In the second of his guest blog posts Stuart Emerson takes us through three case studies that show how preferential voting systems increase voter power and how preferential voting can lead to a Parliament more reflective of the views of voters rather than stark Party loyalties.
Voting systems are often classified by their output into proportional and non-proportional systems. But they may also be classified by their input into X-voting and Preferential Voting systems. X-voting systems give more power to the political parties and relatively little power to the voters; Preferential voting systems are the reverse: they give more power to the voters and less to the political party machine. Preferential Voting puts the voters in the driving seat, so to speak. This is why establishment politicians from both ends of the political spectrum are united to prevent any form of Preferential Voting at any cost, and strive to confine us only to using The Illiterates’ “X”.
Three Case-studies of Split Votes
Case-study 1: The split Conservative Constituency Association Suppose you have a constituency Conservative Association split down the middle between Europhiles (like Ken Clarke) and Euro-sceptics (like Bill Cash). This has happens more often that one might think. If they are truly democrats then in this situation logically they should put both candidates forward in a general election and let the electorate decide.
But of course they wouldn’t because, with X-voting (FPTP), Conservative support would be spilt and both candidates would be bound to lose. What actually happen in this situation is a behind closed doors stitch-up by the party machine to come up with one or other of the two candidates – possibly decided on the toss of a coin! – and then pretend that everyone in the Association has and has had that view all along.
But with AV, both candidates would be able to stand with no risk of a “splitting the party vote”; die-hard Conservative supporters would give 1 to their preferred flavour of Conservative candidate and 2 to the other. Also die-hard anti-Europeans could give 1 and 2 (or 2 and 1) to their flavour of Conservative and to UKIP; die-hard pro-Europeans could give their 1 and 2 (or 2 and 1) to their flavour of Conservative and to the LibDem candidate. The election would result in an elected member far more representative of the views (rather than just party affiliation) of the constituency electorate as a whole than under X-voting (FPTF).
But of course the establishment parties would hate it because it gives Power to the People at the expense of the power of the party machine.
Case-study 2 : Tower Hamlets elected mayor
Mayors are elected using a preferential voting system called the Supplementary Vote system (which is, roughly speaking, a kind of truncated AV where voters can vote for one alternative only, i.e. they can vote 1, 2 and no further).
The Labour party machine decided – only weeks before the election – to overrule the local Labour party and de-select its candidate and put in their “official” Labour candidate. So the de-selected Labour candidate stood as an Independent candidate but without any risk of splitting the Labour vote because of a preferential voting system (SV – poor relation to AV though it is). Labour supporters could (and did) vote “1” for him in the confidence that this would not be a wasted vote (they could go on to vote” 2” for the official Labour candidate).
Result – he won (and he didn’t even need second preferences!).
Conclusion: Power to the People again (and humiliating egg on the faces of the Labour NEC (again)!)
This shows so clearly why Preferential Voting is so much better, and exactly why establishment party hacks will do everything in their power to stop it in May 2011.
(A similar thing happened in the first election for the Mayor of London. Ken Livingstone stood as in Independent [Labour] Candidate against an Official Labour candidate – and won.
Case-study 3: Nick Griffin’s BNP “Euro-triumph”
Does X-voting really “keep out” extremist candidates? British MEPs are elected by a system of proportional Representation in multimember constituencies, but using X-voting!
In the North West constituency in the last Euro-elections, as counting proceeded the stage was reached where all but one place had been filled. Filling that final place was in effect a First-Past-The- Post battle between the BNP and several other parties, all of whom advertised themselves as “the anti-BNP choice”. Because of X-voting, the anti-BNP vote was split and Griffin was elected. With Preferential Voting, one of the anti-BNP candidates would have taken that last place instead.
With preferential systems, you don’t have to worry about wasting your vote voting for a minority party… but you also don’t have to worry about splitting your vote against one.
Preferential voting in general – and AV in particular – removes the risk of Split Votes, vastly reduces Wasted Votes, and renders Tactical Votes unnecessary.
(On the other hand, voters need to be able to count and write 1, 2, 3 … – even perhaps as far as double figures. )