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The Av Vote.


Malcolm Robinson
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Mr D,

Yes you can just fill in one box but there is too much confusion around 2nd and 3rd choices and a lot of people think they have to fill in all the boxes to get their vote counted. Also there is the thing where people will think they are missing out if they don't fill in multiple boxes. It's hard enough getting people to think about one choice never mind perming in multiple choices.

Quite like your RON idea Stephen, RON or NOTA should be included!

If we voted against Regional Assemblies in a referendum how come we got one? Albeit not the all singing dancing version trumpeted………..

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The reasons I think it is a small improvement - it reduces wasted votes and tactical voting, and it means MPs should have to pass a winning post of 50% to get elected. That doesn't happen now, I remember a Lib Dem MP being elected in Inverness on 26% of the vote!

When LDs talk about "wasted votes" they mean that if all their votes were spread across the whole electorate, and were used to select winners, then they'd gain a lot more seats. If you want a system where the parties get seats in direct proportion to the number of votes, then why beat around the bush and introduce a system that is going to discredit itself in no time at all (as it has elsewhere)? And - because it has been approved at a referendum - will be regarded as the will of the electorate, and so will be very difficult to change again.

What you are about is to trash the constituency system for party advantage, just as has been done in the Euro Elections. Surely more honest to come right out and say that? It might even be the right thing to do - if only the electorate were given the choice! Ironic that the shabby deal which brings us this referendum, is exactly the sort of shabby deal a YES vote to AV is going to bring on in buckets!

AV is a license for wholesale tactical voting rather than votes on principal! Any party which hasn't got the clarity of purpose and policies to need to depend on tactical voting to get elected doesn't deserve office! This incidentally is where I part company with the UKIP; just like the LDs they are in favour of it just as long and so far as it's useful to them!

It's not rocket science to have a multiple choice referendum. But once again we get the lot in power dictating what the question(s) should be, and so imposing their will on what could very easily be a full and fair test of public opinion. As the party which is constantly advocating fairness (and also who brought on this referendum) you don't come very well out of this! :)

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When LDs talk about "wasted votes" they mean that if all their votes were spread across the whole electorate, and were used to select winners, then they'd gain a lot more seats

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AV is a license for wholesale tactical voting rather than votes on principal! Any party which hasn't got the clarity of purpose and policies to need to depend on tactical voting to get elected doesn't deserve office! This incidentally is where I part company with the UKIP; just like the LDs they are in favour of it just as long and so far as it's useful to them!

I don't understand this argument at all, please explain how you think AV will increase tactical voting.

A transferable vote system like AV allows someone who supports UKIP in principle to cast their vote for UKIP without worrying that their vote will be wasted, as if UKIP do end up coming last or near the bottom then their vote can be transferred to their next preference. I'll make a bet with you that if AV is adopted, we'll see UKIP coming ahead of main party candidates in some constituencies.

AV doesn't make tactical voting impossible, but it is more difficult to work out how to do it and for political parties to explain to their supporters what to do. I've seen people argue that AV doesn't eliminate tactical voting (true, which is why I used the word 'reduces') but I've never seen anyone in the No campaign or anywhere else try to argue that it makes tactical voting more likely.

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That's assuming everyone else wants Parma Violets, the rest of the world hates eating flowery girl sweets and couldn't give a monkeys about Parma Violets. It'll make no difference to the !*!@# we're expected to vote for. They're all products of the same public school system.

We're better off voting smarties to save eating dog !*!@#, which is why conservatives got in, the public don't really want them but couldn't stomach another 5 years of !*!@# and voting orange is a waste of a vote

Edited by Brettly
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ZnTU0.gif

That's assuming everyone else wants Parma Violets, the rest of the world hates eating flowery girl sweets and couldn't give a monkeys about Parma Violets. It'll make no difference to the !*!@# we're expected to vote for. They're all products of the same public school system.

We're better off voting smarties to save eating dog !*!@#, which is why conservatives got in, the public don't really want them but couldn't stomach another 5 years of !*!@# and voting orange is a waste of a vote

But in reality we ended up with the Dogs**t and there now enjoying rubbing our noses in it.

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Just got a leaflet through the door "explaining" AV and why we shouldn't vote for it.

It clearly implies you have to put all candidates in order, and suggests you can't leave anyone out.

is this the case?

Only if you have moved to Australia!

