#No2AV Lie of the Week: Part 2

Given the campaign they’re running, it would be difficult for No to AV to come up with a more ironic slogan than this week’s we don’t want two votes, we want politicians who aren’t two faced.

There are actually two lies here: firstly, that AV gives anyone two votes. Secondly, that FPTP is the best way to keep politicians from lying. We’ll take them one at a time.

AV does not give people two votes

As I explained before, AV is derived from the Single Transferable Vote. The clue’s in the name. You have a single vote. It’s transferable. To claim that AV gives anyone more than one vote is to fundamentally misunderstand its intention. As its core, AV takes the simple preposition that for an MP to claim to represent a constituency, they should command the support of a majority of voters in that constituency. The only way to guarantee that one candidate will end up with more than half the votes is to only have two candidates standing. Of course, that would massively limit the choice of the electorate to express their views, so we allow more candidates to stand. By eliminating the last place candidates one at a time, we can narrow the field until only one remains, asking everyone to choose between those that remain each time, and eventually forcing a majority. Holding many elections would be expensive and time consuming though, so we simply ask everyone to write down who they would choose in the later rounds if they were still in the running. Thus, the AV gets its American name, Instant-Runoff Voting.

FPTP is the worst way to keep politicians from lying

As the current government and the expenses scandal have shown, FPTP does not provide fertile soil for honesty. When two thirds of MPs are under no threat of losing their seat, they have no accountability if they don’t work hard or fail to act with integrity. While no-one is claiming AV would eliminate safe seats, it would massively reduce the number of them. When MPs are in real danger of losing their seat, they will need to work harder to stay in power, and have more incentive to deliver on promises they made during the campaign. Evidence from the US (where AV has been slowly gaining ground, having been adopted by new cities in referendums every year since 2004) even shows that AV has given an advantage to hard working, community focused candidates, as opposed to those backed by big money.

No to AV updated on Sunday last week. I wonder what new lie they’ll have for us tomorrow?

17 thoughts on “#No2AV Lie of the Week: Part 2

  1. OK, let’s just imagine a system where people DID have extra votes. Lets imagine that everytime their voted for candidate was eliminated they were given a new vote.

    This means, that If two people voted A and two people vote B and one person voted C..C would be eliminated, and C would be given another vote.

    This is starting to sounds familiar isnt it….hmmm

    Basically this is AV. If it WERE the same vote but a different round, you would expect their would be an option to change your vote if you werent eliminated or that the ‘transferred’ vote would show it’s status as a 2nd prefence..but it doesn’t.

    If it quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck and lays eggs like a duck…

  2. “FPTP is the worst way to keep politicians from lying”

    ..sigh, ok, firstly, there have been studies into this, there is no correlation to safeness of seat and abuse of expenses, so you can cross that off.
    As for having to compromise, will happen more with coalitions which will be more likely under AV.

  3. ..sorry, triple postings , so apologies. It is likely to create more safe seats don’t you think? i.e. in areas with 65% more lib/lab or 65% more lib/tory

  4. Like I said, fundamentally misunderstand the system. If you voted for your first choice in the first round, it should be fairly safe to assume that you’d vote for them again in the second round, should they still be in the running, no?

    We covered the coalition lie last time…

    I’ve not seen the studies. I’d be interested to read them. It’d make a change to see you produce some actual evidence! That wasn’t my point however. No to AV implied that a no vote would somehow improve the honesty of MPs. Recent history reveals that to be a lie. Requiring an actual majority would make it easier to unseat unpopular MPs and, by tradition, dishonesty leads to unpopularity!

    I’m not quite sure what the logic of your final point was supposed to be. If, as I believe and as you appear to be suggesting, LibDems will second preference a variety of different parties, your point holds no water at all.

  5. So what is the fundamental difference between two votes and two preferences?

    If I vote for someone who gets eliminated and I choose to not transfer…is that half a vote?
    Because it is counted in less counts than other votes?

    You’re right, they shouldn’t hint that it makes them more honest, unless of course they are talking about compromise under coalition governments.

    And no, you missed my point, both the Tories and labour will second preference lib dems making it more three way. Leading to coalitions

  6. You vote once. Your vote counts for one vote. And you elect one candidate.

    Your vote is counted in as many rounds as you choose to specify preferences for. If your first preference is in the second round, or the third round, your vote for that candidate will be counted in that round. If you choose not to specify a preference that’s entirely your prerogative, but the option is available for you have a say at every stage of the vote, something that’s not there in FPTP.

