Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Electoral Reform

The BBC has had a couple of interesting features on electoral reform recently, which I thought I'd highlight here:

This one explores why voters vote against their self-interest, suggesting that they may be more swayed by rhetoric than facts or that the working classes may resist the paternalism of liberal 'do-gooders.'

This provocatively-titled piece suggests that we could elect MPs in the same way as reality TV stars, eliminating the least popular until we end up with a majority vote between two candidates. As it recognizes, this is really similar to the way French presidents are elected, though a more realistic approach is to have just one vote with voters numbering their candidates, so that votes can be redistributed without the need for another poll. That's how many student politics elections work, but I worry whether all voters would understand the system were it practiced at national level.

Finally, I wanted to highlight this piece as absolute trash. They try to predict how electoral results of the past might have been different had we used Alternative Vote rather than our current First Past The Post system. The problem is that, even if the survey about what people's second choice would have been is accurate, the whole point is that their first preference may well have been different (a point acknowledged at the bottom)!

Under our present system, many people vote for one of the main two parties - which is not their real preference - simply in order not to have their vote wasted. Indeed, it's quite possible that someone who voted Labour in the last election, but really understood the implications of this survey, could have answered that Labour would have been their second-choice under AV - but that would have harmed, not benefited, Labour...

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