OK this all stems from a video that was sent around from the conservatives attempting to win the “No to AV” campaign (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cmvl3tikUA&hd=1).
Obviously (from below) I though the video was a terrible example of AV and an even worse example of misleading campaigning, the debate that was created on facebook (http://www.facebook.com/conservatives/posts/154861211245335?cmntid=154952011236255) was very heated in places, but I have snipped out the majority of my posts as they were all mostly factual in nature, so thought it would be a good thing to post on my blog, as its clearly something that makes me tick!

WHAT UTTER UTTER RUBBISH – a Total misrepresentation of the AV system. You seem to be failing to understand that the person who won in that race really did actually win. If someone gets 50% of the vote in the first round then they WIN and the 3rd placed candidate can NEVER overtake them.Why are you trying to persuade the general public with an argument that is a total lie?

For anyone looking for a more balanced and fuller overview of the AV vs FPTP systems check out this summary of the Radio5 live debate on the subject: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00g1ctg and the breakdown of the results: http://is.gd/avornot

If there are people out there who actually think this is a fair representation of the AV system, then we are all doomed. Im quite happy to accept a fair argument against AV if you like, but this is blatantly lieing to the general public. This kind of thing should actually be illegal!

@Daniel O’Brien & Sarah Williamson, if you vote conservative and then dont vote for anyone else, your second preference is effectively another vote for conservative, hence (if there are 6 candidates) you get 6 votes for conservative, which of course totally blows out of the water the “but it gives the smaller parties more than one vote” argument. What it really means is that the smaller parties can vote for their own parties AND the conservatives (if the conservative policies more attractive to them than the other parties!) Thus we can SEE what people REALLY want and stops people feeling that their vote is totally wasted, it SHOULD mean that more people will actually turn up and bother to vote….. As it happens I doubt it will actually mean any change in many of the results, but at the very least we get to find out more about what the electorate actually want….

@Warren Boateng that can never happen, if everyone voted BNP 3rd choice, then by definition noone voted them 1st and so they would be eliminated in the first round! Can anyone actually create a mathematical proof of how a 3rd party could end up winning? I have a feeling that whilst its mathematically possible, in reality it couldnt happen, as real life feelings would get in the way (eg, a Conservative voter would never vote Labour on any preference, and vice versa, but you could get lib dems splitting 2nd and 3rd preferences and UKIP voters going for Conservatives, greens going labour, and BNP going to UKIP and struggling to find a valid preference beyond that!

‎@ Hollie I’m not convinced that you fully understand how AV works either your statement “Or have you been “conned” yourself” may appears to apply to you too.

The reason the video is misrepresenting AV is because it suggests that even if one party “wins” the election, the party that comes 3rd can still beat them. This is not true, if one party wins 50% of the vote, then AV is irrelevant.

AV only kicks in if no one gets more than 50% of the vote, at this point the last placed candidate gets eliminated and their second preference votes get added up again with everyone elses first preferences. So anyone whose first preference vote is still valid is still counted in the second round of votes (so actually they have now effectively voted for the same party in two rounds of voting)

THERE IS NO WAY that AV will allow Nick Griffin into power, that’s just unnecessary scaremongering. The BNP would need to get themselves ahead of the Liberal Democrats and Greens to even stand a CHANCE of AV being “useful” to them in a fight against Conservatives and Labour and even in those circumstances a whole lot of the eliminated LibDem and Greens voters would have to choose BNP as their second preference to then allow BNP to end up with more votes than both Conservative and Labour Voters. (feel free to switch around Conservatives/Labour/LibDem/Green depending on how your particular constituency was made up at the last election.

The key thing that almost everyone seems to overlook is that in reality its highly unlikely that anyone will actually put all 7 (or more) preferences down in order, most people will only put at most 3-4 preferences and a huge proportion will only put down one preference!

LOL @ Julian, all good points, my comments “against” those points would be:

If it rarely makes a difference then whats all the fuss about, seems pointless to worry about it. My opinion is that the proposed UK AV system allows voters to make their voices heard, even if they cant necessarily vote in the candidate they want, at least they don’t feel like its a pointless vote. It allows you to say “This is the person I really want to vote for, but since there is no chance of them actually winning, this is the vote I would have used if I only had a FPTP option”

The difference of course in Australia verses the proposed UK AV system, is that in Australia you MUST vote a preference for ALL the candidates, with the proposed UK AV system it is OPTIONAL. Thus if you only want to vote Conservative then you can, this gets away from feeling like you have to include votes for eg BNP/Labour if you are a strong conservative voter. (http://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/es/esy/esy_au)

I don’t know the facts, but I would guess that the majority of Australians who DONT support the “current AV system” might be much more inclined to support the Optional AV system that the UK are looking to adopt as it doesn’t force them to vote for parties that they are massively opposed to!

