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March 11, 2011 5:23 AM   Subscribe

MetaVote! Britain will head to the polls on May 5 to vote on, er, voting, in a campaign that could change the political face of Britain. A little. It’s a two-horse race between the venerable, incumbent first-past-the-post and the upstart preferential Alternative Vote. Should Britain replace it’s electoral system? These people say yes. These people say no. These people also say no, but for different reasons. Does anybody even care? Let the bickering begin!
posted by londonmark (83 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Butbutbut then I don't get to watch Election Night Special anymore! Who will defend Silly Party candidate Tarquin Fin-tim-lin-bin-whin-bim-lim-bus-stop-F'tang-F'tang-Olé-Biscuitbarrel?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 5:27 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would be all for a new voting system if it didn't require the use of Electronic Voting machines, we all know how unreliable they are. Unfortunately it seems the main backers of this reform are the people who make the machines.
posted by Lanark at 5:45 AM on March 11, 2011


I would be very shocked if AV didn't go down in flames considering the backlash against the Lib Dems at the moment.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:56 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


The "these people say no" link lists a bunch of reasons that essentially boil down to FUD. No, it's not a perfect voting system, but then again, none of them are. And does Instant Runoff really require voting machines? It seems like it would be reasonably straightforward (albeit tedious) to do by hand.
posted by Dr. Eigenvariable at 6:01 AM on March 11, 2011


If AV passes: The Tories will be seriously pissed.
If AV fails: Lib Dems will self-destruct.

Good times. Other than the fact that I do actually want AV to pass (but really, some form of PR would be preferable). I'm still waiting to see what they end up doing on the House of Lords reform, myself.
posted by adrianhon at 6:11 AM on March 11, 2011


I still don't really understand why the Lib Dem have sacrificed absolutely everything to secure this referendum, and then chosen the shittiest possible system they could find for us to vote on.
posted by dng at 6:12 AM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I would be all for a new voting system if it didn't require the use of Electronic Voting machines...

AV does not require electronic voting any more than first-past-the-post.
posted by creeky at 6:12 AM on March 11, 2011


I would be very shocked if AV didn't go down in flames considering the backlash against the Lib Dems at the moment.

In which case, the UK will deserve the 20+ year long Tory government that it will get. With the reduction in Parliament will come realignment, and you can bet that it will not favor Labour. Never mind that they don't command a majority of the voters, with first past the post, they'll command a majority of the seats in Commons, and that's all that counts.

The Lib Dems have, quite literally, destroyed themselves as a party to give you this once chance at AV. You hate them more than you hate the Tories, but they gave you something neither Labour nor Conservative will give you. The Tories wouldn't give it to you, because they know they'd almost never win the government. Labour didn't want to give it to you because then they'd have to listen to you.

The Liberal Democrats quite literally cashed in *every* bit of political power they had to get this vote. They're done as a party. I would not be surprised to see every LibDem MP thrown out at the next election.

But they forced the Tories into this vote. They're forcing the Tories to give you a vote that will make it vastly harder for the Tories to win a majority of commons and vastly easier for third parties to get seats, thus limiting the need for those nosepegs that got you into this in the first place.

Once again. DO. NOT. FUCK. THIS. UP.

If I were Nick Clegg, and you decided to "punish" me by throwing out AV, after I'd destroyed my credibility and my party getting to you, my answer would be simple. I'd pull out of the government, force the election, and let the "voters" decide -- decide, of course, on the Tory government, unfettered by a coalition deal.

Good luck with that. You'll have gotten everything you "wanted" -- you'll have punched Clegg in the metaphorical face and destroyed the LibDems for daring to go into coalition. And all it will cost you is Margaret Thatcher Mark II.

Really, is that such a big price?
posted by eriko at 6:13 AM on March 11, 2011 [42 favorites]


I would be all for a new voting system if it didn't require the use of Electronic Voting machines

Er.. it doesn't.
posted by ComfySofa at 6:15 AM on March 11, 2011


20 years of Tory government? They are barely scraping 35% now, and their policies have hardly started to be implemented yet.
posted by communicator at 6:16 AM on March 11, 2011


I would be very shocked if AV didn't go down in flames considering the backlash against the Lib Dems at the moment.

Quite – they just came sixth in a by-election. Sixth. In a three-party system, that’s not great. The AV campaign has to find a way to escape the Lib Dem whirlpool.
posted by him at 6:16 AM on March 11, 2011


I would be very shocked if AV didn't go down in flames considering the backlash against the Lib Dems at the moment.

I think you're right that it will be a factor, but I hope not the deciding one. Many people who voted Lib Dem in the last election did so as a protest against the two-party dominance of the UK political system. First-past-the-post is one of the great bastions of that inequitable system.

I still don't really understand why the Lib Dem have sacrificed absolutely everything to secure this referendum, and then chosen the shittiest possible system they could find for us to vote on.

It's just the compromise they had to make to get any electoral reform on the table at all. Imperfect is better than unadulterated shite.
posted by londonmark at 6:17 AM on March 11, 2011


By which I mean, you can fiddle boundaries and cut Labour seats only so far. Also, by colluding with the fiddle the Lib Dems prove that this isn't a principled stance to increase representative democracy.
posted by communicator at 6:18 AM on March 11, 2011


claims in the United Kingdom that Australia uses electronic voting or complex counting equipment to conduct AV elections are wrong. Australian AV elections are counted by hand, with some use of bank note counting machines in the check count.

posted by zamboni at 6:20 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Those SaynotoAV adverts with the soldier and the baby have been driving me mad. I've never felt so strongly the desire to phone up someone to complain about an advert before but by the Fuzzy Felt Christ it's all I can do to resist the urge. I may post them some fresh cat turds instead, the total and utter arseholes that they are.
posted by longbaugh at 6:22 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Liberal Democrats quite literally cashed in *every* bit of political power they had to get this vote.

Quite possibly an understatement. And yet they still may have sunk it by agreeing to be the face of the most Toriest of Tory goverments. And even if they win the vote they won't be the benificiaries now - that'll be all the little parties that just beat the hell out of them.

All in all choosing now to be the biggest assholes possible has been the smartest thing the Conservative party has ever done.
posted by Artw at 6:24 AM on March 11, 2011


I'm in favour of AV, but largely because there is now a gun to my head. With the boundary changes, Tory asendancy is otherwise all but assured. It is thus clear why their best game theory move is to redraw the boundaries and campaign against AV.
posted by jaduncan at 6:26 AM on March 11, 2011


I'm expecting the vote to be NO on the grounds that every single bit of news from the UK* has been depressing since I left there and why should this be any different?

