AV referendum date

On Tuesday we were asked to vote on the date of the proposed referendum on whether we should abandon our well understood and sensible most votes wins system and instead adopt the alternative vote system. I have heard that when the Electoral Commission did some research into how well understood the AV system was they discovered that some people thought it meant they could choose to vote at a different (alternative) polling station than the one they normally vote at, Logical and in view of the much publicised problems that occurred in some areas at the last General Election I can understand why some people thought that would be the problem Parliament was trying to resolve. Of course I take the view that this referendum is completely unnecessary anyway and that is why I voted against the Bill on Second Reading. As with all issues I try to decide how to vote in terms of what would be best for my constituents. I came to the conclusion that if we have to have a referendum at all we might as well have it on the same day so that voters are not dragged to the polls twice which would cost tens of millions pounds more.

I considered carefully the argument that such important constitutional decisions should only be taken in isolation of any other election. I decided that my constituents are quite capable of voting on the issue of the voting system at the same time as choosing who they want ton act as their local Councillor for the next four years. So I voted to keep the date which is set out in the Bill.

5 thoughts on “AV referendum date

  1. My concern is not that voters won’t be able to manage (it turns out that the majority of people aren’t morons), but that the existence of the other vote will do strange things to turnout. Strange (by which I mean bad) in two ways: (1) ecause only some areas have local council elections that day, those areas are likely to have a higher turnout than areas that don’t. Few people would, while they’re at the polling station, only use one vote, whereas lots of people, who are generally apathetic, will simply stay at home. Half the battle for the yes campaign will be getting people to care enough to turn up. That battle is already won for them if it is piggy-backed to another election in some areas. (2) the areas that have elections on the same day are overwhelmingly inner-cities, ie Labour Land. So not only have they managed to artificially inflate turnout (which is bad in a value-neutral way) but they’ve done it in areas that are likely to be unrepresentatively ‘yes’ voters.

    • But there are no elections in the biggest city of all London.
      I also think that in view of the importance of this issue there should be a threshold turnout. This will be a vote later in the Committee Stage. I think it is fair and reasonable to expect say at least one quarter of the total electorate to vote for a change of such magnitude before it is introduced.

      • I’d agree with you there, David. It seems particularly important to me that any turnout threshold be defined as you state in terms of the percentage of the electorate voting in favour of the move, not simply some majority of a defined proportion of the electorate voting ‘yes’. If it were the latter, a bizarre situation would arise where if it was looking like a low turnout it would be rational for those opposed to the move to gamble on not voting at all, in the hope of reducing the turnout below the threshold. This, of course, would be completely unfair, as it would present the ‘no’ campaign with two mutually exclusive strategies, whereas that of the ‘yes’ campaign would be clear and simple (just get the vote out). Besides which, the very idea that you can help the chances of a measure being passed by voting against it is simply unfathomable.

  2. I agree there should be a turnout threshold (‘tt’). But that’s because I think this change is so fundamental that it can only be legitimate if X% of people (I would push for nothing under 50%) participate. But that means participate *on this issue*, not just happen to be voting on something else at the same time and, while they’re there, voting in the referendum. I don’t understand how you can support a tt on the one hand, yet not be concerned about artificial turnout inflation on the other!

  3. David,

    At the last general election, you won 40% of the vote. You were the candidate with the most support, but not of the majority. Can you explain to me why you believe the leader of the Conservatives should need the support of the majority of the party, but MPs should not need the support of the majority of their voters?

    As Australia has proven, conservative candidates can win majority support under AV, and a proper mandate. What’s the problem? I write this as a voter in Ireland who tends to vote for the centre-right, by the way. PR and AV are not the property of the left.

    Fair play, by the way, on posting on how and why you voted. It’s a very clean way of keeping your constituents informed.

    Jason O’Mahony

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