effective would be if A) they offered what people wanted B)they stuck to those offers when they formed a government and C) people who wanted them to win actually voted for them. I only see a bit of A and a bit of C right now.

    A lot of people voted Lib Dem at the last General Election in the genuine belief that the yellows might win. In reality, they didn't come close - a distant third. They blamed the voting system. What they should have done was blame their supporters for not actually voting for them. Even then, however, they still wouldn't win as they just don't have enough support. Neither did Gordon Brown and he did the honourable thing to walk away and not form a coalition with the Conservatives.

    Whatever happened, FPTP didn't cause it - the electorate did by voting for who they did. Sometimes the other team is just more popular and you lose. AV appeals as people generally like to feel like they've won. If my 3rd choice won, I'd feel like I'd lost...I'm a realist, perhaps a pessimist, but I'm not optimistic to say "woo, my 3rd choice won" as I struggle to even have a 2nd choice these days.

    FPTP is not worse that AV, they are just too different ways of calculating the same votes to then give charge of the country to the party with THE MOST SEATS. This is done, and will continue to be done, using a FPTP style system.

    If the Lib Dems don't win the National Majority, they don't automatically hand over all their seats to Labour in the hope the Conservatives will win, it doesn't work like that. Not at all.

    7) Yes I meant "FPTP just asks you to write an X in the box next to your preferred candidate. It's not exactly hard." It isn't.

    I absolutely understand tactical voting, I've even been a Labour candidate in the past. I didn't win, I live in a Tory stronghold. Would AV have helped? Quite possibly. I'd probably have polled more votes under AV. Would I have won? Probably not. Do I wish my election was performed under AV? No.

    I've been very politically active in the past so I'm more than aware of what tactical voting is, why people use it and how it has an effect. But I also recognise that the FPTP system wasn't designed this way and that people should just vote for who they want. The people of Brighton did, which is why they have a Green MP. Why can't any other constituencies do this? They can. They don't need AV, they just need to vote for the Greens in a big enough number to win. If they don't poll enough, they lose. That's the system working, not failing.

    I never said tactical voting was "against the rules" I simply said that it wasn't in the instructions given to voters. It doesn't say to vote for the one that might beat the one you fear might win. It just tells you to indicate a preference. If you don't vote for your chosen party, you're not doing what you are supposed to. The Tories always win in my area, the Lib Dems come second. { Link } Does that mean I should vote Lib Dem to try and beat the tories? Does that mean Paul Greenwood shouldn't stand as a Labour candidate? No, not at all. He should stand so genuine Labour supporters, like myself, can vote for him and indicate that they want him to win...not the Lib Dem.

    FPTP is as simple as it gets, only the tactical voters make it complicated for themselves. With only one box to tick it's even less effort than AV.

    8) Ultimately, some people are happy with the "compromise" of AV as we go down a possible road towards PR. I'm not. I don't think it works with my beliefs. I hate the Tories and I have a bottle of vintage champagne permanently in the fridge for the day that Thatcher dies. You tell me that voting "no" might help the Tories, I don't care. What helps the Tories most is being popular. They only win when people vote for them. They can't win if they don't. The same for any other party. We had 10 years under a Labour government under FPTP. Why? Because they were popular and people liked them. Not because of the voting system.

    To conclude, I like the fact that when Labour are doing the right things...they win. When they aren't, they lose. So I don't see FPTP favouring the Tories at all.

  10. 10) Ben Rose Said: (04/05/2011 21:47:22 GMT) Gravatar Image
    The AV Referendum - Why I’m Voting No

    btw Marc, you keep posting links to the same biased articles everybody else does...over and over again. You'll post the Stephen Fry video next.

    I don't have the time or the inclination to pick them all apart line by line. You're sending me reasons to counter arguments given by the "no" camp. I haven't read any arguments given by the "no" camp. I started in the "no" camp and looked for reasons to leave. I haven't found any. Trying to negate the reasons I have found myself for not voting "yes" isn't really going to happen.

  11. 11) Keith Milner Said: (04/05/2011 23:30:55 GMT) Gravatar Image
    The AV Referendum - Why I’m Voting No


    It's your right to disagree, but the premise which you claim to do so to flawed.