Seriously folks, do you not remember me saying "do not fuck up the country while I'm away" back in 2004?

*well, except the rebooting of Doctor Who.
posted by Artw at 6:31 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK, I feel motivated to comment here.

Essentially it comes down to this, do you want to vote for your government or for your local member of Parliament (MP)?

Remember, all representative democratic systems distort the results of the popular vote. If your candidate doesn't win - your vote is effectively lost (or wasted, depending on your point of view).

First-Past-The-Post is deliberately designed to distort the results so that the party that gets the most MPs gets a boost (through the distortion of being the party in a 3 party system that gets more than 33.4% result getting 100% of the MP). Practically that means you have:
* A limited number of large parties - clustered around the centreground to attract as many votes as possible. (remember: the gerrymandered US system is increasingly creating two extreme parties and is not representative or normal)
* Governments that typically have a majority in the Parliament
So: to (mis) quote Churchill you have "an elected dictatorship" able to respond to events.

With First-Past-The-Post you end up voting with a view to the national result and you end up with an MP that either is in the government or in the opposition. You are not voting for a power-broker, you are voting for the party.


AV or the other methods of creating a winner do some slightly different things. You get:
* Typically the winner is the third choice of the majority of voters (i.e. the results of the first round to get more than 50% of the vote)
* Drastically increased number of parties (because they actually have a chance of getting some MPs - because of the above).
* Much wider range of views (i.e. communists and fascists are openly campaigning and do get some representatives - see Sinn Fein (Marxists) in Ireland or a variety of parties in Italy)
* With a much larger number of parties, no single party *ever* gets a majority - see the recent result in Ireland - even in an landslide the winner still must form a coalition. This again promotes the formation of tiny, single-issue parties (glorified pressure groups) as they have disproportionate power. For example see the influence of the Greens in the German Federal Parliament - hence the huge number of green rules and excessive spending on green initiatives over the last thirty or so years (e.g. €100BN wasted on subsidies for solar power that could have been generated by €5BN-worth of clean generation).

So what does that mean for you:
If you want to have a limited number of centerist parties - you want First-Past-The-Post (without gerrymandering).
If you want to vote for the government you want - you want First-Past-The-Post
If you want to vote for a broad swathe of policies (e.g. conservative, liberal or suchlike) - you want to vote for First-Past-The-Post
If you want to vote for the local power-broker (and don't care what backroom-deal coalition will be formed to make the government) - you want AV or similar
If you want to vote for a very specific policy - you want AV or similar (i.e. if you don't care about anything but abortion, or the six counties of the north or suchlike)
If you want to vote for a government that has power to respond rapidly - vote for First-Past-The-Post
If you want to vote for governments that cannot change the status-quo much - vote for AV or similar (see Belgium).

I hope this helps.
posted by Hugh Routley at 6:32 AM on March 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


I like First Past the Post.

I like the way it makes coalitions less likely than the alternatives. (Yes, they still happen occasionally, but more rarely)

That tends to produce effective governments that can carry out a programme.

It's transparent. A party promises a programme in its manifesto, and the voters can judge whether they've tried to achieve it. If there's closed-doors coalition haggling, you can never be sure if your party actually fought for an element or sold out in exchange for a cushy job. Closed-doors haggling also makes it easier to hide corruption: a politician can take a bribe, reverse a decision, then say "sorry, the coalition required it".

You can kick the bastards out. Under FPTP, relatively small changes in the vote produce large changes in the number of seats. So politicians have to fear the voters: piss them off and you're out of a job.

That also helps fight corruption. If you're a corrupt millionaire and want to bribe a politician, under FPTP you run the risk of having him lose, and ending up with a mortal enemy in power instead. Under a more coalition-friendly system, your puppet will probably have some kind of power so there's less risk to the bribe.

FPTP punishes extremists. With the far right on the rise in Europe, I like a system that helps keep them out of power.

Now there have been some attempts to say AV will give decisive single-party governments too, but it seems pretty unlikely. There are three AV bodies in the world: Fiji where the largest party has 36 seats out of 71, Papua New Guinea where the largest party has 30 seats out of 109, and the Australian House where the two largest parties have 72 seats out of 150.

So, under AV we're likely to see many more coalitions, where elite members of our Political Class arrange things for their own benefit behind close doors.

I say stick with First Past the Post.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:32 AM on March 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


Single Transferable Vote for the win.
posted by kersplunk at 6:34 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


What depresses me is that a 'no' vote will go down as 'not in favour of voting reform'. I seriously want the system to change - but not to AV; and I'm not going to vote for a system I don't want.
posted by monkey closet at 6:35 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


UKIP and the BNP seem to be creeping up on political power quite well even without AV.
posted by Artw at 6:36 AM on March 11, 2011


The logic’s familiar enough to anyone who’s ever asked a friend to pop down to the shops for a coke and said, “If they’re out of that I’ll have a lemonade.”
...
If you go to the chip shop, and order cod and chips but they are out of cod, and you choose pie and chips instead, you have still only had one meal.


I'm really liking where the voting myths page is going with these analogies. Unless they're not analogies, in which case I'd like a chicken pie to be the next Prime Minister.
posted by rh at 6:42 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Artw - think how much power they would get if the coalition needed 2 more MPs to form a government - and they got 2 MPs in the AV system... (just like they've got 2 local councillors)
posted by Hugh Routley at 6:44 AM on March 11, 2011


UKIP and the BNP seem to be creeping up on political power quite well even without AV.

UKIP and the BNP are doing pretty well under the PR system used for the European Parliament and the Additional Member system of the London Assembly.

They've got no seats in Parliament under FPTP though. Under strict PR, UKIP would have had 20 seats, the BNP 12.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:45 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes, but who's advocating strict PR?
posted by adrianhon at 6:50 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


All the conversations about which system to use seem to be based on half assed maths as to what the consequence of changing the system will be. Nobody knows what the consequences will be, and if you're concentrating on arguments like "AV means the Tories will stay in power longer" you (a) don't know what you're talking about and (b), YOU personally are choosing the system which you feel will give you the greatest political advantage. Shame on you.

For me, the appeal of AV is simple. It'll mean that I don't have to vote tactically. I can vote for the party I want, and if that party doesn't get enough votes, I get to use my second or third vote. I'm voting for AV because even if it means 20 years of Tory rule, at least it's a system that seems fairer to me than FPTP.

