Alternative Vote Rewards Losers, Would Ruin Our Democracy

AV Fails First Big Test Requiring Simplicity, Transparency

How Can You Sensibly Rate Candidates In A Precise Order Of Preference?

“if it is so important to have 50 per cent of the vote, why not adopt the French system? There the top two candidates run off one week later”

I tried to explain the alternative vote to my step-mother Marjorie, 92, and the full horror of the Lib Dems voting reform scheme became obvious.

This plan, if endorsed, will simply disenfranchise whole swathes of the electorate because it fails the first test of any voting system. It must be simple and transparent. Many voters, and not only the oldest ones, will just not bother to go through this overcomplicated process.

Just to remind you, the Alternative Vote System insists you rate the candidates in order of preference. So instead of a simple cross for your favoured one, you have to rank them in order of preference. The trouble starts right away. How can any rational person make such a judgement? How can you say that after due thought, you rate the Green Party third and the Lib Dems fourth? This is an unnatural task to set. Why would even the most informed vote have enough knowledge for such a precise judgement?

We are told by the Lib Dems that the point of AV is to make sure the winner has more than 50 per cent of vote. The system will allow, if the 50 per cent target isn’t reached, for the “alternative” votes to be allocated from the biggest loser, until one candidate has 50 per cent plus one. Can you imagine how long it will take to count the votes, and the likelihood of error? Can you also imagine how the candidates during the election campaign will have to behave as they try and pitch their arguments to win over the crucial second and third preferences? They will simply try and be all things to all men. Come to think of it, isn’t that what the LibDems do all the time anyway, given that they have no coherent philosophy which makes them different. It promises success to the blandest and least offensive of candidates. Ah yes, the rationale becomes ever more obvious.

And if it is so important to have 50 per cent of the vote, why not adopt the French system. There, if nobody wins 50 per cent of the votes in the first round, the top two candidates run off one week later. This has the advantage of being simple and transparent (if a little slow). Also, during the second week, under the French system the two candidates can face off and argue their cases.

Marjorie is still sharp as a tack, but maybe she isn’t a fair test bed for the Lib Dems scheme. But surely many potential votes will be turned off by this clunky scheme.

As usual, the Daily Telegraph cartoonist Matt had a fantastic take on political controversy. His cartoon showed the umpire at the end of the Nadal versus Murray tennis match at Wimbledon. Remember, poor Murray had hung on gamely, but was outclassed by the magnificent Nadal.  “And using the alternative scoring system, Murray is the winner,” the umpire said.

AV is a way to reward losers. It will disenfranchise many voters and distort our democracy. If politicians want our vote, let them simply argue their cases, and take it on the chin if they can’t convince a simple majority of us that they are right. Don’t mess with our precious democracy if you can’t do that.

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