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News » WAB Debate

THE WAB Idiot's Guide to Understanding AV

Wednesday May 4 2011

On Thursday, the UK is going to be asked to consider a major overhaul of the way it votes. A new system called AV (short for Alternative Voting) has been proposed which would change the way our government is created.

Our current voting system - called 'first past the post ' - means that the candidate with the most votes wins. Simples. But under AV voting instead of voting for ONE candidate, you are asked to rank people in order of your favourites (kind of like your top five or whatever!) To win an AV election you have to get over 50 per cent of the vote. Here's what happens:

You score them. A calculation is made. If someone has over 50 per cent of the vote, they win.

If noone has over 50 per cent of the vote, the candidate who scored lowest is eliminated. But their supporters SECOND choice scores are shared out amongst everyone else.

If there is still no majority, the person who is last at this time is 'out' and their voters preferences are shared out...and so on and so forth until someone gets over 50 per cent.

You will have no doubt had some "NO TO AV" campaign leaflets pushed through your door in Barnsley (I know I have.) According to those against the change AV is bad because it is "a complicated, expensive and unfair system that gives some people more votes than others."

But supporters say AV would ensure candidates would have to work harder to keep voter support.

I hope our WAB guide has cleared things up for you ahead of the referendum on Thursday - what do you think? Would it change the way you vote? Are you in favour...or don't you care enough to even vote?


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Reply Posted by Susantasker1 on Wednesday May 4 2011 at 10:36
Still no wiser really and don't know which way to vote

Reply Posted by Darren Morris on Wednesday May 4 2011 at 10:47
If this AV goes some way to reduce voter apathy then its a good thing. If you, as many of us do, live in a securely held seat by one party, then the idea that AV may have more chance for your vote to make a difference may entice more people to go and vote. It does in some ways remove the "there's no point in voting cos xxx will get in again anyway" and thats s great thing for politics, and for the local community.

Reply Posted by Stu on Wednesday May 4 2011 at 11:16
I am a Data Analyst by trade, and I've just been having a look at the results of the 2010 By-Elections to see how things may have been different if the AV system was used, just to give people an idea.

Under the AV system 17 of the 21 ward re...sults available on the Barnsley.gov.uk website would have been recounted using peoples second choices.

Of those 17 wards, 13 of them would have been extremely unlikely to change as every one of the second choice votes would have to be for the second highest in the polls to make a difference. The remaining 4 could possibly have been influenced, although again this would involve very few of the second choice votes going to the main candidates.

Of those 4 that may have been effected it would have resulted in 2 independents instead of labours, and 2 labours instead of independents.

In no ward would the BNP have been able to claim a seat under AV.

So in summary, in my view if we had used AV in the local by-elections we would have had to recount 17 of the 21 ward counts, it would have affected 4 wards which would have changed from Independent to Labour or vice versa. There would have been no change in the representation within the council.

Obviously people would vote differently if their second choice counts as well so this is not exact, but an idea of how things may have been.

Having a quick look at the last general election, for Barnsley Central and Barnsley East labour would only have needed 1,000 of the second choice votes in each case to have a majority. The worrying thing here is that the BNP finished 4th in both areas, and if every on who didn’t vote for the Main 3 parties put the BNP as their second choice then the BNP would have finished in 2nd place. Again though, statistically speaking this would be extremely unlikey to happen.

Bear in mind as well that AV is not the only alternative to First Past The Post, but it is the only one we have an option to vote for.

Reply Posted by Jaya on Wednesday May 4 2011 at 14:24
and that's why Im voting against it. Another reason I will be saying no is that I think people would be more likely to use their second vote to make an extreme statement rather than as an actual choice, i.e vote bnp to teach tories a lesson etc this could be worrying. Im quite disturbed that we didnt get a range of options but not surprised as the referendum was one of nick cleggs bargaining chips when playing off the tories and labour off against each other in the General Election so I reckon people may vote against it just cos he wants it. Still what can he expect these days?

Reply Posted by Jennifer Clowes on Thursday May 5 2011 at 11:48
FPTP holds up the status quo of misrepresentation, wasted votes and tactical voting. Make a difference - Vote Yes! >> http://gowers.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/is-av-better-than-fptp/

Reply Posted by Lizzmobile on Thursday May 5 2011 at 12:52
I'm just interested to see what a difference it would make, change is often a good thing and a good shake up will do this place the world of good.

Reply Posted by Stu on Thursday May 5 2011 at 13:44
Worth mentioning that the Lib Dems wanted to go for the AV+ system rather than AV, but the Conservatives wouldn't allow that. So people are voting wether to accept a voting system that nobody wanted.

ipso Regulated