With regard to how the system will work. If you're in a marginal seat, there's a chance for weirdness. If you're not, your seat will still go to the incumbant. For an example of this, ytou just need to look at Labour Leadership Votes. Both Milliband and (I believe, but am not sure about) Blair got in under AV. Take from that what you will.

Actually, that last point seems to have been missed by the Press. Labour uses AV to vote for its leader. If AV is good enough for choosing the direction of the party, why do Labour politicos feel it's inadequate for the country?
posted by seanyboy at 6:53 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yes, but who's advocating strict PR?

Lord Owen and others, as explained in the "These people also say no" and "begin" links.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:54 AM on March 11, 2011


If you want to vote for the government you want - you want First-Past-The-Post
Many electoral systems empower you to vote for the government you want, but FPP is not one of the more effective. The reality is that most people reside in stable constituencies that rarely change political hands, so you either vote with the majority or your vote is wasted.

If you want to vote for a broad swathe of policies (e.g. conservative, liberal or suchlike) - you want to vote for First-Past-The-Post
This assumes politicians will have no way to carry manifesto promises through in the event of a coalition. That's not the only possible outcome of an AV election. The implication is also that you agree with everything one party wants to do and nothing the others want to do. This is rarely the case

If you want to vote for the local power-broker (and don't care what backroom-deal coalition will be formed to make the government) - you want AV or similar
This doesn't make sense. MPs under any constituency system have the same power and influence. An AV-elected MP will probably have a bigger mandate to act

If you want to vote for a very specific policy - you want AV or similar (i.e. if you don't care about anything but abortion, or the six counties of the north or suchlike)
Assuming that a) there isn't a national party advocating your preference, and b) there's a single-issue party advocating it

If you want to vote for a government that has power to respond rapidly - vote for First-Past-The-Post
Oh dear. Well our FPP governments can hardly be said to have responded rapidly in any consistent or effective way. I'll take my chances with a government that has a much larger mandate to act

If you want to vote for governments that cannot change the status-quo much - vote for AV or similar (see Belgium).
Again you're assuming that the only outcome is coalition, and that the only outcome of coalition is stalemate. I think it's about time we moved away from adversarial politics altogether and tried co-operation. Maybe it's naive of me to think that our politicians are mature enough to cope with it, but I hope the days of bitching like silly girls across the dispatch box are numbered. That process needs a catalyst; I hope electoral reform will be it
posted by londonmark at 6:54 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


They've got no seats in Parliament under FPTP though. Under strict PR, UKIP would have had 20 seats, the BNP 12.

I really very heavily dislike them, but I wouldn't presume to remove people's right to vote freely and to recieve the representation of their choice.
posted by jaduncan at 6:55 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


bitching like silly girls across the dispatch box

Eh. Metafilter is better than that kind of phrasing, and so are you.
posted by jaduncan at 6:57 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


This post would be so much better if those comments endorsing FPTP were emblazoned with kittens and those comments endorsing AV were emblazoned with puppies.
posted by seanyboy at 6:58 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


jaduncan: Exactly. It's very easy to highlight the downsides, but a more PR system would allow for greater representations for all parties, whether that's the Greens or the Pirate Party or whoever. Or perhaps we should just outlaw UKIP and the BNP, if that's the goal?
posted by adrianhon at 6:58 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


For example see the influence of the Greens in the German Federal Parliament

The Bundestag is elected 50% first past the post, 50% proportional representation. It does not use AV.
posted by zamboni at 6:59 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


bitching like silly girls across the dispatch box

Eh. Metafilter is better than that kind of phrasing, and so are you.


You flatter me, but I apologise.
posted by londonmark at 7:00 AM on March 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


The idea that if AV goes down we are going to enter Armageddon is frankly laughable. The didn't actually win the last election with the an utterly crap sitting PM and the economy tanking and they are not going to win the next one. The cuts that Tories have driven though have not even began to bite yet. We are going to have 2 or 3 years of utter misery and a broken NHS at the end of it. Having a give-away budget before the next election might turn a few heads... but not enough to win.

If you actually read the links you can see that AV would make very little actually difference to the outcome of elections. It's not full PR.

The minor party in a coalition always gets squeezed and the LibDems are going to get crushed. They are going to cease to exist as a political force for a generation.

So have they destroyed themselves for what, before the election, even they called a 'squalid compromise'? Well I'm sure the ministerial limos and the lucrative directorships in the City that will follow were an influence for Clegg and co... it's the rank and file members I feel sorry for.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:02 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


But how do they know which method to vote on to change the voting method? It's a meta-issue... it's like how do you know who rolls the dice first to know who goes first?
posted by symbioid at 7:05 AM on March 11, 2011


Metafilter is better than that kind of phrasing, and so are you.

You flatter me, but I apologise.


Take note, Americans – this is what a British argument looks like. We might not know how to elect a government, but we’re terribly good at being polite.
posted by him at 7:06 AM on March 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


But how do they know which method to vote on to change the voting method? It's a meta-issue... it's like how do you know who rolls the dice first to know who goes first?

Luckily it's a binary decision, otherwise... chaos!
posted by londonmark at 7:06 AM on March 11, 2011


Voting is really a majority preference function, often mislabeled majority rule, with emphasis on rule as power. It should instead be "the" majority rule, as in, a rule to establish preference. It's a handy way to also establish equality (one person, one vote) and to settle disputes without force, achieving the greatest satisfaction.

Having said that, ranking is not a good idea, and neither is first-past-the-post in greater than two situations, simply because first-past-the-post is ranking, just never acknowledged as such because it is so subtle in its effect. We can define ranking as anything that forces a voter to strategically compromise before the fact. And never mind the particular comparisons, ranking violates the logic of voting by voters not deciding first.

California recently achieved a reform, with a runoff system limited to two semi-winners. That's not bad. Here's a system to achieve the same results with only one election:

Allow split votes that fully count for the winner, but only so-called to accommodate the voter's dilemma in a spoiler (and they are still only one vote that has not itself experienced a personal majority decision in the voters mind). This works for two reasons. It represents the solid choice of the voter for the candidate they don't want to lose. It represents the solid choice of the voter for the candidate they would like to win. All other methods are psychological and are maintained simply to achieve the same results.