Here you can list one choice or multiples in order of preference.

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Interesting read from another forum :)

Electoral dysfunction: Why democracy is always unfair

IN AN ideal world, elections should be two things: free and fair. Every adult, with a few sensible exceptions, should be able to vote for a candidate of their choice, and each single vote should be worth the same.

Ensuring a free vote is a matter for the law. Making elections fair is more a matter for mathematicians. They have been studying voting systems for hundreds of years, looking for sources of bias that distort the value of individual votes, and ways to avoid them. Along the way, they have turned up many paradoxes and surprises. What they have not done is come up with the answer. With good reason: it probably doesn't exist.

The many democratic electoral systems in use around the world attempt to strike a balance between mathematical fairness and political considerations such as accountability and the need for strong, stable government. Take first-past-the-post or "plurality" voting, which used for national elections in the US, Canada, India - and the UK, which goes to the polls next week. Its principle is simple: each electoral division elects one representative, the candidate who gained the most votes.

This system scores well on stability and accountability, but in terms of mathematical fairness it is a dud. Votes for anyone other than the winning candidate are disregarded. If more than two parties with substantial support contest a constituency, as is typical in Canada, India and the UK, a candidate does not have to get anything like 50 per cent of the votes to win, so a majority of votes are "lost".

Dividing a nation or city into bite-sized chunks for an election is itself a fraught business (see "Borderline case") that invites other distortions, too. A party can win outright by being only marginally ahead of its competitors in most electoral divisions. In the UK general election in 2005, the ruling Labour party won 55 per cent of the seats on just 35 per cent of the total votes. If a candidate or party is slightly ahead in a bare majority of electoral divisions but a long way behind in others, they can win even if a competitor gets more votes overall - as happened most notoriously in recent history in the US presidential election of 2000, when George W. Bush narrowly defeated Al Gore.

Borderline case

In first-past-the-post or "plurality" systems, borders matter. To ensure that each vote has roughly the same weight, each constituency should have roughly the same number of voters. Threading boundaries between and through centres of population on the pretext of ensuring fairness is also a great way to cheat for your own benefit - a practice known as gerrymandering, after a 19th-century governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry, who created an electoral division whose shape reminded a local newspaper editor of a salamander.

Suppose a city controlled by the Liberal Republican (LR) party has a voting population of 900,000 divided into three constituencies. Polls show that at the next election LR is heading for defeat - 400,000 people intend to vote for it but the 500,000 others will opt for the Democratic Conservative (DC) party. If the boundaries were to keep the proportions the same, each constituency would contain roughly 130,000 LR voters and 170,000 DC voters, and DC would take all three seats - the usual inequity of a plurality voting system.

In reality, voters inclined to vote for one party or the other will probably clump together in the same neighbourhoods of the city, so LR might well retain one seat. However, it could be all too easy for LR to redraw the boundaries to reverse the result and secure itself a majority - as these two dividing strategies show.

27581401.jpg

The anomalies of a plurality voting system can be more subtle, though, as mathematician Donald Saari at the University of California, Irvine, showed. Suppose 15 people are asked to rank their liking for milk (M), beer (B), or wine (W). Six rank them M-W-B, five B-W-M, and four W-B-M. In a plurality system where only first preferences count, the outcome is simple: milk wins with 40 per cent of the vote, followed by beer, with wine trailing in last.

So do voters actually prefer milk? Not a bit of it. Nine voters prefer beer to milk, and nine prefer wine to milk - clear majorities in both cases. Meanwhile, 10 people prefer wine to beer. By pairing off all these preferences, we see the truly preferred order to be W-B-M - the exact reverse of what the voting system produced. In fact Saari showed that given a set of voter preferences you can design a system that produces any result you desire.

In the example above, simple plurality voting produced an anomalous outcome because the alcohol drinkers stuck together: wine and beer drinkers both nominated the other as their second preference and gave milk a big thumbs-down. Similar things happen in politics when two parties appeal to the same kind of voters, splitting their votes between them and allowing a third party unpopular with the majority to win the election.

Can we avoid that kind of unfairness while keeping the advantages of a first-past-the-post system? Only to an extent. One possibility is a second "run-off" election between the two top-ranked candidates, as happens in France and in many presidential elections elsewhere. But there is no guarantee that the two candidates with the widest potential support even make the run-off. In the 2002 French presidential election, for example, so many left-wing candidates stood in the first round that all of them were eliminated, leaving two right-wing candidates, Jacques Chirac and Jean-Marie Le Pen, to contest the run-off.

