An intriguing list – so get voting

Cross-posted from the Power 2010 blog:

If all it took to sort out our political system was to produce a list of proposals we’d have the best political system, ever.

Over the last few years, there has been no shortage of wish lists, most of which have promptly disappeared never to be thought of again.

So I’ll readily admit to being a little sceptical of Power 2010 when it was launched intending to, yes, put together a list of proposals.

To its credit, though, Power 2010 has put together an imaginative approach: trawling widely for ideas, then getting a cross-section of the public together to discuss face-to-face their merits in order to create a list of ideas which is then opened up to the public’s vote for winnowing down to a final list.

The selection of proposals up for vote are an intriguing cross-section of the different hobby horses ridden by different groups : English votes on English laws is right there next to proportional representation, directly elected Mayors listed alongside holding a referendum on the Euro.

That gives the process a real strength – and gives an extra incentive to vote, as most people will find not only ideas they like but also at least one idea that they don’t.

The way to ensure it doesn’t get through? Why to take part and vote for other proposals that you do like of course.

In my case, the proposal I don’t like is the allowing a “None of the above” option on the ballot paper.

This can come in two flavours: one where “none of the above” can actually win an election, with no-one getting elected, and one where it can’t.

If it can win, it means we’ll end up with some people living in seats without elected representatives.

That not only gives power to the unelected instead (governing won’t stop; it’ll just be done more by unelected people), it means people who voted otherwise get their representation stripped away from them.

One person shouldn’t be able to vote to deny another person having an elected representative.

So perhaps then “None of the above” works best where the votes for it are tallied, but someone gets elected anyway?

But that turns it into a superficial process: let people express their view and then ignore it.

Having officially declared “None of the above” totals may make people pause and think for a moment or two about the importance of raising turnout, but it’s not as if anyone is short of information on that score already.

So “None of the above” is not for me. If you don’t agree – then go and vote for it, and if you do agree – go and vote for other options.

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9 Comments

  • Andrew Suffield 9th Feb '10 - 5:14pm

    “None of the above” actually makes sense in a better voting system. In particular, if we used a Condorcet method, it would be more or less essential. It also has some meaning in STV systems.

    It would be how you describe in the context of an FPTP system though. But consider: this sort of disenfranchisement is nothing new. That’s exactly the behaviour we currently have; in place of “deny another person having an elected representative”, substitute “deny another person having an elected representative who actually represents their views”.

  • Paul Griffiths 9th Feb '10 - 7:13pm

    I’d always assumed that if NOTA won, the election would have to be re-run.

  • One thing I’ve discussed with colleagues is what would happen to voting behaviour if this idea were ever enacted. In particular how it would affect votes for the BNP – would none of the above mean that those wanting to cast a protest vote would no longer be drawn to them? Or would we actually discover that many people do vote for it on its distasteful immigration policy lines… would be interesting to find out.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Feb '10 - 10:51pm

    I have a rule of thumb for flakiness in people who are full of bright ideas they insist will radically reform politics for the better. If directly elected executive mayors are amongst the bright ideas, the person with the ideas is flaky.

  • Andrew Suffield 9th Feb '10 - 11:58pm

    To take the BNP thing and turn it into a practical example: in a good proportional representation system, you might (for a simplified example) vote something like this:

    [1] Lib Dem
    [2] Labour
    [3] Tory
    [4] NOTA
    [5] BNP

    The inclusion of the NOTA option here makes the vote more expressive, and can be significant in closely-run situations which would be ambiguous without it. But, this only works if you have a really good proportional system.

    The interpretation in this case is simply: if a candidate fails to beat NOTA, they can’t ever get elected, even if that means this district has a lower-than-expected number of MPs. This can be a genuinely correct result if not every party can field enough candidates to fill all the seats, and stranger things have happened.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 10th Feb '10 - 1:16pm

    Isn’t it rather absurd that having gone to the trouble of organising a deliberative poll using a representative sample of the population, Power 2010 should then choose its final priorities by means of an Internet poll?

    Unsurprisingly, the rankings produced by the Internet poll so far show very little resemblance to those that came out of the deliberative poll.

One Trackback

  • By Power 2010 – polls close midnight on Mon 22nd February 2010 at 5:32 pm.

    […] can see which five proposals are leading at the moment, and as Mark has already blogged, it’s worth bearing in mind the options you don’t like, as well as the ones you […]

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