    People tactically vote not just because they want to influence the local result, but because they are attempting to influence the national one as well. To some people, a Lib Dem local win may be better than a Tory one even of they were perfectly happy with the Tory councilor and thought the Lib Dem one was useless, but instead of voting for Labour and risk the Tories getting another seat towards Government, they will vot Lib Dem in an attempt to keep the Tories out of power.

    That's the problem with the current system, and the same problem persists with AV. It really changes nothing. It just makes the whole process more complex and makes tactical voting even more of a game. it does nothing to address the inherent problems with the current system.

    It aims to fix an issue and misses that target by a wide mark. It messes up something else and is far worse than what we have already because of it.

  12. 12) Marc Said: (05/05/2011 01:45:41 GMT) Gravatar Image
    The AV Referendum - Why I’m Voting No

    1) It should be clear that when you are offered a choice as significant as this, there are many facets to explore, not merely reducing it to one simple quesiton. I can not understand your reductionist desire here: it's just not that simple! It's not enough to merely consider whether or not one likes the new system -- one has to judge the existing one and weigh it in comparison.

    But I guess there is really nothing more to say here.

    2) and 6) This might be true, but the fallacy of your position -- and Keith's -- is that FPTP returns the most popular candidate to power. What does "most popular" mean? Why are secondary or tertiary preferences not relevant when measuring popularity? Leading the largest united minority is NOT the same thing as leading a majority and it is NOT the same thing being most popular.

    Here's a thought experiment to illustrate it.

    Candidate A gets 40% of the vote, while Candidates B and C both get 30%. All the B and C voters don't want A, but half of the C voters would be okay with B as a second choice (15% favourable).

    A: 40% favourable, 60% against

    B: 45% favourable, 55% against

    In this (admittedly very oversimplified) scenario, A is actually less popular than B, but would win under FPTP.

    Yes, it's a simplistic example, but it serves to illustrate that a winning FPTP candidate can be _less popular_ than a losing FPTP candidate: Getting more first choice votes is not the same thing as being more popular.

    And yes, on a national scale, this can be even more pronounced: like the Canadian election, which is why I mentioned it. You may not live in Canada, but it's still representative of the case at hand.

    5) I don't understand this. If you don't want the fish, why did you order the fish? You have no right to complain if you get a third choice candidate that you voted for -- you did support them!

    6) & 7) I understand how FPTP works. The point I'm making is that the fact that tactical voting exists should demonstrate why FPTP is _not actually_ as simple as its rules intended it to be.

    Sure, the basic rules are simple. But (following chaos theory) from a set of simple rules, very complex emergent properties can arise. And the emergent properties of FPTP are complex indeed! If we're going to downplay these complexities because they aren't following the rules as intended, that's selective.

    8) Yes, being popular helps the Tories, or Labour, or whomever. But so too does the voting system!

    I find your last comments about the links I posted to be disappointing. Two links = "keep posting"?! And dismissing them as biased -- sure, but who _is_ unbiased? That's a little unfair, isn't it?

    Anyway, I posted the links because they touched upon the central thesis of our debate -- the merits or drawbacks of AV as a stepping stone towards PR. My intention and expectation was not to force you to reply to each point raised therein, but merely to share material that I had found pertinent and persuasive. I'm sorry if you feel I wasted your time.

  13. 13) Ben Rose Said: (05/05/2011 10:22:46 GMT) Gravatar Image
    The AV Referendum - Why I’m Voting No

    I'll do a summary response as the individual points are getting a little clouded.

    This is indeed all about what is the "most popular". If we look at the music chart, this is the single that sell the most copies. It would be exactly like the FPTP system but, like AV, you actually get to buy as many singles as you like...kinda like multiple votes. The one with the most sales (votes) gets Top of the Pops.

    AV is being sold under the belief that you rank ALL the candidates, you simply put a number next to each one. That, to me, is like buying records you don't like to stop another one getting to the top of the charts - it's tactical voting in disguise and kinda defeats the object of implementing AV and the costs it entails.

    Under FPTP, you're a kid who has saved up his pocket money and can afford to buy just one record. They aren't going to pick one they don't like. They aren't going to pick one they don't like as much as another. They are going to pick the one that they like the most.