We all have to be very careful of statistics and more importantly making sure that we are comparing like with like and giving the full truth in any argument.

AH HA, and from reading that article more carefully it states “A national survey in 1979 showed that the majority of Australian electors favoured the optional version, with 72% for optional and only 26% favouring compulsory preference marking”

Also there is a GREAT example in the middle of the article which begins “The most graphic example of preference votes directly affecting the choice of government occurred at the 1990 federal election….” and goes on to say that the Australian Labor Party fought a campaign based on trying to win the second preference votes for all the minor parties, with the result that the minor parties ended up with their preferred major party in power implementing many of their desired policies…. exactly how it should work!

‎@Tommy the costs of implementing AV is a non issue, we have spent WAY more on missiles fired into Libya than any costs associated with the AV vote. Also I don’t know why you would think it will take ages to create a government after an election. Once the results are in, its no different than the current system. Using FPTP we ended up with no overall winner at the last election and managed to create a coalition government in a couple of weeks, what makes you think that AV would somehow make that worse? If you are worried that no one party will have a ruling majority, then surely thats just the will of the people vs the policies of the parties and not the fault of AV and anyway thats what happened at the last election under FPTP!!!

Sounds like more successful scaremongering from the No camp to me!

@julian beck I think I have to agree with you on all your points this time, although I’m sure that proper use of any basic computer to do the “calculating” will mitigate the majority of the time/costs issues (you dont have to actually do 6-7 rounds of counting you can just do one count (which will take a bit longer) and then put it all in the computer to print out the result in seconds)

One point from the “yes” camp you have not addressed is the simple fact that at least it will allow you to make your voting views known, and will lessen the need to vote tactically an/or not bother voting because your vote will be meaningless. My gut feeling is that it will make more people want to get out and actually vote (at least for the first few times) and that HAS to be a good thing 😀

@Julian Beck, one other point, just for sake of clarity and I think we have had this conversation before, the Aussies didn’t vote 2:1 against optional AV (our version – where you DONT have to put a preference vote for every party) in favour of FPTP, they voted 2:1 against FULL AV (where you have to vote for EVERY party) and they voted (admittedly back in the 70’s) 3:1 in favour of optional AV vs Full AV

@Tom Lello
Please be aware that the AV system in Australia is not the same as the proposed system in the UK, they have FULL AV, were you have to vote preferences for every party, over here its optional, so if you dont want to vote for BNP, then you dont have to, and if you dont want to vote for Labour then you dont have to etc.

You said:
“In Australia it is common practice for parties to produce and hand out a ‘how to vote’ card. Studies have shown that most people loyal to a party will follow this instruction and vote tactically in favour of their parties recommendation rather than using any kind of free will!”

My reply:
This is exactly what happens now with FPTP anyway, so no change there then, and if the people really want to we can all vote for just one party and effectively still have FPTP

You said:
“Also, there is much debate about moving away from AV in Aus in favour of FPTP as it is fairer!”

My reply:
Given that Australia are comparing FULL AV to FPTP, then I would agree that FPTP is fairer, however there have also been debates in Australia about Full AV vs Optional AV where Optional AV is agreed to be fairer that Full AV, what does not seem to have been debated is to compare the THREE options!

You said:
“Most of the electorate do not know the policies of any of the parties! That has to be true in the context of people saying that the coalition has broken from its election pledges. To expect people to evaluate the policies of all of the parties in any election is not realistic.
So people will put marks on the paper in ‘alphabetical order, or tactically, or by colour’ this happens in Australia and is one of the major [sic – message cut off]”

My reply:
There are two problems with this argument:
1. You are being very condescending of ‘most of the electorate’ to suggest that they dont know the policies of any of the parties. Its a different argument if you are saying that the politicians are not following through with the policies, but that has nothing to do with the initial voting system.
2. if you assert that ‘most of the electorate do not know the policies of any of the parties’ then comparing FPTP and AV is irrelevant because if they don’t know the policies, how can they correctly vote in either system? Surely if they are the type of people who vote by colour, or alphabetical order etc, then surely they are the sort of people who will vote that way in FPTP?! If you are saying this because you are under the misunderstanding that in the UK we will be implementing full AV (ie you have to vote a preference for every party) then you are wrong as we are NOT going to be implementing Full AV, hence if you dont know the policies of any particular party then you can choose not to vote for them, voting instead only for parties for which you DO know the policies, or if you really choose, just vote in exactly the same way as you do now but use a “1” rather than an “X”.

