Tomorrow we get to vote on whether to reform the voting system. Obviously this is a contentious issue, and the arguing has been heated, but a lot of the arguments seem to be completely missing the point, which is – Why do we vote?
Well, we vote to decide who will run the country, obviously, but why do we care who runs the country? Well, clearly, because we want a party whose politics are similar to our own. Clearly we’re voting because it’s the policies, which dictate how the country is run, which are the important thing. Let’s say you are vehemently opposed to cuts in the NHS. A good result for you would be any party winning who are opposed to NHS cuts, and don’t have too many other objectionable policies – It doesn’t matter to you which party that actually is.
Clearly, the best voting system is one which returns a party who most accurately reflect the political ideals of the most voters. By definition, this means that we should be voting based on policies, because that’s ultimately what matters, not the name of the winning party.
Currently, the FPTP system is very party-centric.
The good thing about AV is that it’s far more policy-based than FPTP, and produces a result which is far more representative of the political views of the voters. Somewhere, in all the political opinions of the general public, there is an average point – a point where the politics most strongly reflect those of the people. An ideal government would be one who were politically at this average point – the point where it is impossible for their policies to better represent the people.
No party ever gets a majority of first votes, so under the current system the winning party never has the majority of public support. Under AV, the winning party has to get a majority. In order to do this, as well as their own supporters they also have to appeal to all the people who voted for other parties to try and get these people’s second and third votes. If, for example, the Labour party thought that a lot of people might vote, say, Green, then to tempt ‘green’ voters, they have to introduce more ‘green’ policies of their own in an attempt to get the Greens’ second-choice votes. The thing is, if there actually is a strong ‘green’ bias among the general public, then the other parties should be addressing that, because the government’s policies should reflect public opinion. Because AV allows people to split their vote, it means that all the parties have to try and win the second and third choice votes by giving the public policies they actually want. It forces parties to move towards the average point of perfect government. And the winning party is most likely to be the one closest to the average point of perfect government.
The main arguments against AV are based on the fact that people forget that it’s the issues that are important. For instance (from the ‘No to AV’ page): “In AV, supporters of fringe parties can end up having their vote counted several times, while mainstream voters only get one say.” By ‘mainstream’ they are referring to the two parties who usually get the most votes – this doesn’t mean they necessarily have the most popular policies. If you feel strongly about a certain issue, you can spread your vote among those parties who also feel strongly about that issue, and so the election becomes about the issues, rather than petty inter-party bickering. The actual party your vote counts towards may change as parties drop out, but you are still voting for the same (or similar) policies.
The reason some political parties don’t want AV is because they don’t want to be forced to have to appeal to a wider audience, whereas for the general public, the wider an audience a party appeals to, the better they are.
All the main political parties use AV internally when they’re voting in a new leader, because they want the best result for their party. They only oppose it nationally because they don’t want the best result for the country, they want the best result for themselves. Personally, I want the best result for the country.
Vote ‘yes’ to AV.