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AV referendum: a brief explanation of what you’re voting for

Posted on - 5th May, 2011 - 9:42am | Author - | Posted in - Campaigns, News, People, Politics

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So, you may have heard quite a commotion about ‘AV’ in the past days and weeks, I know I certainly have.

My doorstep is littered with leaflets trying to sway my vote, and you’ve probably been collared by campaigners in the city centre at some point.

But what does it all mean? What exactly is ‘AV’?

In a nutshell, it’s a new system of voting- as opposed to our current electoral system, first-past-the-post (FPTP).

At the polls tomorrow, all voters will be simply asked to vote yes or no to the following statement:

“At present, the UK uses the ‘first past the post’ system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the ‘alternative vote’ system be used instead’? Yes or no?”

The first-past-the-post system is very simple, as is AV.

The former means that the candidate with the most votes in a constituency is elected.

While with AV, it asks voters to rank candidates in order of preference. Voters can nominate as many, or few, of the candidates as they like, but initially only the first vote is counted.

If a candidate has more than 50 per cent of the vote at first, they would be elected. If this isn’t the case, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and all of their second choices are allocated.

This process continues until one candidate reaches the 50 per cent quota and someone is elected.

So why the kerfuffle?

There’s two groups in the debate over this referendum, Yes2AV and No2AV.

The latter claim that the current system enables our political system to build a stable government (with coalitions being the exception, not the rule) and that the system is easy to understand. They also say that parties are elected on a manifesto and expected to deliver it – whereas with coalition governments, policies are compromised (as has been seen with tuition fees and the Liberal Democrats).

The former claim that under the FPTP system, votes are wasted, in that if you don’t vote for the candidate that ultimately gets elected, your vote has amounted to nothing. They claim that by forcing more seats to become marginal, voter turnout will increase – while also forcing candidates to work harder for their constituents in fear of losing.

So which viewpoint is right? Who knows, that’s up to the public to decide.

Either way, today’s vote has the potential to create a moment of history , so get down to your local polling station and make your vote count.

For further reading, check out this list of useful list of articles from DemSoc.

Don’t know where your nearest polling station is? Check out our maps

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