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back to article Voting reform finally on the agenda

The opening salvoes of the 2015 general election were fired this week, with publication of the wording of a proposed referendum on alternative voting, to take place next year. The question that will be put to voters was announced by Deputy PM Nick Clegg and published for the first time yesterday in the Parliamentary Voting …

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AV works well down under...

I'd just like to say that the AV system we have in Australia works pretty well. Usually very few complaints, maybe the odd recount when the voting comes down to a few hundred votes, but otherwise ive never heard to many complaints.

One thing i would certainly suggest be added to the law though (from experience with Australian AV) is the preference deals that the parties make be published ahead of the election, so people know that if they are voting for party A and party A doesnt look like getting into the top two, then you know that your vote will be going to party B and not party C.

(i.e. your in an electorate which is always out of Labour and the Tories. But you want to vote Lib Dem, just in case. But if you know in advance that your Lib Dem vote (if Lib Dems dont get enough) will go to the Tories and your massively anti-Tory, you may choose to vote directly for Labour, so that your vote doesnt end up going to your most despised party. (Yes i know this example makes no sense on current political bias but its an explanation!).

Either that or make people choose there order for all candidates (in Aus, you have the choice of numbering all of the candidates for your electorate in your own preferences or choosing the party of your choice and relying on there predetermined preferences to make your vote count).

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Equal?

They aren't necessarily more equal constituencies though. They're going to be based on the number of people who registered for the previous election, not the actual number of people in a constituency. Very handy for increasing the influence of the better off.

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@Dave 142

"They're going to be based on the number of people who registered for the previous election, not the actual number of people in a constituency."

Erm, in case you're not aware, it is a criminal offence not to complete and return the annual voter registration form.

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Anonymous Coward

How else would you determine electorate size

Do you go around and count up the number of adults and check they are entitled to vote?

I suppose we could force people to be on the register of voters....

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FAIL

So.....

....just how do you arrange for people who don't, or won't, register to be on the electoral roll then?

Sheesh!

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Unhappy

Unfortunately......

it will be the same lying dishonest polititians that we will have to vote for!!

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Happy

If it makes you feel any better-

Try thinking of it as:-

"it will be the same lying dishonest polititians that we will have to vote against!!"

Works for me- a little...

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Anonymous Coward

How to do the referendum

In the referendum they should present about 20 options for the new voting system: simple plurality ("first-past-the-post"), plus 19 different varieties of STV, PR and Condorcet. The voting system that gets the most votes wins! (Evil laughter.)

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WTF?

Pot. Kettle. Darkness.

So that's Jack Straw, the minister who fought tooth-and-nail against an inquiry into the Iraq War in which he played a significant part and member of a party which came up with the Digital Economy Bill, complaining about a lack of transparency and decisions being rushed through Parliament.

Oh dear God...

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WTF?

Cough

Labour are worried *now* about rushing things through ? After what they did before the election ?

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Pirate

Why bother?

The Lib Dems really did pimp themselves way too cheap on this one, and I suspect they'll be paying the price at the (barely more fair) polls for a generation.

The proposed system just gives us what we have now with a few bells and whistles and little substantive change. The majority of our MPs will continue to be elected by a minority of influential local constituency party workers, rather than the actual electorate, who merely get to rubber stamp a foregone conclusion. Democracy? I think not.

What the UK desperately needs is a much more representational system that frees us from the constant string of extremist governments that we have had for so long now. we don't vote parties in, we vote the others out and the net effect is usually to give such dominance to one party that it can enact all it's nasty little vanities and fundamentalisms with barely a whisper from a broken opposition. Why does no one else worthy of note use this system? Because it's crap.

Even the so-called coalition we have is a bit of a sham; no sharing of ideas, mitigation of extremes, compromise etc; Cameron says "Boo!" and Clegg says "Baa", cravenly grateful to be raised from the status of utter irrelevance to deputy PM + Fig Leaf in Chief.

Fuck the lot of them.

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Gold badge

Be careful what you wish for.

The inevitable end result of a full PR system (as seen elsewhere) is some minority bunch of tossers holding a wobbly coalition but the short hairs.

