Opinion: Let’s switch the P-word

As we start to prepare for a referendum on the Alternative Vote, two words are bothering me. They are Proportional Representation. These words massively simplify the possibilities of electoral reform and unfortunately cloud the issue.

Some talk about ‘Electoral Reform’, but this is far to vague for a referendum and I believe we need a new mantra. Not PR or ER, but PV. Preferential Voting.

This may sound like a tedious matter of semantics, but when it comes to elections and referenda, the structure of your rhetoric will determine the nature of the debate, and the eventual outcome. Switching the ‘P-word’ could change the debate in a number of key ways.

It makes it about the voter. Too often these discussions focus around the results of the election and the subsequent governments. But what of the ordinary voter in the voting booth? What’s in it for them? Well, with Preferential Voting, they get to say “I like party X, but if I can’t have party X, I’d take party Y over party Z.” That’s a clear improvement on their ability to express their democratic wishes. It’s definitely something you can sell.

It makes our opponents’ job more difficult. The fact that you can spend hours discussing the nuances of different electoral systems may be part of why Lib Dem activists love it so much. But every different system has a downside. Talking in general, as we always have done in the past, has enabled opponents to clump all those downsides together and fire them all at us. Talking about ‘Preferential Voting’ will allow the easy dismissal of the downsides of non-preferential systems, like the Party List or AMS.

It shows intrinsically the end to tactical voting and wasted votes. Under AMS or full list PR there is still plenty of scope to vote tactically. With AV there isn’t much and with the unlimited voting preferences of STV there is nigh on zero. But people who vote tactically know it is because they cannot vote for their ‘preferred’ option without risking their least preferred outcome. Talking about ‘Preferential Voting’ will make it immediately clear that this is no longer a problem.

Preferences give credit to coalitions. Opponents of changing the voting system often point to hung parliament situations and claim that coalitions are stitch ups. Polling can suggest which party tie up voters would prefer, but a ‘Preferential Voting’ system makes it perfectly clear. After the each round of an AV or STV count, the transfers are published. This allows psephologists to total the transfers from all candidates in one party and will enable clear cut statements like “72% of voters for party A gave their second choice to Party B” (unless there is more than one candidate eliminated in a round, but a broad picture is always attainable).

It allows AV to be a stepping stone to STV. The biggest difference between AV and STV is that the former uses single member constituencies, the latter multi member. They both are preferential in nature and both require voters to number their choices. If we can sell the concept of Preferential Voting in single member constituencies, it will not be such a big leap in the future to convince the public to switch to STV. Only by talking about Preferential Voting now can we stop a future switch to STV being portrayed as another wholesale reform.

All in all, this is far greater than semantics. In elections you win by setting the agenda. In a referendum the agenda is set, so to win, you must set the tone of the debate. So let’s start talking Preferential – not Proportional – and strengthen our case for voting reform.

Kevin O’Connor is the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council.

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  • Paul McKeown 22nd May '10 - 10:33am

    Excellent piece, thank you! Every point is well made, love it.

  • Great peice, except for the word preferential which is not in normal use, cant find my thesaurus, any ideas ?

  • I think you’ve nailed it Kev. Preferential Voting is not only accurate and descriptive but also has positive connotations (in contrast, I think the phrase Proportional Representation sounds academic and dry and may turn many people off). Another point I would make is that voters don’t HAVE to indicate a second, third or fourth preference. They have the option of indicating only a first preference, exactly as happens currently under First Past the Post. AV would merely give voters the CHOICE of indicating additional preferences. And choice is meant to be a good thing, especially for Conservatives, right? I would love to see how the Tories could possibly argue against extending more choice and handing more power to voters.

  • Good article. We need to win this argument. Giving voters more choice is always a good thing.