I still have yet to see a real reason coming from the NO camp that actually makes any real argument to support why people should vote NO….. Incidentally In relation to “people voting the way the parties tell them how to vote” that seems to be exactly whats happening in the No camp, the tories are telling all tory voters to vote no without actually allowing the people to make up their own minds. I went to a point to point event over the weekend (for those that dont know – its like an informal amateur version of the grand national.) and there were “say NO to AV” posters all over the place, and flyers with misleading reasons as to why people should be voting no:
1. “AV is unfair – some peoples cotes would be counted more that others” – This is untrue, if you vote for tory and they are the leading candidate after the first count then your first preference vote also gets counted for tory in the second round of counting, in a totally equal way to the second preference vote from a first preference BNP voter (who incidentally would probably vote UKIP 2nd and tory 3rd)
2. “AV is discredited – Only 3 countries in the world use it” – not strictly speaking true as quite a lot of countries use STV, which when a single winner is required ends up being the same as AV (eg the irish president. Also a lot of other institutions use AV as a voting system (eg the london mayoral elections and the Labour leader – see http://isupportav.co.uk/2010/11/av-isnt-uncommon-even-mensa-use-it/ for more info). Furthermore most of the countries that use FPTP are former colonies of the UK and as such just followed our lead and just stuck with it, NONE of the “new” democracies adopt FPTP, prefering to implement PR instead.
3. “AV doesn’t work – Under AV the person who comes second or third can end up winning” – well yes that’s because the person who “came first” has not actually won at that point, this is a pointless argument as its trying to argue against the fundamental reason for wanting the change in the first place. If the person who is leading after the first round of counting has not “won” (by getting more than 50% of the vote) then the whole point of AV is to make sure that majority of the electorate (by definition more than 50%) get to be heard about who they prefer out of the 2-3 (at least) remaining candidates they really want to win. As a brief example if the Tories get 31%, Labour get 30% and LibDems get 30% and for example the Greens get 9%, do you REALLY think that the Tory candidate holds a mandate to “Win” in this example? or do you think that maybe the other 69% of the electorate might not be too happy with that? Remember that if ALL the greens voted Tory as a second choice, then the Tory candidate still cant “win”, you then have to look at the LibDem 2nd preferences and then you get a REAL result between the top 2 candidates…….

Again apologies for the length of this response, but again hopefully it has been useful!

@Julian Beck, personally I see the fact that AV wont change much as a positive argument FOR AV! I have yet to see any argument that can in any way prove that a minority group could get any kind of disproportionate power. The current boundaries are being redrawn independently of this vote. At the next general election we will have 50 fewer MP’s and all the constituencies will contain roughly the same number of constituents. That coupled with the more representative voting that SHOULD occur with the optional AV system over FPTP should mean that we SHOULD never again get a government in power that doesn’t reflect the feelings of the majority of the people…. however only time will tell what actually happens in reality, but if you vote NO to AV, you will never know! LOL

‎@ Dan Birkin Can you provide some links to any of what you are talking about? According to http://blog.mutualdesign.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Four-Criteria.pdf AV meets 3 of the 4 criteria and FPTP meets 2 of the 4. There is no mention of the participation criteria. I cant find that one anywhere.

The Monotonicity criteria it mentions is a bit of a fudge as is assumes there is relatively little difference between the candidates. It also assumes that one candidate can have a 10% swing in their support just because they did a good job, given that the 3 parties in question have to have the majority of the support anyway (eg Labour/Conservative/LibDem) then in order for this to work you would need 10% of the voting population to switch from one of these three parties to the other. I think you would find that under AV this would never happen, they might switch their second preferences over, but much less likely to switch first preferences. Its much more likely that you would get a 10% swing with FPTP because people are voting tactically to keep out one of the other parties!

I did find when looking aroung though a REALLY good blog from the London School of Economics:

If you keep drilling down and reading all the articles, eventually you find http://www.democraticaudit.com/publications/ which has some seriously in depth and well thought out discussions.

The ultimate conclusion however appears to be that noone really knows what would happen under AV as we have not tried it yet, and it is impossible to entirely predict what people will do when they no longer restricted by the current FPTP system. You also cant really compare it with the Australian System as they have a Full AV system and we are proposing an optional AV system! (http://thoughtundermined.com/?p=1918)

For those that are interested I had a reply from the ASA about my complaint about this advert (which seems fair enough I guess, although I wonder if maybe someone needs to clarify if “misleading” is really a valid form of “influencing”):


Thank you for contacting the ASA.

I have assessed the ad and unfortunately because the ASA is a self-regulatory body we have been advised that, under the freedom of speech provisions in the Human Rights Act 1998, we are unable to regulate ads that intend to affect voters taking part in the democratic process. As such the Code has since contained the following rule, removing such material from our remit.

The rule in the CAP Code is 7.1:

Claims in marketing communications, whenever published or distributed, whose principal function is to influence voters in a local, regional, national or international election or referendum are exempt from the Code.

Given this, I’m afraid we can’t pursue your complaint further at this time. I would suggest contacting the Conservative Party directly with your concerns.

I’m very sorry we are unable to help on this occasion, but thank you for taking the time to share your concerns with us.