Voting doesn't need to be reinvented. We need to merely acknowledged that a first-past-the-post dilemma can and does exist in the voters mind and should be settled first. It's basically a minimal approval vote that doesn't need fancy counting systems.
posted by Brian B. at 7:16 AM on March 11, 2011


The logic’s familiar enough to anyone who’s ever asked a friend to pop down to the shops for a coke and said, “If they’re out of that I’ll have a lemonade.”

Nah, I usually say "if they're out of that, go to the Co-Op on the High Street, they always have Coke" and my friend is all "fuck you that's miles away" and then I go "Oh come on, I went all the way to the other side of town to get you a curry last week" and then they go "oh fuck it I can't be arsed" and we have Ribena instead because it's that or plain water. Wait, what were we talking about again?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:21 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really very heavily dislike them, but I wouldn't presume to remove people's right to vote freely and to recieve the representation of their choice.

Those are subtly different things.

The right to vote freely is an individual right.

The right to receive the representation of your choice is a collective right. You as an individual don't get to choose the representative you want. You and other people collectively vote for a representative. The opinions of other people are relevant to that too.

Having a system that discourages extremists doesn't necessarily violate anyone's rights. The individual retains his right to vote for who he wants. The people collectively retain the right to have the representatives they elected.

Now it's possible to make an argument that BNP voters considered as a group have some kind of group-level rights which are being violated. But I'm a bit dubious about that concept, because it's not clear how you define what kind of groups have rights, or where these rights come from. (Usually when we talk about things like "gay rights" or "women's rights" we're still talking about individual rights, as in the rights of individuals who are gay or women.)
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:21 AM on March 11, 2011


Having a system that discourages extremists doesn't necessarily violate anyone's rights. The individual retains his right to vote for who he wants. The people collectively retain the right to have the representatives they elected.

I disagree. Arguing against a system precisely because it might allow a wider variety of political parties to gain representation seems awfully arguing for intentionally using a system to disenfranchise minority opinions.
posted by jaduncan at 7:25 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


*awfully close to
posted by jaduncan at 7:26 AM on March 11, 2011


jaduncan: "I'm in favour of AV, but largely because there is now a gun to my head. With the boundary changes, Tory asendancy is otherwise all but assured. It is thus clear why their best game theory move is to redraw the boundaries and campaign against AV."

Yeah, this pretty much sums up my position. I'm not particularly in favour of AV as it's being presented, but FPTP is even worse. Tories and Labour both have a fairly strong incentive to keep FPTP, so any "no" vote will very likely be interpreted as an excuse to bury voting reform for at least a generation. I think that in the long term a more equitable system is likely to be brought about by taking what we can get right now, then pushing for more. Every electoral system has its advantages and disadvantages, but for a 21st century democracy I think the effective duopoly imposed by a FPTP system limits the diversity of representation to such a degree as to make a significant portion of the population feel unrepresented.
I much prefer the voting for the Scottish parliament in this regard. In this hybrid system, you have the opportunity to vote both for a local MSP and also for a party in a regional quota system. This has allowed me to vote productively for candidates who are independent or of small parties (and will probably get Gorgeous George in to duke it out with Oor Eck). In contrast, for Westminster I can join the landslide for a Labour MP whom I profoundly dislike, or piss my vote up the wall on any of a bunch of candidates who won't get half the Labour vote in aggregate. In an age when the chatterati are obsessed with the effective disenfranchisement implied by persistent low turnouts, it seems hard to see the status quo as anything but part of the problem.
posted by Jakey at 7:36 AM on March 11, 2011


I'm really torn by this: I'm strongly in favour of voting reform away from FPTP (STV looks the best to me, although I'm open to persuasion), but AV looks like a pretty pathetic gesture in that direction.

If AV goes forward, any calls for further reform within the next decade or so will be met with "we've just spent a fortune setting this one up!" and make the pro-reform campaigners look indecisive in the eyes of anyone who isn't following the debate that closely. Which is probably the vast majority of the electorate.

If AV is defeated, it'll be declared as evidence that the public is happy with FPTP and against all voting reform. So any cries for reform or referendum on a better system will be painted as a waste of money and going against the popular will.

This situation is a disaster for the Lib Dems and anyone pro-reform. They made a deal with the devil, agreeing to shred their promises, popularity and all of their political leverage in exchange for a referendum on a system that the Lib Dems themselves acknowledge(d) is crap and that even the most fervent pro-reform campaigners will be reluctant to vote for. Madness.

bitching like silly girls across the dispatch box
While I realise that the origin of the phrase is deeply sexist and I agree that we should avoid it for that reason, "bitching" does perfectly describe the particular brand of petty fighting that we see in Parliament and I'm used to hearing it used by and applied to men and women in equal measure. I guess we need to find a gender-neutral alternative because, while it's an unpleasant word, its modern meaning (at least among my social circle) is perfect for what londonmark was saying.
posted by metaBugs at 7:37 AM on March 11, 2011


Addressing your wider point, it is a collective right to choose. However I would claim the more closely the end result reflects the will of the people, the more we have respected their individual rights.

It's possible to imagine an utterly elected dictator elected by first past the post for the entire country. I think that it would produce a tyrany of the majority, and this is one of the reasons why a multi-party parliament is viewed as better. If I accept that, I am surely forced to admit that minority views that represent a section of society deserve representation even if I don't like them. At that point, it seems clear that if 4% of the country want to vote BNP, they should be able to have their views represented.

I would be genuinely curious to be presented with a good counter-argument, however.
posted by jaduncan at 7:37 AM on March 11, 2011


metabugs: bickering?
posted by jaduncan at 7:39 AM on March 11, 2011


The Scottish Parliament has been using a Mixed member proportional representation system for years.
I'm curious how that has worked out and why the rest of Britain wouldn't follow that route of electoral reform.
posted by rocket88 at 7:42 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I accept that, I am surely forced to admit that minority views that represent a section of society deserve representation even if I don't like them.

I'm not sure how compelling this is, but my position is that we need to acknowledge that society is always going to have extremist fringes and that extremist anything is normally a bad thing. So the trick is to strike a balance between "tyranny of the majority" and "everyone gets a shout".

A system in which power is effectively limited to a handful of parties -- possibly with a small degree of the artificial distortion introduced by FPTP -- would provide a range of voices along the political spectrum while minimising the scary fringes. So I wouldn't advocate completely flat "true" PR, but something more like a "five-party system", or at least something along those lines.