  • Paul McKeown 22nd May '10 - 10:55am

    @Paul Barker

    preferential having, giving, or allowing a preference; discriminating in favour of someone or something….; (of a ballot or voting) requiring the voter to put candidates in order of preference

  • Paul McKeown 22nd May '10 - 10:56am

    That definition is from The Chambers Dictionary, 1993

  • Andrew Suffield 22nd May '10 - 11:32am

    Preferential voting and proportional representation are two largely unrelated properties of a voting system. Most preferential voting systems are gratuitously unfair.

    The only real relationship between them is that all the practical proportional voting systems are preferential.

    Under AMS or full list PR there is still plenty of scope to vote tactically.

    “AMS” is a vague description of a voting system that covers quite a lot of voting systems with hugely varying opportunities for insincere voting. “Full list PR” isn’t anything really.

    With AV there isn’t much

    Actually it breaks down quite badly in the presence of three-way near-ties (because it is not a Condorcet method – the Schulze method gets this right, and a lot of other stuff too). The only thing is solves is the “2 major, N minor” case that occurs in somewhere around 3/4 of UK constituencies.

    STV there is nigh on zero

    STV is interesting because while there is significant scope for insincere voting, it is incredibly difficult for anybody to know what the “right” way to vote insincerely would be, and picking the wrong way will backfire.

    I don’t think that increasing voter ignorance about this is going to be productive. IRV happens to be better than what we currently have in one particular scenario which is common in UK politics today. That doesn’t translate into preferential voting being the important part.

    The only real benefit of IRV is that it will put an end to all this “a vote for party X is a vote for party Y” idiocy and fearmongering.

  • I like your thinking, and agree it would be a good way to structure the campaign to win the AV referendum.

    I also think you missed one important point.

    Having to list the people you vote for in preferential order, means people will generally need to be more aware of the policies of not just their preferred party, but the other parties too… which of course means more informed voting, something which should lead to more democratic voting, and help smooth over the impact of the media and the “I don’t like this person so I’ll vote against them” mentality.

  • “The only real benefit of IRV is that it will put an end to all this “a vote for party X is a vote for party Y” idiocy and fear mongering.”

    Which is definitely something worth achieving… even if this is all we can do, it’s better than what we have now.

  • Rachel Coleman Finch 22nd May '10 - 1:07pm

    I agree with your post but I would simplify it a little further and talk about “Preference Voting”. One fewer syllable, and a more widely-used word.

    I am quite happy *not* to spend hours debating the subtleties of voting systems and I think doing so is an active turn-off for many people. I’d rather concentrate on trying to persuade people to pass this referendum, without having academic debates on alternatives that aren’t on offer. Otherwise we’ll be stuck with FPTP for decades more.

  • I think we can all agree we’d rather see STV as the voting system.. however we don’t have the oportunity in this current government to do so.

    The question everyone has to ask themselves is this “Is AV better than FPTP?” If you think it is, then please actively fight for it and to win the referendum and please stop putting it down because it isn’t as good as something we can’t have.

    If you think it isn’t any better than FPTP then by all means continue to put it down and fight against it.

  • George Kendall 22nd May '10 - 2:02pm

    I agree.

    I’ve always been uneasy with the term “fair votes”, which comes over as saying – the system is not “fair” to us. What voters want to know is not, why it is in our interests, but why it is in the interests of the voter. “Preferential Voting” helps to capture that, “Alternative Vote” is more confusing.

    In the referendum, we need to focus on how it gives voters more choice, and allows them to vote for whoever they want without worrying about wasting their vote.

  • I’m from Australia and we have ‘full preferential’ voting. In otherwords every box on the ballot paper must have a number in sequential order, otherwise the vote is ‘informal’ and is not admitted into the count.

    For example if you have 5 candidates on a ballot paper 1,2,3,4,5 is formal, but 1,2,3,4,6 is informal and is not admitted into the count. The system works well because people are familiar with it and education is conducted by the independent government body that runs national elections called the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). At the last Australian federal election in 2007 voter turnout was 95% with 96% ballot paper formality. Not bad.

    The AEC is the template that should be copied to conduct national elections in the UK. It is apolitical, with its own statutory independence, staffed by full-time professionals, and enforces all laws and procedures pertaining to the election. It has real teeth to ensure elections are free, efficient and consistent across the whole country. Such a reform in the UK would help any Referendum to pass if it were announced in advance.