    AV gives them the power to buy a single but, if that single isn't #1 they can take it back to the shop, get a refund and buy another then go back in time and count again to see who wins. All FPTP wants them to do is buy their favourite record and, if they do, the system wins. That isn't to say there isn't some other good music in the chart...just that #1 is most popular.

    If they applied AV to the music charts then #1 would always have to sell more records than all the others combined. Never likely to happen.

    Sadly, as with most, you provide an oversimplified scenario. They don't really exist. All of the constituencies I have looked at are far from simple and AV would, in my opinion, return the wrong candidate.

    You're still failing to grasp the national picture, AV won't fix this at all.

    As for the food analogy, I can't simplify it further. You're just failing to see at all what is is like from the other side of the fence.

    You can use complex words like chaos theory and emergent properties all you like, it doesn't change the fact that I've already voted. I'll give you some Quantum physics. There is a cat in the voting box reading my voting slip. What does it say?

  14. 14) Marc Said: (05/05/2011 12:11:04 GMT) Gravatar Image
    The AV Referendum - Why I’m Voting No

    There's one BIG problems with your analogy: for this to match an election scenario, the boy who saves up his pocket money to buy doesn't necessarily get his choice. He gets the number #1 hit, regardless of what he _actually paid for_, even if he hates it. He might be forced to listen to something he hates!

    You get the politician that gets voted in. You don't have a choice (unless you move away).

    So I'm going out to buy hard rock, but instead I get the Spice Girls! And, worse than that, I'm _forced to listen to the Spice Girls for five years!_.

    So if I'm the boy with the limited pocket money under a FPTP music chart, this is is my outlook:

    * I _hate_ the #1 front runner

    * I _tolerate_ the #2 contender

    * my _preferred_ choice has a tiny probability of winning

    These are my two (real) options:

    * I can buy my preferred choice, registering my preference -- but this increases the probability that the #1 frontrunner wins. This is a choice that quite possibly has _negative_ value.

    * I can buy the #2 choice, increasing its probability of victory through a tactical vote. This is choice may not be positive, but it may well have greater value than voting for my preferrence.

    Either way -- the key issue is that music charts are an OPTIONAL part of life. Living under an MP is not. If 40% of the population love the #1 Spice Girls but the other 60% hate them, the MAJORITY of haters has the option to not listen to the Spice Girls. If 40% of voters back one MP as their first choice but 60% of voters hate him and what he stands for, they don't have the option to ignore him. Telling the 60% that at least they voted for their hearts by speaking up their preference seems to be merely applauding disunited turkeys for voting for Christmas.

    Now, the next problem is that the MP will go on to join the disproportional electoral colleges/parties. That's a problem in both FPTP and AV. We agree on that.

    But it doesn't reduce the problem a lot of people have with how FPTP works in the first place. This is an opionion that you may not value, a nuance that you may want to ignore. But ignoring nuance does not make it go away.

    "You can use complex words like chaos theory and emergent properties all you like, it doesn't change the fact that I've already voted. I'll give you some Quantum physics. There is a cat in the voting box reading my voting slip. What does it say?"

    I feel that's really not in good faith. I thought we were having a debate and testing each other's arguments. I have attacked your arguments because I think they are bad, thus inviting you to defend them (and reciprocally). Even if we are not likely to convince one another, at least it is a stimulating intellectual exercise. I thought that was the point? If you are not interested in the discussion, please be clear on this and I will drop it.

  15. 15) Ben Rose Said: (05/05/2011 12:46:02 GMT) Gravatar Image
    The AV Referendum - Why I’m Voting No

    At this point, I'm kinda wondering how long after I have voted you will try and make me do the impossible and change my mind?

    Regarding the pop charts analogy, you're in a bit of a dream world if you think people can't ignore politicians and what they say. We're lucky if even half of them bother to vote but most of those that do would even dream of reading a political news story or even watching the news.

    If 60% of people preferred the other song, why did the Spice Girls get to number one? The answer is because they are the most popular of the choices available. This isn't Big Brother, we don't vote out...we vote in. Most people chose them.

    Basically, what you're proposing and what AV removes is a system where you vote for the candidated you'd LEAST like to win. That way, the 60% of Spice Girl haters can ensure they don't have a hope. But then who would win? Most likely the person who, under the original system, would have come third. The person that, under the original system, likely had 20% or less of the vote...that 80% of people didn't vote for.