I do hate that these systems let BNP et. al into power, but I think that's just a price of democracy. Even people I hate get to have a voice.
posted by metaBugs at 7:47 AM on March 11, 2011


FPTP will win soundly, mostly because most of the left would rather give Nick Clegg a bloody nose than vote for something as dry as electoral reform. It was a masterstroke for the Tories, to convince the Lib Dems that if they act as their cat's-paw and human shields for the dismantling of the welfare state, they'll get their precious little referendum. The fact that there aren't enough clothes pegs in the nations to help every progressive voter hold their nose long enough to vote for electoral reform didn't occur to them.
posted by acb at 7:51 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


You can kick the bastards out [under FPTP]

No you can't, you can just give the other bastards another go.
posted by robertc at 7:54 AM on March 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm sorry, Hugh Routley, but almost every point in your post is wrong or misleading. You seem to be especially confused about the difference between AV (which seems to be similar to the form of preferential voting we have in most Australian elections, except that it's optional rather than mandatory) and proportional representation (PR).
Remember, all representative democratic systems distort the results of the popular vote. If your candidate doesn't win - your vote is effectively lost (or wasted, depending on your point of view).

First-Past-The-Post is deliberately designed to distort the results so that the party that gets the most MPs gets a boost (through the distortion of being the party in a 3 party system that gets more than 33.4% result getting 100% of the MP).
I'm not sure what this means. FPTP distorts the system by forcing voters to guess which of the parties they least dislike is most likely to win then vote for that one or risk wasting their vote completely. Preferential voting allows them to vote for the parties they actually want. This doesn't boost the results of the party that gets the most MPs(?).
Practically that means you have:
* A limited number of large parties - clustered around the centreground to attract as many votes as possible. (remember: the gerrymandered US system is increasingly creating two extreme parties and is not representative or normal)
* Governments that typically have a majority in the Parliament
These are probably more likely with FPTP, yeah.
With First-Past-The-Post you end up voting with a view to the national result and you end up with an MP that either is in the government or in the opposition. You are not voting for a power-broker, you are voting for the party.
You can still vote for a party, and take a national view, with preferential voting. Plenty of "power-brokers" get in with FPTP.
AV or the other methods of creating a winner do some slightly different things. You get:
* Typically the winner is the third choice of the majority of voters (i.e. the results of the first round to get more than 50% of the vote)
The "third choice" of some voters in a preferential poll is likely to be the first choice of the same voters in a FPTP poll. I can safely vote for a minor party in the House even though I know they probably won't win because I know my vote will flow through to Labor. If I only had one shot at it, I'd probably vote Labor straight off. A lot of people vote this way.
* Drastically increased number of parties (because they actually have a chance of getting some MPs - because of the above).
Increased, but not "drastically increased". It's not PR.
* Much wider range of views (i.e. communists and fascists are openly campaigning and do get some representatives - see Sinn Fein (Marxists) in Ireland or a variety of parties in Italy)
Italy has a complex PR system. It's not remotely comparable to the proposed UK system. Ireland has multi-member constituencies. Again, not much like the proposed UK single-MP system.
* With a much larger number of parties, no single party *ever* gets a majority - see the recent result in Ireland - even in an landslide the winner still must form a coalition.
Australia is very rarely governed by a coalition (the Liberal/National "Coalition" doesn't really count - they have their differences but they're really just two factions of the same party of unpleasant rightwingers these days). We do have a coalition now. It seems to be working okay. It could have happened without preferential voting.
This again promotes the formation of tiny, single-issue parties (glorified pressure groups) as they have disproportionate power.
The alternative being giant political machines which completely ignore any issue that doesn't appeal directly to the mainstream? If Australian political history is any guide, giving all of the power to a single party (as happens when a single party controls both Houses, or all the time in the unicameral State Parliaments) is a recipe for poor governance, secrecy and corruption.
For example see the influence of the Greens in the German Federal Parliament - hence the huge number of green rules and excessive spending on green initiatives over the last thirty or so years (e.g. €100BN wasted on subsidies for solar power that could have been generated by €5BN-worth of clean generation).
I assume that "clean generation" is nuclear.
So what does that mean for you:
If you want to have a limited number of centerist parties - you want First-Past-The-Post (without gerrymandering).
Fair enough.
If you want to vote for the government you want - you want First-Past-The-Post
I can quite easily vote for the government I want. I just put the candidate for the party I don't want further down the list.
If you want to vote for a broad swathe of policies (e.g. conservative, liberal or suchlike) - you want to vote for First-Past-The-Post
No, you can do this with preferential voting as well. Just put the parties with the broad swathes of policies further up the list.
If you want to vote for the local power-broker (and don't care what backroom-deal coalition will be formed to make the government) - you want AV or similar
If by "local power-broker" you mean "representative of the local constituency", then yes. Otherwise I have no idea what this is about.
If you want to vote for a very specific policy - you want AV or similar (i.e. if you don't care about anything but abortion, or the six counties of the north or suchlike)
No, with preferential voting you can still vote for parties with many policies. You can also vote for many parties with narrow policies. Choice is a wonderful thing!
If you want to vote for a government that has power to respond rapidly - vote for First-Past-The-Post
You know that they didn't actually make the trains run on time, right?

Anyway, "respond rapidly" often means "respond stupidly". I prefer a government that thinks a bit before doing stuff.
If you want to vote for governments that cannot change the status-quo much - vote for AV or similar (see Belgium).
Belgium has (checks wikipedia) some form of multi-member constituency thing. Again, not relevant.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 8:09 AM on March 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


It's possible to imagine an utterly elected dictator elected by first past the post for the entire country.

Yes.

Addressing your wider point, it is a collective right to choose. However I would claim the more closely the end result reflects the will of the people, the more we have respected their individual rights.

What are the "end result" and the "will of the people" though?

Is the "end result" the distribution of seats in Parliament, or the policies carried out by that Parliament?

UKIP and BNP voters exist as individuals. The politicians have an incentive to get their votes. Even if those individuals haven't got the representative they wanted, they still have an influence on the policies the government carries out.

However, under a system of full PR, at times they will hold the balance of power. For example, suppose that when the government needs 12 votes for its crucial finance bill, the BNP are able to use that leverage to extract a concession on an issue they care about and get a couple of mosques bulldozed.

Under FPTP, their political influence exists, but is more abstract: they can influence the general direction of policy, but they cannot bargain for particular concessions.

I don't really know what "the will of the people" is, or which scenario reflects it better. In the case when they're hold the balance of power, aren't they actually thwarting the "will of the people" by forcing a policy through that most people don't want?

