Correspondence: Electoral reform in Britain and why I’ll be shouting ‘Yes!’March 5th, 2011
It is time for British voters to turn their backs on the shameful shadow of democracy that is the first-past-the-post voting system, writes Sam Bayes, a 27-year-old from London.
On 5th May there will be a referendum on whether the people should change the way we vote for our representatives in Parliament.
At the moment Members of Parliament (MPs) are voted for by a system called “First-Past-the -Post”. This essentially means that the election candidate with most votes gets a seat in Parliament.
Now that sounds fair. It’s the method we’ve used for hundreds of years. But on closer inspection you can start seeing the cracks in the system.
For example, we have many different political parties, but there are three that are the strongest and most powerful. These three usually get all the press and can afford big election campaigns.
But because there are so many parties, a candidate from one of these big three can become MP on as little as 33% of the whole vote. This means that 67% of the people get a representative they disagree with.
Also it leads to Tactical Voting: If Party A always gets in and you hate them, you have to vote for the party that can beat them. Even if that’s not the party you want. Like choosing the lesser of two evils!
Now that’s pretty bad and it generally turns people (especially young people) off politics. After fighting for our right to vote for half a millennium, people have already started to believe that their vote is “wasted”.
So the referendum will suggest that we change to a system called the Alternative Vote.
This is a method that lets people rank their choices as 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Now this is where it gets a bit complex. Let’s say you dislike Party A and the only people that usually beats them is Party B, but the people you like the most are Party C. In the old system you’d have to vote for Party B to keep out Party A and Party C would never get your vote.
But with Alternative Voting you can vote 1st for Party C (the ones you like), 2nd for Party B (the ones that can stop Party C) and 3rd for Party D (which is a party you like more than Party A). They first count the 1st votes and if no one candidate has more than 50% they will count all the 2nd votes and so on until one party has over 50% of the vote.
Now’s that’s much fairer.
I like my local MP, I voted for his re-election and that makes me lucky. But I’m going to say Yes to Alternative Voting on 5th May because giving power only to the lucky is a shameful shadow of democracy.