    We're going around in circles here.

  16. 16) Marc Said: (05/05/2011 14:33:06 GMT) Gravatar Image
    The AV Referendum - Why I’m Voting No

    "At this point, I'm kinda wondering how long after I have voted you will try and make me do the impossible and change my mind?"

    Ben... you are arguing in bad faith. You are now impugning upon my motives and badly misrepresenting my intent in participating in this discussion.

    I am not trying to change your mind. I didn't come into this discussion with a realistic expression of _either_ of us changing our minds. Like you, I had already voted before I joined this debate (via postal vote, in my case).

    But I _am_ capable of testing your arguments. I do so because it educates me (the only real value to online debate _is_ as a self-learning exercise). That you have been so dismissive in your past few posts leads me to conclude that you see little value in it.

    So I'll bow out after this post. If you wish to continue the conversation, please email me, but I won't waste your time or mine continuing a discussion neither or us wants.

    I'll conclude with two final comments.

    First, when I say it's impossible to ignore politicians, what I meant was that it's impossible to avoid the impact that politics has on your lives. If my MP voted in favour of tuition fees, I don't have the option of saying, "well, I didn't vote for him -- that doesn't count for me".

    Secondly -- yes. AV does change the nature of the question asked to the electorate. FPTP asks: "Which candidate do you support?" AV asks: "Rank your candidates in order of preference."

    From AV's question comes a nuance: you can use it to express a FPTP-like simple preference (i.e. vote for just one or two candidates) or you can use it to "vote down" a candidate you really don't like by ranking a preference for everyone else. AV offers a broader _range_ of expression.

    It may not be for you, and you may disagree with it, but you have to at least recognise that for those of us who are _already doing this_ (or something similar, through tactical voting), there is considerable value in being able to express qualitative differences in our voting preference when our main interest is to keep one candidate out, or transcend a divided political spectrum.

    Anyway. I've said my piece. Unless you invite me to contine this discussion, I'll end it here. Thank you for allowing me to express myself on your blog.

  17. 17) Ben Rose Said: (05/05/2011 17:43:51 GMT) Gravatar Image
    The AV Referendum - Why I’m Voting No

    Apologies for my tone, I guess I'm just a bit frustrated that we're going over the same points over again without making any progress.

    Feel free to continue input, it's welcomed and it's an open house for all. I only remove posts in extreme cases, e.g. false indentities etc.

    Your tuition fees example is an amusing one. Many people voted for their local Lib Dem MP on the understanding that they wouldn't pay tuition fees...then the Lib Dems helped introduce tuition fees. Proof, in any were needed, that the voting has very little effect on the politics in some cases anyway.

    Now is a good time to share this graph. { Link }

    200 years under first past the post. It used to be a 2 horse race, Tory or Lib Dem...but what happened? The FPTP system allowed an underdog in the form of Labour to arrive in the early 1900s and slowly grow enough to take a large enough share of the vote to form a Goverment for 10 consecutive years from 2000. Now the Lib Dems are claiming that this 3 horse race isn't fare?

    The Liberals used to form a Government. They used to have a Prime Minister. But, over the years, their share has dramatically reduced. Not because of FPTP, the Labour Party grew from nothing under that, but because they didn't actually offer what voters wanted. Now they are blaming the system for having weak policies that made them fail. A bit like those local shops complain that Tesco killed them and the system failed them, whereas the local shops were only open until 5pm and closed for a half day on Thursday - Tesco just offered what consumers wanted. You keep up with society's needs, or you lose. AV won't change that and neither will restricted opening hours on a Sunday.

    I agree with your repeated claims that AV makes it easier for tactical voters, but does this make it better? In reality, I approximate that less than 1 in 10 people vote tactically. So 90% of people don't vote that way and won't benefit from the ranking system available under AV.

    Ultimately, which way will the referendum go. We're giving people a fair, 2 horse race - no excuses.

    If 60% of people didn't vote for the Government and think AV will resolve this, we should see a 60% vote for yes, correct?

    If your argument is that the people who want change are the ones voting yes then, if the no vote wins, will you concede that most people are actually happy with the current system?

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