Personally I'm pretty doubtful that there is even such a thing as "the will of the people", since "the people" is made up of individuals whose preferences are fundamentally irreconcilable.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:10 AM on March 11, 2011


What the hell happened to those blockquotes? They didn't look like that on preview. If a mod happened to swing by and took out some of the pointless space that would be grand.

Anyway, I thought the standard of political discourse in Australia was pretty low but that "No2AV" site is just stunningly dishonest. Almost everything on it is a lie.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 8:17 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why is IRV mentioned so much more often as an alternative than range voting or approval voting?
posted by Jpfed at 8:18 AM on March 11, 2011


Will of the people: The highest number of voters getting the representative they chose (this is, of course, a cumulative expression of individual rights).
End result: The range of representatives expressing the range of political views of those voters.

Personally I'm pretty doubtful that there is even such a thing as "the will of the people", since "the people" is made up of individuals whose preferences are fundamentally irreconcilable.

I'm not suggesting it's unitary; indeed the very point of multi-party systems is that it isn't.

I guess our point of departure is that I would emphase the need for parliamentary expression of the full spectrum of political viewpoints and (feel free to disagree here, I don't want to put words in your mouth) you would more emphasise the policy outcomes being to the center of the political debate.

Is your central point that you think coalition building is inherently a bad thing because the coalition may include smaller parties who then have an influence on policy?
posted by jaduncan at 8:19 AM on March 11, 2011


I'm from the US, so all of my knowledge of countries with functional electoral systems is second-hand, but isn't the problem of loathsome parties occasionally holding the balance of power solved by having a political culture that makes clear that any party that works with them will get kicked out? I can't imagine a Conservative party that pushed through legislation with the help of the BNP getting anything but decimated in the next election.

And, hey, there's already a clear precedent empirically demonstrating that the UK already has this type of political culture — after all, the Lib Dems coalitioned with a genuinely loathsome party and are, right now, getting destroyed because of it.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:25 AM on March 11, 2011


Will of the people: The highest number of voters getting the representative they chose (this is, of course, a cumulative expression of individual rights).

Well, that does give us some easy improvements. Just raise the deposit to £100,000 or so, fewer people stand, more voters get the representative they choose, and the will of the people is better fulfilled.

I'm not convinced it's "a cumulative expression of individual rights" through.

By that definition, a permanently and totally gridlocked parliament could represent "the will of the people" by virtue of its composition. But not one of the individual voters would get a single one of the policies he voted for.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:31 AM on March 11, 2011


Well, that does give us some easy improvements. Just raise the deposit to £100,000 or so, fewer people stand, more voters get the representative they choose, and the will of the people is better fulfilled.

If you are also wishing to argue that my suggestion that multi-party parliaments are a good thing is true, then why yes. I'm going to assume you're joking here rather than just arguing in bad faith.

By that definition, a permanently and totally gridlocked parliament could represent "the will of the people" by virtue of its composition. But not one of the individual voters would get a single one of the policies he voted for.

Yes, it could. It seems almost impossible to create a situation that this could happen in under any voting system given that a majority vote will always lead to one policy suggestion winning, and I'd note that there's nothing making this impossible in a FPTP system; nobody voted to go to Iraq either, you vote for representatives. How are you suggesting the mechanism for stopping any votes being made would occur?
posted by jaduncan at 8:39 AM on March 11, 2011


*isn't, damnit.
posted by jaduncan at 8:40 AM on March 11, 2011


Look, I want to wake up every five years and decide which of the guys up for election is best, vote for her, leave them to sort things out except for writing them the occasional cross letter. They don't work for me, they work for the country. They represent me, and serve me, but they aren't simply my conduit of opinion to the Queen.

I want to be able to throw out the guy in charge every so often, and I want the guys in charge to be generally respectful of public opinion, not to go with every whim or poll, and do what's best for the country.

I like representative democracy with FPTP. It swaps around okay, in the long run. It works. It's simple.

If you have PR you get little parties, then after the election you get the deals done, and you effectively get one bigger composite party. If you don't have PR you get two big parties, each representing a wider range of people, and deals happen within the parties (e.g. Brownites/Blairites, Orange Book Lib-Dems/everyone else, Thatcherites/One Nation).

So, really, I don't care. I don't think it'll make a whit of difference. If the referendum fails then the LibDem will split into left wing and right wing, the former will go to Labour and the latter to the Tories, and the government will oscillate between them as it has for centuries. If the referendum passes then we'll end up with little parties (maybe the big ones will split, maybe new ones elected) and they'll just form the coalitions after the elections they would have done beforehand under FPTP. Whatever.

Besides, referendums are un-British. They should just pass the damn legislation, implement AV, and tell us to give them a kicking at the next General if we have a problem with it.

Sorry, bit rambly. I'm sure in my twenties I would have had a coherent, passionately-argued concept about the 'best' electoral system. Nowadays I'm not sure there is one, but I'm pretty happy with ours (no luck Oswald!) and don't see any reason to change it.
posted by alasdair at 8:40 AM on March 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


I want to be able to throw out the guy in charge every so often, and I want the guys in charge to be generally respectful of public opinion, not to go with every whim or poll, and do what's best for the country.

Well, don't we all? Unfortunately, we all tend to have wildly diverse and often incompatible opinions about what course of action is best for the country. And so we have to argue about who gets to decide that.
posted by metaBugs at 9:12 AM on March 11, 2011


As an Australian living in London, I've been a little bemused by the debate over AV.

In Oz, I only ever voted under AV so basically know nothing else. The political end-result -- a "conservative" party (the urban Liberal and rural National coalition) facing off against a "labour" party -- is strongly analagous to the current UK party structure and I don't think AV would change the landscape in the UK significantly at all.

However it would correct to some degree the egregious disconnect between voters and FPTP in those electorates where the MP is sent off to Westminster with a plurality but not a majority. I confess I've never understood why there isn't greater concern about the large number of MPs for whom this is the case.

But as most of the arguments for/against AV tend to reduce to partisan self-interest and how much you hate Nick Clegg, AV will probably fail.

p.s. I'd like to thank A Thousand Baited Hooks upthread for sorting through Hugh Routley's complete mess of a post. TL;DR: Hugh conflates AV with PR and then makes a whole lot of declarative statements that bear little relation to the issue at hand.
posted by bright cold day at 9:26 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


People seem to forget what the point of democracy is. It isn't about perfectly representing the will of the people. It is about preventing tyranny.

