The Truth About No to Fairer Votes Arguments Against AV

Friday, January 14th, 2011 @ 2:30PM

Recently I’ve heard a lot of comments about the arguments being used by the No to Fairer Votes campaign.  So I decided to examine these arguments a little further to see if they did hold up against evidence presented against them.

One of the first things that is very clearly obvious is that there are no positive reasons for First Past the Post the No campaign simply attempt to give arguments against the proposed alternative. What’s more, as I will show, they are either wrong or try to use complicated language to propagate the same arguments which have been proved to be defunct.

The main crux of the No to Fairer Votes arguments are they do not want to change. They are happy with the way things are. They are happy with the expenses scandal, they are happy with ducks houses and moat cleaning, they are happy with safe seats which encourage MPs to listen to the party rather than representing us the people that elect them. They are happy to keep a system in which a majority of the people do not vote for the winning candidate and which many academic and intergovernmental organisations have called undemocratic. It is time we defended democracy, it is time to reclaim the power of our vote and it is time to defeat an unfair, discredited and unwanted voting system.

The following arguments were taken from the No to Fairer Votes Website.

Defend our democracy

No to Fairer Votes say:

A No vote stops minority party voters getting more than one vote when the votes are counted

The truth is that under AV every person still only gets one vote, and it is only counted once, the major difference is that every vote counts, rather than the current system where votes for smaller parties are wasted. This was actually tested in the American legal system in 1975 when Judge James Fleming said:

no one person or voter has more than one effective vote for one office. No voter’s vote can be counted more than once for the same candidate. In the final analysis, no voter is given greater weight in his or her vote over the vote of another voter

Judge Fleming finishes off saying,

the City of Ann Arbor’s election of its Mayor does not violate the one-man, one-vote mandate nor does it deprive anyone of equal protection rights under the Michigan or United States Constitutions.

No to Fairer Votes say:

A No vote guards against distorting and muddying the debate in marginal seats

The truth is that under AV the debate in minority seats will be harder fought as potential MPs work harder to secure your vote under the knowledge that every vote counts and they need a majority to win.

No to Fairer Votes say:

A No vote ensures people vote for who and what a candidate is, as opposed to who and what a candidate is not

The truth is that such tactical voting is rife under first past the post, first past the post. In Winchester 1997, Lib Dem Mark Oaten won by 2 votes with 42.1% of the vote, Conservatives were second with 42.1% of the vote while Labour were third with 10.5%. This election was declared void and in the resulting by-election the Labour votes and others were effectively eliminated and Mark Oaten won with 68% of the vote. In this example voters did not vote for who they wanted in the by-election, but clearly voted for the party they did not want (the Conservatives). Under AV every voter could have voted for the MP they wanted as a first preference rather than having to vote for an alternative party to keep their least preferred option out.

Keep the power of your vote

No to Fairer Votes say:

A No vote prevents hung parliaments becoming the norm

The Institute for Public Policy Research produced a paper in January 2011 indicating that first past the post is likely to lead to more hung parliaments and coalitions in the future. There has been a long term trend in the UK for voters rejecting the main two parties with more than a third of voters not voting for the main two parties in 2010. As a result the “other” parties regularly hold 85 seats. This means that winning parties need at least 86 seats more than their opponents to win an overall majority, and for a workable majority the winning party would need more than 100 seats over their opponents, this has only happened at four general elections since the Second World War. As a result hung parliaments will become the norm under first past the post.

No to Fairer Votes say:

A No vote is a vote against electoral uncertainty and unaccountability

Good! It is about time there was no such thing as electoral certainty. The constituency link will not change so MPs will still be accountable to those who elect them. This will not change so MPs represent and are accountable to both those who vote for or against them. What has changed is that as the No campaign point out under AV safe seats should become a thing of the past as MPs have to work harder to secure 50% of the vote.

No to Fairer Votes say:

A No vote puts the power to decide who runs the country into the hands of the people. AV gives it way to the politicians.

This is the No to Fairer Votes campaigns way of reiterating the same argument they gave earlier that they believe that AV will lead to more hung parliaments. But as shown in the IPPR paper the opposite is the case and maintaining the status quo will lead to more hung parliaments and coalitions.

Defeat an unfair, discredited and unwanted change in the way we choose our government

No to Fairer Votes say:

A No vote is a vote against a confusing, seldom used and undemocratic system

I have seen this “confusing” message so many times, but still don’t understand it, AV is as simple as ordering the candidates by preference, it is as simple as counting 1,2,3. How is that confusing? And if that is too confusing, you still have the option to only vote for one person, which allows the voter the choice to maintain their vote as first past the post.

The truth about it being seldom used is that it is used by millions of people across the country, and world. In fact it is used,

  • By various political parties to select their leaders
  • By MPs to select the Speaker, the Select Committee Chairs and other officials
  • By unions and professional bodies representing everything from teachers, doctors and nurses to engineers and architects
  • In private elections, such as for Chancellor of Oxford University and Rector of Edinburgh University
  • By the Academy Awards for selecting the Oscar for Best Picture

And the last of these claims is that AV is undemocratic, the truth is that both AV and First Past the Post are democratic. The question that should be asked is how to rank the level of democratic nature. The Economic Intelligence Unit came up with a way to measure how democratic a country is through the Democracy Index which rates countries based on whether they have free and fair elections, the security of voters, etc. Comparing Britain (a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy using First Past the Post to elect the government) to Australia (a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy using AV to elect the government) Australia comes out with an index of 9.22 compared with Britain’s 8.16. Both are “Full Democracies” according to this measure, but with its more democratic voting system Australia can be seen as more democratic.

No to Fairer Votes say:

A No vote is a vote against partisan, political tinkering that will stifle the real democratic changes the country needs.

The truth is that this the Yes To Fairer Votes campaign is not partisan, this has a wide support of not just political parties, but of community groups, pressure groups, religious groups and more the full list can be found on the Yes to Fairer Votes website. The No to Fairer Votes campaign agree that democratic changes are needed but they believe that they can lump together those who want no change with those fighting for democratic change.

No to Fairer Votes say:

A No vote will defend fair votes and is a call for real reform

The truth is that a no vote will not call for reform it will protect the status quo. AV is reform, it is real reform. It is ending the unfair, undemocratic system whereby MPs believe they have a right to a safe seat, extortionate expenses and flipped second homes. If you want to make MPs work for their money, to work for your vote then there is only one choice and that is a YES vote in May.

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3 Comments to "The Truth About No to Fairer Votes Arguments Against AV" add comment
January 14, 2011 at 7:50 pm

All lovely and that, but on the flipside… 1) No-one gives
a toss! 2) It’s only half-a-smidgen better than FPTP… 3) …and
it will lock up electoral reform for a generation. So no STV, which
would actually be a proper improvement to the system. Which is
where your lot have f**ked up. You should have left national
elections alone for the moment and pushed for STV for local
elections so that people could get used to it. But now we might (I
reckon less than 50% chance) get a crap change that no one

Simon Dowden
January 15, 2011 at 2:05 pm

What a fascinating, well thought our response to the No
campaign. I try to read all arguments objectively but cannot find
the smallest sliver of difference between my opinion of AV and
yours. Thanks.

January 16, 2011 at 10:45 am

I think while we have the choice of AV vs FPTP I will always fight for the better of the two. It is nice to see you say that AV is better than FPTP though.

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