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AV or not AV

A bit of politics for change.
My son has been working for the Yes to AV campaign so there has been much discussion about it chez les Smith. I do think our first-past-the-post sytem has some major drawbacks, the main one being its lack of proportionality. We get strong governments based on small proportions of votes and smaller parties are hugely under-represented. I also feel, when I go to vote, that my vote counts for little and feel obliged to vote tactically.

AV does not solve the problem of proportionality to any great extent. The Guardian did an analysis after the last election which suggested that under AV the Lib Dems would have got a few more seats, but that the House of Commons would have looked about the same. So I don't buy the argument, therefore, that AV will lead to dangerous small parties getting a foothold.

That said, I would feel a little more empowered to vote according to my conscience under AV. I also feel that when second preferences are counted, voters may feel, like me, that their vote counts to a greater extent.

The Jenkins report back in 1993 looked at electoral reform in detail and concluded that the voting system which best covered all bases (constituency link with MP, proportionality, stable government) was AV +, also known as AV with top-up. Despite its greater complexity, I like this solution too, but it is not on offer. Jenkins rejected AV because, amongst other things, it was thought to be too unfair on the Tories.

So, why vote for a second-best solution? Well, you could argue, from a progressive standpoint, that if it hits the Tories, then that's a good thing. You could also argue that that it may be a step towards AV +. I somehow doubt if that will be the case as electoral reform does not come along very often. This could be our only shot for a very long time.

The No campaign has claimed AV is more expensive. Not true. They say AV is too complex. Well, it is a little more complex, but worth it if more people's votes are taken into account.

What about the French system, the scrutin majoritaire à deux tours? Well, like AV it guarantees that a candidate gets over 50% of the votes (though without using second choice votes as with AV), but it is costly and not very proportional either.

In sum, I intend to vote for AV and recommend others to look carefully at the arguments. Google the Jenkins report for a balanced and not too long-winded appraisal of the various electoral systems.


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