AV: Why we need a new voting system

First published in Your Say St Albans & Harpenden Review: Photograph of the Author by

Remember duck houses and second homes? Two years ago the country was up in arms about corruption in parliament. MPs seemed to have no respect for the system or the voters that put them there. Today, after half-hearted apologies, fines and even some MPs in prison, people are looking for ways to make our MPs behave better.

One idea is to change the way we vote for our MPs. The current system creates safe seats where MPs don’t have to bother. It means most MPs (including Anne Main in St Albans) get elected even though most of the voters voted against them. And it forces people to vote tactically for their second or third choice just to keep someone else out. No wonder so many people think their opinion doesn’t count.

On May 5th there’s a chance to get something better, with a referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV) system.

Under AV, every MP has to win the approval of at least half the voters. So they have to work harder for you. And you get to say what you think of all the candidates, not just pick one. So there’s no need for tactical voting. And you get a greater say in who ends up being your MP.

When it comes to actually voting with AV, you simply number the candidates in the order you like them, 1, 2, 3 etc. If your number 1 choice gets knocked out then your number 2 choice gets counted instead. So you can happily put your favourite first because you know you’re not ‘wasting’ your vote.

People really like voting like this because it puts them in control. It’s actually very similar to how TV competitions like X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing work: you vote for your favourite and if they get knocked out you get to vote on who’s left. At the end of the series, everyone chooses between the last two. So you know the winner is truly the people’s choice.

And that candidate has had to work really hard to win.

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