Its actually very simple.

Our voting system is called first past the post (FPTP). It’s the worst voting system ever invented. No-one starting from scratch would choose it. No new democracy in the last 30 years has adopted it as its electoral system. There are no examples of a country moving to FPTP from another system. I discuss some of its key flaws here, but in short FPTP:

Radically fails to accurately represent the votes cast
Allows candidates to win their seat on a less than 1/3 of the vote. In extreme cases successful candidates can win with less than 20%.
Gives huge majorities to parties gaining far less than half of the countries votes
Decreases choice: it leads to a 2 party system, in which no other parties stand a chance
It regularly leads to ‘safe’ seats, in which one party wins every time,
It creates a situation in which every election is decided by a small minority of voters in ‘swing seats’

FPTP has been known to be wildly unfair for many years. The House of Commons voted to move to the alternative vote in 1917-18. It only didn’t happen because the Lords wanted STV ( a form of proportional representation). Ever since then its been kicked into the long grass. The main defenders of FPTP have been Labour and Conservative MPS in safe seats – the only people who benefit from this dreadful system.

Now, for the first time, we have a chance to reform the voting system. It’s a golden opportunity – if it fails there is likely to be no further electoral reform for decades. The reform we’re voting on is a moderate one. It won’t solve all the problems of the system. But it will make it better.

The Alternative vote (AV) system gives us more decision power. Under the current system you vote once.  At present, most people try to work out (often through guess-work) which 2 parties are in the lead, and vote for the one you prefer. Under AV you cast preferential votes, for your first, second, third choices. You can give your first choice vote to the party that you really want, whilst using your second and third choices to vote against the parties you like least. You get to give more information than before. In the vast majority of cases, under AV the winning candidate has the support of 50% of voters in each constituency.

An example – at the last election I voted in Hampstead and Kilburn. It was a 3 way marginal, any of the 3 main parties could have won. My priority was to stop the Conservative candidate, I didn’t have a strong preference between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. To achieve my goal I had to guess, to take a total stab in the dark over which party was best placed to win. That’s ridiculous.

If you believe in democracy – if you believe that an election should reflect the views of the populace this is a no brainer. Granted AV is not a perfect system. I’d like so see us move to proportional representation of some sort. But AV is what we have on the table, and its better than FPTP. If the AV referendum fails, we won’t get any other reform for 20 years.

It really is that simple. All of the arguments of the No campaign are nonsense.

It’s too complicated? Give us a break. I think we’re all capable of voting, 1, 2, and 3 on a piece of paper.

It’ll cost £250 Million? No it won’t. That includes the cost of the referendum, which is spent whatever the result, and the cost of imaginary ‘vote counting machines’, which Australia, who use AV, don’t have.

It’ll give some people more than one vote? Rubbish. You only have one vote. If the party you voted for goes out, your vote is transferred to another. As various people have pointed out, its like going in a shop and asking for a Mars, finding out that having got any and getting a Twix instead. You only get one chocolate bar. Its FPTP where some people’s votes (in swing seats ) are worth more than others.

It’ll mean every government will be a coalition? Untrue – projections of the 18 national elections since WW2 suggest that only 2 (1951 and 1992)  would have changed from majority government to hung parliament had they been held under AV.

It’ll help the BNP? So why are the BNP backing the NO campaign?

It’ll give more power to politicians? Really? So why are the majority of MPs (particularly those in safe seats) fighting it tooth and nail? Clearly the ability to express more than one preference gives more power to the voter.

Don’t be swayed by vested interests talking rubbish. AV is a small but important step in the right direction. Make the effort, go and vote yes on May 5th.

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