    My understanding is that the Referendum proposal will be ‘optional preferential voting’ where voters can preference as many cadidates as they like, leaving the possibility that a vote can ‘exhaust’ if it doesn’t reach one of the major candidates. Potentially such a notion can be an extension of FPTP voting if most people don’t list their preferences to include the major candidates on a ballot paper. I would urge compulsory preferential voting and increase the candidate nomination fee to deter mickey mouse candidates from nominating.

    Another name you could choose other than ‘Preferential Voting’ would be ‘Choice Voting”. It’s simple and easy to understand. However any change to the voting system must be supported by an effective education program run by a national electoral body that takes charge and administers the national election from start to finish. This body must be free from political influence, be well funded and have sufficient powers to enforce national voting procedures. At least then responsibility is concentrated and procedures are unified.

  • Thanks very much for all the positive feedback.

    Andrew, for AMS and Full List PR, read the systems currently used in Wales, Scotland and London for the former, and that used in the Euros for the latter. Happy for feedback on how I can refer to these more accurately. I agree that AV/IRV isn’t a huge improvement, but it is an improvement. I’m certainly not suggesting we make voters more ignorant, just that we need a simple way to provide clarity to voters on what the change would mean for them. My piece was focussed on communication of a type of system, rather than the systems themselves. These have been discussed at length elsewhere. But I will just say that I am struggling to get my head round the wikipedia page on the Shulze method. I’d be curious to know how often it produces a different result to running IRV on the same ballots.

    Rachel: Preference voting would be fine too.

    George: Completely agree – absolutely have to make sure we don’t sound moany or self-interested.

  • Paul McKeown 22nd May '10 - 3:26pm

    I think it is important to emphasize the benefits of preferential voting and contrast them to the problems associated with first part the post. I think it is important not to get bogged down in the mechanics, which few are interested in. If you make it sound complicated, almost everyone will switch off.

  • “Preference” voting is the best of the terms on this thread. “Choice” isn’t good enough, because it could equally well describe what you do in FPTP. “Preferential” is too long a word, and it’s a word that Joe/Joanne Public has never used in his/her life. “Preference” is a word he/she has occasionally used before!

  • Stuart Mitchell 23rd May '10 - 11:06am

    Many of the “preferential” voting systems discussed will be a bamboozling turn-off to many potential voters, particularly – and this is an undeniable fact – voters in disadvantaged areas. But hey, those people wouldn’t vote Tory/Lib Dem anyway so let’s not worry too much about that.

    Any “preferential” system will have another extremely desirable effect for the Tory/Lib Dem pairing. Supporters of the government will be able to vote for the government twice – one in the Tory box, one in the Lib Dem box. Opponents of the government will effectively have only one vote (in England at any rate). Who else is there? Right wing voters will have terrific fun filling in their “preferential” voting forms. Not only do they have the Tories and Lib Dems to vote for, but they will also know that by far the two largest fringe parties – UKIP and BNP – are much closer to the Tories and Lib Dems than to Labour.

    Most Labour voters would in the past have been happy to vote Lib Dem as a second (or even first) choice, but this is unlikely to remain so given that the Lib Dems have thrown away any semblance of independence and aligned themselves so closely to the Tories, an impression reinforced by Nick Clegg’s performance on the Andrew Marr show this morning. Or was it David Cameron? Hard to tell these days. The Lib Dems’ surrender of their independence could well usher in many decades of unbreakable right-wing hegemony in this country. Those Lib Dems who genuinely care about social justice moer than power will come to rue this once the novelty of having members in cabinet has worn off.

  • Stuart, I think it’s largely due to people of your disposition that we are saddled with the archaic and wholly disproportionate system of FPTP. Not only are you seemingly determined to resist change, you also typically underestimate the intelligence of the electorate.

