There must be an alternative

Am I missing something? The Alternative Vote system is a crock of shit. First of all, it is a majoritarian system not a proportional system. AV is zero percent more proportional than first-past-the-post. It is simply more true to the principle of majoritarianism that FPTP, because it insists on candidates winning 50%.

Yet it is how this 50% is created that is the problem. If no candidate gets 50%, the candidate with the least number of votes is ‘eliminated’. And here’s the rub: it is only his or her ‘second preferences’ that get counted. They count as a full vote, so if those second preferences are enough to push any other candidate above 50% when added to their existing total, they win. If 50% has not been reached, the next lowest is eliminated. And so on.

This is ridiculous. The notion of elimination has absolutely nothing to do with democracy. In other words, why do people who vote for the least popular candidates get to vote twice? There is no principled reason for this. I am not saying that anyone who votes for the Jury Team (who!?) or the Scottish Conservatives or the local TV has-been is an idiot who does not deserve to vote twice. Rather, the point is that no one person deserves to get a second vote any more than anyone else – no matter who their first vote was for.

It is very easy to get bogged down in the details of different electoral systems. But the simple fact is that AV is palpably absurd. If popularity matters, then first-past-the-post works. If proportionality matters, that a fully proportional system is the only option. Have a mixture of these two in a top-up system, if you like. But if second preferences are to be used, you count them all. To do anything else is an insult to the electorate.


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