rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Rachel Coleman ([personal profile] rmc28) wrote2011-02-20 09:58 pm

... and I'm voting Yes

Unlike Andrew Rawnsley (and quite a few of my friends) my tolerance for endless discussion of different voting systems is pretty low. I'm also not that keen on discussing hypotheticals rather than actual situations. I strongly feel that voting No in May because Alternative Vote isn't some other preferred alternative to First Past The Post, is making the perfect the enemy of the good.

Twitter's rubbish for discussion, so this is partly an attempt to sensibly expand on my recent exchange with @planetxanna about "why does no-one like AV?". My long answer is:

1. Most people don't think much about electoral systems and therefore neither like or dislike AV.

2. Of those that do think about voting systems, those who really prefer FPTP don't like AV at all. Those who want to get rid of FPTP electoral reform tend to favour systems that go even further than AV and deliver rather more proportionality. AV is a compromise1: it addresses some of the concerns of FPTP supporters: a clear winner, one MP per constituency, keeping the small fringe parties out of power. It addresses some of the concerns of electoral-reform supporters, in particular allowing voters to express preferences honestly.

1 Possibly even a miserable little one.

I like AV, and here are the two main reasons why:

1. The voter can be honest about what they want, rather than tactically voting based on guessing what everyone else in their constituency will do. Maybe for some people only one party will do, but most people have a second and third preference. Existing campaigning implicitly acknowledges this, whenever there's an effort to squeeze the third-party vote. "It's a Two-Horse Race" only works if people have more than one preference. AV lets people make their preferences explicit.

2. The 50% threshold will force candidates to appeal outside their core party vote, wherever a constituency isn't either solidly one-party or divided roughly evenly between two parties. At the moment only a third of MPs were chosen by more than 50% of the people who voted (and that's not addressing turnout issues). The current system encourages negative campaigning, especially in marginal seats and wherever more than two parties are in serious contention. "Vote for A to keep B out" is a depressingly common message. Under AV, there's far more incentive to campaign positively and to avoid pissing off supporters of your opponents with slurs, innuendo and insults.

I think these are desirable changes, and that's why I'm voting Yes in May.
fanf: (Default)

[personal profile] fanf 2011-02-21 01:59 am (UTC)(link)
People in category (1) are likely to be reflexively against change.
bens_dad: (Default)

[personal profile] bens_dad 2011-02-21 06:49 am (UTC)(link)
Their reflex may be for the status quo but I think that if they do start to think about the issue they suspect that their resistance to change for the better may not be very strong.
bens_dad: (Default)

[personal profile] bens_dad 2011-02-21 06:59 am (UTC)(link)
I agree. I don't think much of AV, but even if it is the second worst voting system, this is the first time in my life that any change from the worst voting system* has been on offer, so a too small step in the right direction now is better than waiting in the hope of a bigger step later.

* I am excluding those where the electorate is restricted.

There has been plenty of talk that this doesn't go far enough, so the "No"s aren't going to be able to say that the issue is resolved; a change now isn't going to keep voting reform off the agenda once we have had time to see where the current change leaves us.
bens_dad: (Default)

[personal profile] bens_dad 2011-02-21 09:24 am (UTC)(link)
I don't like the idea of party lists.

I haven't lived under the Scottish system (though I might have voted under it) with first and second class MPs representing the same people through different sized constituencies, but it seems like a good real-world system to me. I guess that might have party lists somewhere in the details, though there might be a way to use the votes cast to pick which representative of the "extra" party gets in.

I ought to explore open primaries further. The idea that only those who belong to the winning party get to choose the representative seems bad, but opening it up to the whole electorate risks a whole new level of tactical voting: I could vote for the fascist standing for the right to be the Conservative candidate to ensure that the tories don't defeat the libdems, which seems to have very dangerous potential.

I'm much more interested in something more radical such as approval voting which lets me express what really matters to me - which of the candidates would I find acceptable ?