    Working out how to put 1, 2, 3 etc by a bunch of names instead of merely putting a X is not rocket science after all and, in countries who operate proportional representation systems, folk do perfectly well.

    As for the impact of the new coalition government on people’s voting patterns in general and “…those Lib Dems who genuinely care about social justice moer than power…”, as an ex Labour member myself I can only say that this development is the best thing that’s happened to governance in the UK since the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

  • “… “Preferential” is too long a word, and it’s a word that Joe/Joanne Public has never used in his/her life. “Preference” is a word he/she has occasionally used before!…”

    I think that’s a bit insulting to “Joe public” Preferential is hardly a word that is out of common use… and preferential voting flows better than preference voting. I don’t think there are many people who wouldn’t at the very least get the general idea of what is meant when you say preferential voting.

  • David Allen 23rd May '10 - 7:05pm


    Sadly you misunderstand Stuart’s viewpoint. You have jumped to the conclusion that his concern is for the poor and disadvantaged. However, close reading reveals that his real concern is, in fact, for the very small number of irredeemably stupid people around, who simply cannot cope with more than one choice. Labour just cannot afford to lose their votes!

  • Stuart Mitchell 23rd May '10 - 7:15pm

    Kirsten, I actually dislike FPTP almost as much as I dislike “preferential” voting! For what it’s worth, I have always favoured PR, but along the lines of the German system. In fact, I can’t see how the German system could be improved upon. Preferential voting has nothing whatsoever to do with PR or “fair votes”.

    Nor was I denigrating the kind of people who might struggle to fill in a “preferential” voting form. These people exist, in fact part of my job involves helping them achieve something in their lives. There are lots of young people today who take college courses in tasks as mundane as catching a bus; this is no bad thing, as these kids are actually trying to make the best of the hand they have been dealt. A complicated voting system such as the type favoured by many people here (99% of whom are, I would guess, graduates) would do nothing to widen participation in the political process in this country. I wouldn’t expect Tories to care about that. I WOULD expect Lib Dems to.

  • Stuart Mitchell 23rd May '10 - 7:21pm

    David, stupidity can take many forms. Many of the kids I know who struggle to complete a functional skills course show more intelligence in other ways than some posters to political forums.

  • Stuart Mitchell 23rd May '10 - 8:18pm

    Andrew Suffield: “Preferential voting and proportional representation are two largely unrelated properties of a voting system… The only real relationship between them is that all the practical proportional voting systems are preferential.”

    What about the German system? Do you think it is not practical, not proportional, or neither practical not proportional?

    Oneof the many admirable features of the German system is that parties make statements on their preferred coalition partners BEFORE the election takes place. After the events of recent weeks, many UK voters will be hoping that the Lib Dems do the same thing in 2015.

  • “What about the German system? Do you think it is not practical, not proportional, or neither practical not proportional?”

    Personally , i don’t like any system that results in overhang seats, which require an imperfect remedy every single time. You either artificially bloat the chamber, you reduce proportionality or you make arbitrary calls as to which constituency doesn’t get to have it’s elected member.

  • Stuart Mitchell 23rd May '10 - 9:52pm

    Ryan M: I agree that the second and third in your list are “imperfect remedies”, but I really can’t see a problem with “artificially bloating” the chamber. In what way is 622 German MPs (the current number) any less or more perfect than the “standard” number of 598?

    I am astonished that Lib Dems have been so easily impressed by the offer of a referendum on AV. It’s a rotten system, which would give us an almost identical result to FTPT while being more complicated and (potentially) even more unfair.

  • The “Alternative Vote” is about the worst, least descriptive name you could use to describe the system. For the purposes of a referendum campaign “Preference Voting” is much better, or “Ranked Choice Voting” (which is a term sometimes used in the U.S.)


    Agreed that there are much better single-seat election methods than the Alternative Vote, but they aren’t a realistic prospect at the moment. Best to campaign for AV for the time being, because anything is better than the status quo.

  • Ryan M makes a good point.

    I support PR, and any form of PR is better than none. But I think the Additional Member System (used in Germany, Scotland, New Zealand, etc) has some flaws that aren’t widely realised.

