Friday, May 04, 2012

Electoral System Watch

I've just finished teaching my module on Democratic Theory. When discussing the plurality run-off method, I used French presidential elections as my example, though there voting takes place in two distinct stages. It seems, however, that the London mayoral elections use the plurality run-off method, as the BBC report here:

"With no candidate set to get 50% of votes, the top two go into a second round, where the second choices of those who voted for the five eliminated candidates are reallocated."

In related news, local elections were also held in Scotland, using the STV method (see the end of this report on results or this Q&A).

Readers may remember that I backed the 'Yes to AV' campaign in our recent referendum on electoral reform. Though there are some problems with AV, I think the three main arguments that swung the referendum were: i) under AV the 'loser' wins; ii) under AV some people get more votes; and iii) AV is too complicated/expensive. I don't think any of those arguments are good ones, and the links given will take you to my rebuttals of the first two. But the interesting point is that all of those arguments apply at least as well to STV, but I don't hear anyone round here complaining about it...


  1. I'm just glad that Boris won. If the Tory party does not get its act together, he will surely become its next leader.
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  2. I would suggest that the reason why no one complains about STV in Scottish local elections is because it was introduced directly by the Scottish Parliament and not put to a referendum where opponents can use the lies and misinformation on a public that, mostly, isn't that bothered to get its way as they did with AV.

    Once STV was introduced and people saw that it worked, everything was fine. In a referendum campaign, fear of the unknown usually wins. I think the quality of the arguments has very little to do with it.It's a compelling reason to reject the idea of referendums on anything.

  3. Hi Adam,

    You're right that the AV referendum was hardly a model for participatory and deliberative democracy. I have no problem with rational disagreement, but it strikes me that the reasons that actually won the day for the no campaign were bad ones (as I've argued in previous posts).

    It's particularly galling if people were swayed by 'fear of the unknown' when (at least up here) alternative systems, including ranking systems and ones where people do not get one vote each, are in fact known...