However I realized during (not after) the last general election that I need to figure out something much more fundamental before I'm really ready to choose a voting system. My vote in a general election is used to do two different things: it is explicitly picking my representative in Parliament and implicitly selecting a Government. Tying those different functions together is a big problem for me, but so is the obvious solution - presidential government.

(Anonymous) 2011-02-21 11:00 am (UTC)(link)
Surely point 1 ('The voter can be honest about what they want'), isn't quite right, as either your first vote is just a throwaway protest and so the tactical voting moves to the second, serious, vote -- or the first vote becomes part of a very complex tactical voting game, where you try to influence the order in which candidates are eliminated, as that can have a big influence on the result?

The '50% threshold' thing that seems to be the main argument supporters of AV use is also a bit disingenuous. For a start, it only applies if all voters put enough preferences that no votes get dropped as they run off the end of the preferences -- a circumstance vanishingly unlikely, and also one that seems rather unfair on those who only have one preference. If a lot of people go for one candidate and don't mark second preferences it's entirely possible for a candidate to be elected with less than 50% of the vote.

It's also disingenuous because even in the unlikely event no voters do drop off the ends of their lists, it implies that someone's second preference counts as much as someone else's first preference -- it basically says that if a candidate wins with 45% first preferences and 7% transferred second preferences, they had 52% of the support (ie, over 50%). But should a second preference really count, for these rhetorical purposes, as much as a first preference? That doesn't seem right to me. Presumably support for the candidate among those who marked them '2' was less than among those who marked them '1' (or they'd have marked them '1' as well), but to get the '50%' figure you have to ignore that and count transferred votes with as much weight as first-preference votes.

I've yet to see any argument for AV which doesn't, on closer inspection, turn out to be strictly worse than first-past-the-post, either because it's unfair to those who just vote for one candidate, or because (like the 50% thing) it relies on very dodgy assumptions and disingenuous rhetoric about 'support'.

And that's why I'll be voting no.

emperor: (Default)

[personal profile] emperor 2011-02-21 11:43 am (UTC)(link)
Voting for only one candidate means "I want this person, and have no preference among the remainder"; under AV that's what they get.

(Anonymous) 2011-02-21 11:48 am (UTC)(link)
That doesn't make it any fairer that those who do have a preference among the remainder get to transfer their stake to a different horse mid-race, if the one they initially picked falls at the first fence.

FPTP puts everyone in the same situation -- one vote, you pick the winner great, you pick the loser, you lost. AV gives some people more chance to pick the winner because they get to jump to another mid-race -- that doesn't sit well with me.

lavendersparkle: (Labservative)

[personal profile] lavendersparkle 2011-02-21 12:35 pm (UTC)(link)
Presumably support for the candidate among those who marked them '2' was less than among those who marked them '1' (or they'd have marked them '1' as well)

I think your logic is flawed. Some people might really like two of the candidates much more than all the others but not have a very strong preference between them. Someone else might not really care but vote because that's what you do and pick as their first preference who ever's name looks nice. Someone else might hate all of the candidates but pick the least bad option. You can tell by the preference ordering are ordinal, so you can't make interpersonal comparisons. Anyway, we don't base votes' weights on the strength of the voters' feelings or else my vote would count for way more than most people's.

(Anonymous) 2011-02-21 12:39 pm (UTC)(link)
Okay, but doesn't that support my point that you can't claim that the winning candidate 'had the support of at least 50% of the voters' -- that that is disingenuous and misleading (as well as factually inaccurate, for the reason given above about single-preference voters) rhetoric?

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[personal profile] nanaya 2011-02-21 10:08 pm (UTC)(link)
I'll be voting Yes. I think your assessment here is quite good, altho I also feel than Anon does have a point about the 50% thing. For me, that's not the point: 50% is an arbitrary line to draw, what I care about is the system being more representative overall and I feel AV at least has a better chance of achieving that. FPTP isn't a wholly terrible system, but just because we chose it once doesn't mean we have to keep it forever if the general feeling is that we could improve on it.