Better democracy doesn't come via better algorithms any more than better marriages are the result of more sophisticated pickup lines. The result you are looking for involves active participation not optimal shopping strategies.
posted by srboisvert at 9:39 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


TheophileEscargot:
Relating to "balance of power" under PR, having more parties does mean that extremists can get representation. But it also means that there are more potential combinations of parties that might form a majority. So yes, you could see a coalition of Centre-Right + Extreme-Right, but you're more likely to see Centre-Right + Centre, or Centre-Right + European-Liberals, or Centre-Right + Greens. Mainstream parties become very hesitant to form a coalition with extremists, because it becomes a lovely argument to vote them out at the next election. Sometimes they'll even form mutual pacts among the mainstream not to bargain with the nutters.

But it's definitely possible for the crazy types to win enough support that they become hard to ignore, à la Partij voor de Vrijheid. In perhaps the worst case, they can force unlikely coalitions of all the centrist parties in order to exclude them—and when there's no reasonable opposition to vote for, alienation and extremism only increases. So there are good reasons to be careful.

Warning to people not reading carefully: This is a theoretical discussion about PR, not AV, which is what the UK is voting on.
posted by vasi at 10:28 AM on March 11, 2011


You know what, though? Yes, better democracy doesn't come out of better algorithms — for the most part, it doesn't even come out of electoral politics — but nevertheless better algorithms for measuring the will of the people certainly doesn't hurt democracy, and algorithms that are objectively and transparently anti-democratic (for example, the madness the US uses to select Presidents) do in fact hurt democracy, by both yielding selectees who don't reflect the will of the public, and through inculcating a sense — a justified one — that the will of the public doesn't matter.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the countries with the most thoroughly representative algorithms for selecting elected officials (for example, the Scandinavian countries) also have the most thoroughly democratic cultures. It's not necessarily true that one causes the other (I suspect, like in most situations, it's a dialectical process), but, yeah, better algorithms without a doubt don't hurt.

That said, AV is a totally fucking wretched algorithm, almost as bad as FPTP. Great job getting that mess of pottage there, Cleggy.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:32 AM on March 11, 2011


Jpfed: I'd surmise that approval voting and range voting are excluded because it's relatively difficult to describe the optimal way someone should vote to advance their interests. Some people are still confused by AV, even though "rank candidates from 1 to N" is quite simple!

Under the approval vote, the apparent optimal strategy is this:
1. Find a subset S of the two or three candidates who stand a good chance of winning.
2. Out of set S, pick the candidate C you prefer.
3. Vote for C and every other candidate you like more than C.


For range voting, I'm not sure anyone's really figured out what the optimal voting strategy would look like. Many supporters of range voting argue that voters should simply "vote their utility". But this implies that if I'm not the voter who cares the most about the election, I should scale down my vote so it counts less, and that's clearly not optimal for myself! Good luck arguing to a voter that she should voluntarily cause her vote to count less than others...

I suspect that when optimal voting strategy is used, range voting actually degenerates to approval voting. So you'd vote +10 for every candidate better than the best-of-the-front-runners, and -10 for everyone else. I'd be interested in arguments to the contrary, though.
posted by vasi at 10:44 AM on March 11, 2011


bright cold day: It's hard to say whether or not Australia is representative of what happens when a country uses AV, for the simple reason that it's the only country with large-scale use of AV.

If Malta was the only country with STV, you'd think STV caused a two-party system, but that's not what happens in the Australian Senate or Eire. If you judged FPTP only by India, you'd think it caused a geographically fractured political system with many parties and wide coalitions, but that's clearly not what happens in the UK, US or Canada.

So perhaps Australia just has unusual political dynamics that have sustained two (and a half) parties. Or maybe next election the Greens will finally break through and win a number of seats, and suddenly the conventional wisdom about AV based on Australia will change. Who knows?
posted by vasi at 11:01 AM on March 11, 2011


I'd surmise that approval voting and range voting are excluded because it's relatively difficult to describe the optimal way someone should vote to advance their interests.

It seems like it's doable for both low-effort voters (who would you accept?) and for voters willing to put more effort in (who would be willing to go through the process of figuring out an optimal vote).

I might be biased; I participate in online events that use something very much like approval voting, so I have practice at the optimal strategy. It might seem easier to me than it actually is for people without practice.

I suspect that when optimal voting strategy is used, range voting actually degenerates to approval voting.

Yes- I believe this has been formally shown, though I don't have a cite for it.
posted by Jpfed at 11:01 AM on March 11, 2011


AV is a totally fucking wretched algorithm

Sincerely want to know, why do you say that? On the surface it seems quite reasonable, kind of like having run-offs, but instantaneously. Or maybe I misunderstand AV.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:05 PM on March 11, 2011


The underlying problem is that there is no agreement about how the country should be run and no party which has genuine majority support, and there never will be. It follows that some minority or other will inevitably rule. FPTP acknowledges this and keeps it transparent, whereas other systems pretend a consensus can be achieved if we count the votes differently.
posted by Segundus at 1:58 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Vasi: It's hard to say whether or not Australia is representative of what happens when a country uses AV ...

You're absolutely right that the Australian experience doesn't *necessarily* map to all other countries' experience of AV, but I think the commonalities between the UK and Australian systems (lower houses constituted the same way; a long-standing right-left two-party system; historical and cultural ties) suggest the Australian experience can indicate how AV would affect Westminster.

The big difference, of course, is the existence of the Lib Dems. I think the important point here is that, over time, the combined vote of the Tories and Labour in the UK has been falling *anyway*, and will continue to do so regardless of the voting system used. I don't think AV will have much of an impact on the balance between the three parties, save for the effect AV will have on so-called 'tactical' voting.

FWIW - I don't think Australia has "unusual political dynamics" that lead to the two-party system. It's an effect of entrenched incumbency.
posted by bright cold day at 2:19 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


So this wikipedia page does a decent job of explaining what I think the biggest problem with AV/IRV systems is: if there are more than two major parties, there's incentive to list your preferred candidate lower than your actual preferences, since sometimes that can cause them to perform better. The wikipedia article argues that this is a rare situation, but IMO in practice the uncertainty (and incentive to vote tactically) produced when there's more than two viable candidates leads to a two-major-party system just as surely as FPTP does. The only real improvement on FPTP that AV offers is that it makes it harder for minor third-party candidates to act as spoilers, but since it doesn't actually encourage people to vote honestly and doesn't actually yield a political system where the full spectrum of beliefs held by the electorate are reflected, that minor improvement seems, well, not worth the effort.