    We already established that the subject of coalitions is irrelevant to this debate, but perhaps this is the route of your misunderstanding on the subject. Nobody is required to give a preference if they don’t want to. Many Labour and Tory supporters will choose to vote only for their own party. There is no automatic passing of votes to the Lib Dems. Indeed, current polls suggest that very few people will choose to vote Lib Dem! A likely explanation for why the evidence tells us that coalitions are no more likely with AV.

  7. Ok, you didn’t answer my question, except for calling them preferences and votes what is different?

    If I saw the counting method of AV and the counting method of a person getting another vote when their candidate is eliminated, what would be the difference I would see?

  8. If I had more than one vote I would have a greater say in the outcome of the election than another person who only had one vote. AV gives everyone an equal say in the outcome of the election – something that’s missing from the current system.

    AV is a system designed to be functionally equivalent to multiple rounds of voting. If, following a vote, you eliminate the bottom candidate and hold another vote, all the people who voted for the top candidates the first time will do so again. They have the same influence over the outcome of the election as those who voted for the eliminated candidate, even though those people have now voted for someone else. When David Cameron was elected leader of the Tory party in 2005 he gained 28 votes in the second round from those who had previously voted for Kenneth Clarke. Those MPs’ votes didn’t count for any more than the 62 who had voted for him in the first round. They were all counted to make his new total of 90, and put him ahead of David Davis. People who would have been disenfranchised had David Davis been elected in the first round got to have a say in the outcome of the election. Of course, you can debate whether or not that has been a good thing for the country, but you can’t debate that it’s more democratic.

  9. Bizarrely, when discussing a coalition, what people keep talking about as a failure to keep promises by compromising with other people who have also been voted FOR by the public, is actually something called democracy.

    The point of democracy (and the way in which our democracy works by the way) is that people get a say in how the country is run, by voting for a representative whose belief and ideals most closely match their own to represent them within the smaller group, parliament, who by necessity must speak for everyone (the chamber seriously isn’t big enough for the whole country to attend, although maybe just for those who are interested in politics nowadays) on matters of government.

    Currently we have two ‘parties’ whose views are being represented within the ‘decision making’ part of this smaller group. These two parties represent between them over 58% of votes of the population, a far larger number than we have had since the 80’s.

    And why is finding a compromise solution such a strange notion to people? If you had any decision making council outside of politics who had differing opinions you would ‘expect’ them to find a reasonable solution that they could all accept. In fact it’s usually argued that this kind of interaction provides far better scrutiny of proposals and better ‘ownership’ of the results than if it was one group overriding another. Why should politics be different, if anything those two should be more important than anywhere else.

    As has been discussed here and many other places, including the IPPR, AV or FPTP isn’t the deciding factor in whether coalitions will be formed in the future. The deciding factor is that the population simply doesn’t agree, in any kind of majority, with any of the major parties any more, and are turning to other parties to represent them. That’s just democracy at work. If people’s concerns are changing, becoming more varied and complex to reflect the increasing complexity of our society and lives, surely this suggests that to govern such a society we need a government more capable of finding a sensible path through all these varied, disparate and often conflicting priorities. This is not a single party representing a single set of priorities. In other words the fact that we are getting coalition forming results, actually shows we need a coalition government to represent us.

    That being the case AV offers a better opportunity for people to vote FOR the representative they agree most with, instead of having to vote negatively against the person they don’t want, and forcing them to discard their chance to say who they do want instead.

    Whilst FPTP only goes some way to helping alleviate safe seats, the most noticable difference is actually in breaking the duopily of most seats, where there are two historically strong opponents and people who WANT to be represented by someone else have to vote negatively and forgo their chance to say who they DO want to represent them in favour of saying who they DON’T want. AV would give a far more accurate impression of just how much support other parties and candidates really have, even if they don’t get enough votes to win a seat. Surely a better understanding of our political geography can only help strengthen our politics?

