While the No Campaign have been trying to confuse and mislead the public by painting elections as a literal race and ensuring voters that they’re far too stupid to understand the Alternative Vote system even though they have no problem voting on the X Factor every week, the Yes campaign has had 1 clear message: “Yes to Fairer Votes”. They say that AV will give voters more power, and make peoples’ votes worth more. Given that this in the only point they’re arguing on, you’d hope that they’re correct.
Voter Power Index was set up before last year’s general election to show people what their vote was “worth”, i.e. how much their vote counted towards the overall decision of who governs. Under a pure system of Proportional Representation, everybody’s vote would be worth 1. Due to the nuances of our current system (such as the sizes and demographics of each consistency creating “safe” and “marginal” seats), votes in each constituency will have a different effect on the overall result. For example, I live in Southampton Test, a Labour safe seat, so my vote is worth just 0.128 by Voter Power Index’s calculations. In a highly marginal seat where no party has particular loyal support, their votes may be worth more than 1.
Voter Power Index’s site has just been updated to take the Alternative Vote system into account. The Yes campaign claim that AV will increase the power of each vote, since the ability to rank candidates in order of preference gives you more of a say in the outcome.
Voter Power Index agrees. Their findings:
Analysis from [the new economics foundation] suggests that switching from First Past the Post to the Alternative Vote would have the following effects across the UK:
- An increase in the average power of UK voters from 0.285 of a vote to 0.352 of a vote (where a score of 1 is a fair vote).
- An increase in the number of very marginal seats from 81 to 125, an increase of 44 seats.
- A reduction in the number of very-safe seats from 331 to 271 a reduction of 60 seats.
- A small reduction of inequality in the power of votes with the most powerful fifth of electors going from having 21 times the power of the least powerful fifth down to 18 times.
That gives an average increase of 24% to the power of the vote. In my constituency, it increases 31% to 0.168. So the Yes campaign, if nothing else, is absolutely correct.
But wait a minute, my vote will still be worth less than 1/5 of a vote under AV? Unfortunately, Yes. AV is still a majoritarian system, so it wont bring about the equality of votes that Proportional Representation would. However, it does make votes fairer, and is a step in the right direction. Even if you don’t think PR is a good idea, it’s hard to argue that we should keep a less fair majoriatian system over a fairer one.