We could end up like Germany. Staring down the barrel of energy poverty as the CO2 lunacy bites, 'cos some arsehat decommed all the nuclear power stations to keep the leaf-munching luddites on message. Worse still Israel, where every step in the right direction has to have a raft of sops to the barking zionists attached to it.

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Like Germany?

Germany seems to be doing all right, from what I can see. And if you think the UK don't have an energy problem too than you really need to open your eyes... Our nuclear power stations are shot to shit, our North Sea gas supplies are diminishing quickly (some 9% per annum, I believe) and we have made precious little headway in renewables. Energy wise we are very much in the shit here. The Germans on the other hand have made much more progress with solar and wind farms and their housing stock is in a much better state than ours. They are probably in the shit too, but not as deep.

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DJV

Rushing

Well, Labour know all about rushing things through parliament - a prime example being the hated Digital Economy Bill.

I for one would like to see the end of First past the Post asap - not sure yet if AV or PR is the better route, though...

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MPs are very important.

The problem with a truly proportional system is it would have to be of the party list system. This removes the connection between electorate and local MP. Something that many Brits (me included) don't like the idea of. We would have to have a hybrid system that is proportional (albeit not 100%), but keeps the link to the local MP. STV is touted as being the ideal system for the commons. AV is half way to that system. This small change is important to get us (and the politicians) into a mindset of change, the rest of the reform can come later.

I strongly believe that voting NO to this referendum will exterminate any chances we will ever have for any change to happen within this or even the next generation. You know how the politicians will spin it ... "They said no, they mean for any change forever".

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Missing link?

You can still have a link between constituents and members of parliament in a PR system.

Under STV several constituencies are merged into one constituency with several MPs, say one for each City or Borough. MP seats are allocated based on candidates' share - so the link is maintained.

So instead of having 1 MP per constituency, maybe someone who you may not even like or whom may not be sympathetic to your concerns, you have a choice of representatives to approach.

See also http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/downloads/PRMyths.pdf

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I've never understood the voting system.

Does anyone know of a brief explanation as to why we don't have one man one vote (proportional representation)? The only reasons I can think of is that the present system pretty much guarantees that only long established parties (particularly the big 3) ever get into parliament and forces people to move to areas where there are "more of their kind" -- possibly an old Conservative trick to create Labour ghettos or something?

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Go

Sorry dont understand you Cameron...

Im not sure i understand you. You do have a one man (or woman, lets not be sexist here! :P), one vote system.

If you mean why do you almost always have to vote for someone from one of the major party's, well a lot of it comes down to the fact that they're known brands so to speak. So someone not highly interested in politics will know the major parties, know roughly what they stand for, and so will tend to vote for one of them.

A lot of this does come from the fact that the major parties have the biggest advertising budgets and so the small independent cant compete on getting their message out. Also, the major parties really dont go out of there way to make their candidates well known in their own electorate as they would prefer people to be voting based on the party rather then on the person because a) politicians are not people (=P) and b) if an electorate were to vote based on the person who will best represent THEM in parliament, then the party will be unable to make major deals to the detriment to a region without making significant allowances to the elected representative. You see this all the time in the US where deals are made to make sure that a particular state or region gets certain bonuses in order to obtain votes. Basically any electorate where the elected official is independent (or just not guaranteed to vote the party line) and where parliament is relatively tight will see a huge set of benefits as the independents vote is bought with various gifts for his electorate. Thats why the big parties dont like independents and why you always see the big parties so prominently in the elections...

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@lglethal

I'll be a little more clear:

I cannot vote for the party because they have no candidate in my area.

A party can have more votes than another but still not be in government because the came second in the biggest regions and first only in some small ones.

Both of which mean that we do not have "one person one vote" in the true sense but, instead, have a strange system in which one must vote "tactically" or ones vote makes no difference. It also seems to mean that all we do in this country is, to misquote someone (I don't recall who), "vote the last lot out".

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Deary me . . .

. . . overly not bothered. Bringing this in guarantees always having a coalition government, which some countries have managed to work with and some have not (it's not a problem in countries where the largest parties have broadly similar policies).

In the UK, where the major policies and drivers differ wildly between the two major parties, it may become more of a problem.