For whatever it's worth, I'm for genuine proportional representation when possible, and Approval voting when not, since approval voting is both less likely to encourage strategic voting and also simpler to implement than alternative vote. People who are even more crank-like about electoral systems than I am prefer Condorcet voting — IIRC, this is the system that the Debian project uses to elect administrators — but the level of complexity involved in calculating the winner is, in certain cases, quite daunting. IMO approval voting supplies most of the benefit of Condorcet voting, without any of the awkwardness involved in explaining pairwise comparison / how to resolve circular preferences.

(apologies in advance for the US-centrism of this next paragraph)

aaaand that said: no, a vote-calculation algorithm can never, by itself, provide a functioning, healthy democracy. But nevertheless, a vote-calculation algorithm that actually carefully considers the preferences of the electorate (which FPTP certainly doesn't, and which AV only sort of does), and which yields elected officials that reflect something like the full range of beliefs held by the public in the proportion to which they hold those beliefs, can in fact help nurture a functioning democratic culture. I know a few techy kids in America who would be much more engaged in politics if there were one or two Pirate Party members in the House of Representatives, and, more significantly, a ton of utterly disenfranchised greens and socialists who would enthusiastically participate in American political culture if their views were present in Congress at the level they're present in society as a whole — people who instead grumble, correctly, about how the system is broken and who, at most, hold their noses to vote for Democrats once every two years or so. AV would not fix that at all in the US, and won't fix the equivalent problems in the UK.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:47 PM on March 11, 2011


The result you are looking for involves active participation not optimal shopping strategies.

But optimal shopping strategies often encourage more shoppers. One of the main reasons for the lack of participation is that in so many constituencies your vote in FPTP means nothing at all.

It follows that some minority or other will inevitably rule.

But in practice it's been one minority and one other minority, and all the other minorities have been ignored.
posted by robertc at 3:10 PM on March 11, 2011


I just want to see Nick Clegg cry.
posted by fullerine at 12:44 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm going to link, once again, to two very good, quite mathematically-focused, explanations of the different kinds of PR and what they mean for voters: this article and this letter.
Possibly NSFW if you work for the US government or something.
posted by Acheman at 2:02 AM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes to AV. It's certainly not a perfect system, and it is capable of some fairly significant wierdness at times, but it's miles better than FPTP.

FPTP tends to favour a two party system - the UK is something of an outlier in that the Liberals survive. The US, iwth its institutionalised partisan system, is an extreme example of this. Third parties tend to get squeezed out due to the problem of 'wasted votes'. It also tends to favour parties with more extreme viewpoints.

AV works well up to three major parties, which is presumably why the Liberals want it. At four or above, it tends to start producing some serious wierdness, where it is possilbe for voters to get better results by listing their true first preference in second place so as to influence the order in which other parties are eliminated. However, all of these odd results happen in cases where FPTP would have already failed due to the vote-splitting problem.

If you let me choose my own system, I would have suggested Approval voting (exactly the same process as FPTP, except that you may vote for more than one party), but that's not on the table right now. Until that is an option, I urge everyone to support the best choice on the table.
posted by Urtylug at 3:07 AM on March 12, 2011


I'd vote no if I was back home. Sums up everything that's despicable about liberals that they were willing to abet the swingeing cuts to welfare provision and endanger the NHS for a referendum on a bit of procedural tinkering that will make not a ha'p'orth of positive difference to how democratic the UK is (it may well help shore up the status quo of a rush to the middle ground) - and cloak themselves in the mantle of progressive standard bearers while they do it.
It's a charter for the political class and back-room horse-trading; genuine change can only come from changing the consensus in the country and that can find its expression at the ballot box even under the crappy system we have now, as it did way back when with the emergence of the Labour Party in the early 20th century or the creation of the welfare state post-WWII.
Thus the only political issue of any worth at stake in the referendum is telling the Lib Dems to fuck off, which is what I encourage people to do and happily appears to be the likely outcome.
posted by Abiezer at 3:37 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


So as somebody who lives in a FPTP system I'd encourage you to avoid the fuck out of it. Because otherwise you end up with the U.S. and Britain isn't big enough for that.
posted by Peztopiary at 4:06 AM on March 12, 2011


FPTP tends to favour a two party system

Agreed. It is the two party system. But on the other hand, ranking is negative or strategic voting, which introduces bad polling information. A sticking point to voting methods is the confusion it creates. Kenneth Arrow's impossibility theorem only applies to ranked methods, including all Condorcet methods. Put them all aside and we are left with simple counting, and in choosing a technique, we have the options of voting once, or many times. If we vote once we typically have a spoiler, two major parties, voting dilemmas, buyer's remorse, demand for runoffs, etc. If we vote an unlimited number of times (approval voting) we introduce "clones" into the process, along with negative voting and more bad polling information. We don't want a system that handles clones, because we don't want them in the first place. Clones are virtual anyway, for lack of information about them. We can't delude ourselves into thinking that choosing from a hundred clones is a freedom to choose just because the counting system will decide the winner for us. We may as well keep simple plurality voting and rely on partisan selection methods.

An optimal solution is to choose our best candidate for ourselves AND choose the best party for ourselves, if not one and the same (this allows for up to two clones regardless). This conforms to logic of the majority rule, where if and only if a dilemma exists, should a tie rule or runoff be an option. We have runoffs when someone doesn't capture a majority. We have tie-breakers when someone doesn't win outright. We should allow two votes when the voter's option is logically undecidable between their best candidate, and their likely candidate whom they would be voting against. These "two" votes may be considered split votes for legal purposes, but a full vote would count for the winner when the other is disqualified. Essentially, this would be ran like a runoff election in a single vote.

The split feature of the vote would allow for easy manipulation of the data to automatically break ties, and would provide better information to the losing candidates about their prospects.
posted by Brian B. at 10:35 AM on March 12, 2011


You know, I want electoral reform.I really want reform but this mess is just symptomatic of the Libdems. In order to achieve one of their central principles, not only have they collaborated in some truly unprincipled cuts, but they've allowed the question of voting reform to be diluted to the point of irrelevance.

But if reform isn't supported, even in this unpalatable form, then the establishment will sweep it back under the carpet.

At least here, Scotland, there's always the independence option, though we could easily end up Portugal to England's Spain.
posted by BadMiker at 11:45 PM on March 12, 2011


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