    As noted above the problem is “overhang seats”, which occur when a party receives so many constituency seats that there aren’t enough list seats to balance things out.

    As I understand it in Scotland & Wales overhang seats are simply ignored. This means that the result isn’t proportional. Overhang seats also make possible a form of tactical voting. If you support a large, over-represented party with your constituency vote, and a minor party with your list vote, then your vote may effectively count twice. If people became aware of this form of tactical voting and used it widely then the whole system would break down, and you would get very disproportionate results.

    The alternative is to deal with the overhang seats in some way. So “you can artificially bloat the chamber” but I don’t think this solution will work in all cases, the constituency seats may so over-represent a certain party that the number of newly created seats would have to be huge. Or you can make “arbitrary calls as to which constituency doesn’t get to have it’s elected member”.

    If you want to combine the merits of both constituency seats and a national list system then make use of bicameralism. Have STV for one house of parliament and an open-list system for the other.

  • Stuart Mitchell 24th May '10 - 10:28am

    Modicum :

    “Overhang seats also make possible a form of tactical voting.”

    Not if you have a compensatory system, where the eventual composition of the chamber will (in normal circumstances) be a reflection of the “party vote”. Voters would have nothing to gain tactically from voting for a smaller party.

    “The alternative is to deal with the overhang seats in some way. So “you can artificially bloat the chamber” but I don’t think this solution will work in all cases, the constituency seats may so over-represent a certain party that the number of newly created seats would have to be huge.”

    With a 50-50 split (as in Germany), and the reasonable assumption that most people nationally will use their two votes for the same party, this seems like a very unrealistic objection. As a worst case scenario you might have to have some constituencies with an “unelected” local MP, but you’ll get that with any proportional system anyway.

    The only criticism I have read of AMS which really sticks is that it gives parties too much power to select MPs. But this is a minor weakness compared to the intrinsic unfairnesses of any “preferential” system.

  • @Stuart:

    “Not if you have a compensatory system …Voters would have nothing to gain tactically from voting for a smaller party.”

    Yes, but that compensatory system must include enough list seats, and ideally there should be a way to reverse the election of a constituency candidate should it prove necessary. In places like Scotland and Wales there is no method to deal with overhang seats, and the Welsh Assembly is designed with too few compensatory seats.

    “this seems like a very unrealistic objection.”

    I don’t think it is that unrealistic. This became a major issue in Italy when that country used the Additional Member System. According to Wikipedia, in the 2001 general election both major parties tied themselves to “decoy” lists and encouraged tactical voting. The result was that the two parties between them won over 300 constituency seats, but only 0.2% of the national proportional part of the vote. I don’t think that any number of compensatory seats could have remedied that number of overhang seats.

    Apparently the minor party Forward Wales has also tried this tactic by running its constituency candidates as independents, but the party didn’t do well enough in the election to pull it off.

    Granted this tactic seems to be fairly rare internationally. I can only put that down to the fact that parties are too “honourable” to employ the technique and voters just aren’t aware of the possibility.

    But I think that in places like Scotland and Wales it would be an issue if the voters were more knowledgeable. In some of the electoral regions it must surely be a wasted opportunity to use your list vote to support one of the largest parties.

    “The only criticism I have read of AMS which really sticks is that it gives parties too much power to select MPs.”

    I don’t actually think this is insurmountable. You can use an open-list system for the additional members, or alternatively elect the “best runners-up” from the constituency races.

    “But this is a minor weakness compared to the intrinsic unfairnesses of any preferential system.”

    Certainly methods like the Alternative Vote are unfair if used to elect a parliament. But I think PR-STV is a fair and sufficiently proportional system provided that there are enough seats in each constituency.

  • I’m glad that my article has spawned a lot of debate. I should reiterate that my article was intended purely to be about how to campaign for AV. It is largely predicated on the fact that the main audience would want to do that.