As for boundary changes and their apparent lack of transparency, how clear do you want it ? 600 seats all with more or less the same number of constituents. Could it be that this change would remove Labour's power-base of Scotland and consign them to be the third placed party (given that, to have the same sized seats, the relative proportion of seats in Scotland would have to go down).

Wales would have to drop from 40 to 31 seats, Scotland from 59 to 51 and Northern Ireland from 18 to 11 - so that all seats would have roughly 100,000 people in them.

Finally, which should remember that the last changes made to boundaries, done by the out-going shower of miscreants, were forced in by statute, not by an act of parliament - so there was no over-sight by parliament.

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WTF?

What?

"In the UK, where the major policies and drivers differ wildly between the two major parties, it may become more of a problem."

You could have fooled me... they all seem much of a muchness to me - centre right, laissez faire politics. That, in my opinion is why we need this change - so parties with some genuinely new and interesting ideas can replace the old dinosaurs that serve no interest other than their own and that of their cronies.

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Anonymous Coward

Perhaps delay the implementation

If the politicians were to decide at the outset that the new voting system would only come into force after the next general elections, or perhaps even further in the future, then perhaps they would be able to discuss the real advantages and disadvantages of each system rather than just look at how it would benefit their particular party in the short term.

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Megaphone

Representative?

The AV, STV systems depend on people accepting that their vote may be transferred to a person who does not represent their views, or at least, less well than their 1st choice.

There can never be a truly representative system unless there are multi member constituencies based on counties or regions. In parliament, the vote of any member should be weighted according to how many votes they received instead of one member one vote.

Still, it will be interesting to see how the parties address the issue. Since no party is in favour of the AV system, how can any of them advocate the change? My own prediction is that electoral reform will be put back decades. And the Lib-Dems will be totally discredited and disappear into oblivion. So long, beardies!

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Go

Easy way (see Australia)

In Aus, (assuming you dont go the easy option of selecting one party and letting there preferences decide yours), You have to number your entire voting card. For the House of Representatives (equal to House of Commons) this means you number from 1 to ~10. For the Senate (roughly equal to House of Lords) this can mean numbering 1 to ~100.

Now as the counting goes, everyones first choice is placed in a pile. When this is done, the votes are counted. If no candidate has an absolute majority then the candidate with the least votes has their votes redistributed to the candidate that the voter put a number 2 too. The votes are then counted again. If no candidate has an absolute majority then the candidate with the lowest number now is then redistributed and so on, until only 2 candidates are left.

I dont know how much more fair you can get. True your vote might not go to your first, second, third or even fourth or worst choice. But it will never go to your last choice and its unlikely to go to your second last choice (unless you've managed to choose the last 2 candidates as your lowest 2 choices!).

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FAIL

Labour is complaining...

... about things being rushed through Parliament and "lack of transparency"?

Oh the IRONY!!!

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realy scared of

what labor and the conservatives are relay scared of is the end of the 2 party system where ether they are in power or they are going to be in power. I am looking forward to there reasons to appose this as they scramble to find a explanation that dose not make them look desperate to cling on to there power.

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Democracy???

I'd like to point out that what we're seeing here is the final nail in the coffin of democracy. Democratic Governance, or democracy is the process where the electorate in a particular area elect a representative to look after their interests and express their voice in an assembly of such representatives. That's it, an individual selected to represent the mass. The fact that the representatives have decided to form cliques, or parties to enhance their power ( and with that power, the ability to force through policies which display no logical grounds for acceptance). The formation of the party system can be seen as a form of corruption of the democratic process, The fact that the electorate no longer pick a representative to be part of the governing body, but pick someone who has been picked by a separate unrepresentative group who have no concern whatsoever for the local electorate, is simply another corruption of the system of Democracy.

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WTF?

Seriously

What on earth are you on about? Under AV there will still be constituencies, all that changes is how the member for that constituency is chosen. And, I'd like to know how you can describe our current situation as democratic: There are many safe seats in the country where there is absolutely no point in voting: the incumbent will win, every time. In effect, people in these safe constituencies are denied a vote all *even if their choice is guaranteed to win*. Not at all democratic. Sadly, AV is unlikely to change this situation much, but I guess its a start.

