Date: Wed 4th May 2011
Today is the first national referendum in nearly forty years. We will decide on whether or not to adopt the AV system of voting at General Elections.
There have been a number of myths suggested about AV. The first is that it ensures a candidate will get 50% of the vote before winning. Due to some people only voting for one candidate it means that quite often the winner under AV will still fail to obtain 50% of the vote. Another myth is that it will put an end to MPs having safe seats. Again this is incorrect. Seats with MPs who have over 50% of the vote will be unaffected by AV. It is only in more marginal seats that AV can affect the outcome.
AV is used in just three countries around the world; Australia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji and even in these countries it is seen as a complex and unpopular system. When Paul Francis wrote a very good article in the Kent Messenger explaining the differences between the two systems it took him three times as many words to explain AV as it took him to explain first past the post. This highlights the simplicity of first past the post compared with AV.
With AV you can end up with the candidate who is in third place after the first choices are counted winning. We wouldn’t allow a third placed runner in a race to be called the winner so why allow this in politic?.
Winston Churchill referred to AV as being a system where the most worthless votes are given to most worthless candidates. As ever, he was right.