    Whilst I completely disagree that you get two votes… the point there is that only one vote from each person ever exists in the final ‘winning’ round of counting (you don’t get to recast your first vote because… shock, it’s still being counted, whereas the people whose candidate has been eliminated now no longer have any vote counting at all)… I am slightly concerned that it is the least popular candidate whose votes get redistributed to the second preferences. Surely this means that the votes being redistributed to decide a winner will mean the candidate most closely aligned with the political beliefs of the least popular candidate has a chance of actually making the required total. Of course the counter argument is that any candidate whose views are too closely aligned to the least favourite will also likely be the second least popular and therefore not get a chance, in a three or four candidate race this could be a problem. The problem I have is that the candidate MOST favourable to the most amount of people may not be the one that wins, if all second preferences from every voter were added on top (yes, it would be a second vote, but as everyone gets it it neither increases nor decreases the value of each persons vote, and no, you couldn’t vote for the same person twice, if there are no Mars bars at the shop it doesn’t matter how much you want one, you’ll just have to have whatever your next favourite chocolate bar is) and the winner announced from those a more true representation of support would be shown… still it’s better than FPTP.

  10. “If you choose not to specify a preference that’s entirely your prerogative, but the option is available for you have a say at every stage of the vote, something that’s not there in FPTP.”

    Actually I thought I read somewhere that it could be the case that if you don’t choose further preferences it becomes the choice of the candidate you voted as first preference… could get confusing if you put a second preference though, I mean, which candidates preferences would be used for your third preference and so on…

  11. Alex, they do something similar to that in Australia, but it won’t be used here.

    Australian requires that voters number all the candidates in order. In Britain, you will only need to specify a preference for as many candidates as you want to vote for. No one’s going to force you to vote for the BNP, for example. Australians can also vote either “above the line” or “below the line”. Below the line is a list of all the candidates for you to number as you want. Above the line is a list of parties. If you vote there, the party you chose as your first preference will choose how all your lower preferences are numbered. Thankfully, that’s not on the cards here.

  12. James,

    thanks for the clarificati9on, although I’d suggest that the top/bottom of line would actually be a good idea here. Most people just vote for a party anyway, rather than considering the relative merits of each candidate as a representative, making somewhat a mockery of the much vaunted constituency link.

    I remember hearing people say ‘nobody voted Gordon Brown as PM” and thinking, “that’s funny, I don’t ever remember seeing a choice of PM’s on my voting form”

  13. That’s true Alex, but I don’t think the way we increase political engagement in this country is by abdicating more of the little power we have to political parties. If people want to only vote for one party, they will still have that option. Hopefully, though, the fact that they will be able to list preferences might cause people to listen a little more to what others have to say.

  14. Hello, I’ve just been reading this nice blog I’ve stumbled upon in my search for the answer to this question. I think it fits in here more than any of your other post. I am a big supporter of AV but there is something I am still not sure about. Do you have to win 50% of votes in that round or 50% of the votes from all the voters.

    The difference is small but imagine the situation.

    100 voters

    Round 1:

    Con 40
    Lab 30
    Lib 20
    Ukip 10

    No clear winner, now 8 of the Ukip voters specified Con as 2nd choice, the other 2 didn’t specify a second choice, so Round 2:

    Con 48
    Lab 30
    Lib 20

    No clear winner, Lib eliminated, 17 voters picked Lab as second choice, and 3 didn’t have a second choice.

    Final round:

    Con 48
    Lab 47

    Does this mean the conservatives won? Even though only 48% of the voters selected them, ergo 52% expressly voted against them? Should a constituency be forced to have an MP that the majority don’t want? By not marking someone as a preference you are expressly showing that you don’t want them and that needs to be taken into account. One way would be to force you to rank all of the candidates, but this would make things much more complicated and time consuming and add fuel to the NotoAV fire.

    To make it more complicated, just for the hell of it, imagine that of the Lab voters 25 chose the Lib as second choice, and of the Con voters 36 chose Lib as second choice, so looking at all the first and second choice votes the rest didn’t express a second choice.

    81 would be happy with Lib 20 1st choice 61 second choice
    48 with Con 40 1st choice 8 second choice
    47 with Lab 30 1st choice 17 second choice
    10 with Ukip 10 1st choice

    I would be very interested in your views on this and whether you can clarify what will happen in the first scenario.

    Thank you very much,

  15. Under FPTP we get 3 (three) votes as they have altered the Borough ward boundaries so we have all up elections in 2011. Under STV we would have “one person one vote”.

  16. Oh yes, in local council elections the system is even more skewed. Because everyone get’s multiple votes, a single party can dominate several seats with as little of a third of the vote. If three parties get roughly a third of the vote each, and there are three seats available, the constituency would be best represented by giving each party one seat. Under the current system, whichever party got the most votes would take all three, even if they only got one vote more than the next. STV should be adopted at local council level at the earliest opportunity. In Scotland and Northern Ireland it already has been.

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