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Headmaster

MPs: The New Landed Gentry

Possibly one step forward with the AV referendum being bundled in with the legislation, but two steps back with the proposed boundary changes.

Granted the 650 odd MPS in the commons are effectively powerless with government MPs being whipped around (especially under within the last government) like never before, and opposition MPs hoping for a really bad day or an open debate/blue moon, but cutting numbers doesn't help. Provided MPS are actual put to some real work (and expenses watched) I'd be in favour of increasing numbers since it can be hard to even meet 40,000 constituents let alone represent them. If the boundaries ignore population density then the minority population of country folk will hold the majority of the population to ransom or at least enjoy disproportionate influence. If boundaries do take density of population into account then country folk have to muck in with city dwellers (despite each having distinct political needs) and the boundaries become awful vertical slices.

So yeah, I'm against this.

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Stop

AV IS First Past the Post

The 'post' is 50%+1. Using the same analogy the present system is 'furthest down the track'.

But AV is really no better than the single vote system because the best compromise candidate can get eliminated. Consider the following result for three parties:

1 Con, 2 Lib Dem 40%

1 Lab, 2 Lib Dem 35%

1 Lib Dem, 2 Con 15%

1 Lib Dem, 2 Lab 10%

Using single vote the tory would win with 40%.

With AV the tory would win with 55%.

However if you aggregate first and second choice votes you get:

Con 55%

Lab 45%

Lib Dem 100%

The only fair system is a truely proportional one. Whilst a minority party could sustain a coalition it couldn't force through unpalatable policies which are opposed by all of the major parties. In any case i can't see any of the main parties even entertaining the idea of a coalition with the BNP.

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PR isn't all that either

I accept your concerns over AV, but no system is without its flaws. The main issue I see with a purely PR system is that you would end up voting in a party, as opposed to a local MP, so the party can basically choose who sits in the seats at parliament, not the electorate. As we saw in the last election, some MPs suffered huge swings in their vote that forced them out, as a result of voters' reactions to the MPs' actions both with expenses and other issues. Having a local MP means that there is someone who has a vested interest in dealing with local issues, in order to secure votes for the next election; it also gives you someone to direct your concerns/bile at when you need to.

Personally I'd stick with the current system, but have a census (a basic one of how many people live here of voting or near voting age would suffice) 3 or 4 years into a parliament in order to establish some fairer boundaries with closer population figures for all constituencies, the new ones for the last election are still based on the 2001 census.

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Stop

@Tom 260

"The main issue I see with a purely PR system is that you would end up voting in a party, as opposed to a local MP, so the party can basically choose who sits in the seats at parliament, not the electorate. "

But parties already do that in their numerous safe seats.

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WTF?

erm...

"However if you aggregate first and second choice votes you get:"

Why would you do that? Are you assuming people are thinking "well, I want party1 to win, but if they don't then party2 are pretty much as good" rather than "I definitely want party1 to win, if they don't party2 are better than party3".

"Your vote goes to your first choice if they have a chance, your second choice if they don't (etc)" seems more intuitive that "label your choices, and one vote will go to each of your two favourites"

It's not a perfect system, it's merely better than the current one, which is probably all that can be realistically achieved at this stage

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Electoral roll

It is an offense for the head of the household not to complete the registration form for the electoral roll. This is from the actual wording on the form, and this accurately reflects the Act.

I rang my local Electoral officer, and asked who, legally, was the head of the household - who would they prosecute?

He had no idea, as there is no such person defined in law!

On another point, AV, as proposed in the UK, would not allow your vote to be given to someone of whom you disaprove.

If your chosen first candidate is eliminated, your vote is transferred to your second choice. You do not have to place all the candidates in number order, so any candidate you would not wish to represent you (whether BNP or Communist) would simply fail to receive a vote from you at any stage of the counting.

My coat is the one with the "Head of the Household" badge; I borrowed it from my wife.

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Vegetable soup

Electing a government is a bit like making a vegetable soup. How you choose the ingredients doesn't matter too much, it is the quality of the ingredients that matters. Our problem at the moment is having to choose from a large pile of mainly rotten veg.

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