Order, order

Another strategy allows voters to place candidates in order of preference, with a 1, 2, 3 and so on. After the first-preference votes have been counted, the candidate with the lowest score is eliminated and the votes reapportioned to the next-choice candidates on those ballot papers. This process goes on until one candidate has the support of over 50 per cent of the voters. This system, called the instant run-off or alternative or preferential vote, is used in elections to the Australian House of Representatives, as well as in several US cities. It has also been suggested for the UK.

Preferential voting comes closer to being fair than plurality voting, but it does not eliminate ordering paradoxes. The Marquis de Condorcet, a French mathematician, noted this as early as 1785. Suppose we have three candidates, A, B and C, and three voters who rank them A-B-C, B-C-A and C-A-B. Voters prefer A to B by 2 to 1. But B is preferred to C and C preferred to A by the same margin of 2 to 1. To quote the Dodo in Alice in Wonderland: "Everybody has won and all must have prizes."

One type of voting system avoids such circular paradoxes entirely: proportional representation. Here a party is awarded a number of parliamentary seats in direct proportion to the number of people who voted for it. Such a system is undoubtedly fairer in a mathematical sense than either plurality or preferential voting, but it has political drawbacks. It implies large, multi-representative constituencies; the best shot at truly proportional representation comes with just one constituency, the system used in Israel. But large constituencies weaken the link between voters and their representatives. Candidates are often chosen from a centrally determined list, so voters have little or no control over who represents them. What's more, proportional systems tend to produce coalitions of two or more parties, potentially leading to unstable and ineffectual government - although plurality systems are not immune to such problems, either (see "Power in the balance").

Power in the balance

One criticism of proportional voting systems is that they make it less likely that one party wins a majority of the seats available, thus increasing the power of smaller parties as "king-makers" who can swing the balance between rival parties as they see fit. The same can happen in a plurality system if the electoral arithmetic delivers a hung parliament, in which no party has an overall majority - as might happen in the UK after its election next week.

Where does the power reside in such situations? One way to quantify that question is the Banzhaf power index. First, list all combinations of parties that could form a majority coalition, and in all of those coalitions count how many times a party is a "swing" partner that could destroy the majority if it dropped out. Dividing this number by the total number of swing partners in all possible majority coalitions gives a party's power index.

For example, imagine a parliament of six seats in which party A has three seats, party B has two and party C has one. There are three ways to make a coalition with a majority of at least four votes: AB, AC and ABC. In the first two instances, both partners are swing partners. In the third instance, only A is - if either B or C dropped out, the remaining coalition would still have a majority. Among the total of five swing partners in the three coalitions, A crops up three times and B and C once each. So A has a power index of 3 ÷ 5, or 0.6, or 60 per cent - more than the 50 per cent of the seats it holds - and B and C are each "worth" just 20 per cent.

In a realistic situation, the calculations are more involved. This diagram shows how the power shifts dramatically when there is no majority in a hypothetical parliament of 650 seats in which five voting blocs are represented.

27581405.jpg

Proportional representation has its own mathematical wrinkles. There is no way, for example, to allocate a whole number of seats in exact proportion to a larger population. This can lead to an odd situation in which increasing the total number of seats available reduces the representation of an individual constituency, even if its population stays the same.

Such imperfections led the American economist Kenneth Arrow to list in 1963 the general attributes of an idealised fair voting system. He suggested that voters should be able to express a complete set of their preferences; no single voter should be allowed to dictate the outcome of the election; if every voter prefers one candidate to another, the final ranking should reflect that; and if a voter prefers one candidate to a second, introducing a third candidate should not reverse that preference.

All very sensible. There's just one problem: Arrow and others went on to prove that no conceivable voting system could satisfy all four conditions. In particular, there will always be the possibility that one voter, simply by changing their vote, can change the overall preference of the whole electorate.

So we are left to make the best of a bad job. Some less fair systems produce governments with enough power to actually do things, though most voters may disapprove; some fairer systems spread power so thinly that any attempt at government descends into partisan infighting. Crunching the numbers can help, but deciding which is the lesser of the two evils is ultimately a matter not for mathematics, but for human judgement

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