    I would like to just clarify though, that as well as Preferential Voting being a better term for what we would be campaigning for, it would be more accurate for why we are fighting for it. After all, the Lib Dems (to my knowledge) have never had a commitment to any system other than STV in a manifesto (happy to be corrected by those who know more policy history than me) and have only supported other systems outside of Westminster out of the simple observation that they are less bad than FPTP. I don’t actually think pure proportionality is fundamentally disirable, and it doesn’t allow for nuances in thinking and preference like STV does.


    I also think Preferential Voting scans better than Preference Voting and I’m somewhat suprosed to hear people say ‘preferential’ is not in common use. Preference Voting would still be far better than ‘PR’, though.


    I very much agree with your comments re AMS. In the Assembly election, hundreds of thousands of top-up votes are wasted. In my region, Labour won 6 of 8 constituencies in 2007. They ran a strong campaign saying that you needed to vote Labour twice to keep the tories out. This was in fact incredibly disenginuos. With such dominance in the constituencies, Labour top-up seats were nigh on impossible, so voting Labour (as opposed to Lib Dem or Plaid) on the list actually helped the Tories on the top-ups. I agree that this is a flaw in the system.

    You are right that Forward Wales tried unsuccesfully to abuse the Constituency/List scenario, though I believe that exact scenario did arise in Lesotho in their general election in 2007, where they incumbent party split and ran the other wing on the list, thus minimising the opposition representation in Parliament.

    Very keen on your suggestion of STV for lower house and party list in upper. Would help reinforce the constituency link and representative element of a lower house whilst focussing the upper house on its scrutiny role. Would help to maintain the Commons supremecy as well.


    I do not think it is unreasonable to say that some people couldn’t understand how a preferential system would work. But I would by suprosed it this were a significantly higher proportion than those who don’t understand the current system. And if my experience in Wales is anything to go by, the proportion who don’t understand how the Assembly is elected (which is by AMS) is far higher. (This is not to say they can’t, just that most “normal” people don’t because they aren’t so interested in learning the minutiae of how elections work).

    Also, in saying that supporters of the government would get to vote for them twice – yes they would. And they could say which part they liked more too. But it is utterly disingenuous to say that opponents could only vote against them once. Under PV, they could vote against them as many times as there were other candidates and their vote would work as hard as possible to keep them out. Currently, they have no such luxury. Nor would they under the German system, where they could vote against the government twice at most.

    As to your comments about coalition partners I am baffled that people keep acting so shocked about what the Lib Dems have done. All through the election (and before) Clegg gave a perfectly clear and rational position. If people didn’t like it, they needn’t have voted for us. If they did, then they shouldn’t be suprised (and certainly shouldn’t be disappointed) when he did exactly what he said he would.

    Also, you said that preferential systems are ‘unfair’? How so? I hear this criticism a lot, but I haven’t heard it put in to a proper argument.

  • Stuart Mitchell 24th May '10 - 9:57pm


    Thanks for the interesting summary.

    On the question of my objection to people “voting for the government twice”. I don’t think I’m being disingenuous, quite the reverse, The reality is that in England today we effectively have a two-versus-one political system. You suggest this doesn’t really matter, since I can vote for any number of other parties, but in my constituency on May 6th the only other choices were UKIP and the BNP!!! Which of those do you recommend I vote for in 2015? Sorry, but neither of them are an option for me. As a non-fascist I’ll be stuck with my one, single anti-government vote, while the government’s supporters will all have TWO votes. How can that be fair?

    Regarding the coalition, you are half right about Nick Clegg being clear and consistent about what he would do. What I think has shocked people is the extent to which he has a turned into a committed apologist for Tory policies which he was doing such a good job of opposing just a few weeks ago. The decision to enter into coalition was unquestionably the right one. The way he has conducted himself since has been reprehensible.

  • By the way, I think it’s very interesting to debate different methods of proportional representation but it shouldn’t distract from the core goal which is to get some form of PR introduced.

    In my view STV, AMS and the pure list system (with open lists) would all be a big improvement on the status quo.

    We should also not allow advocacy of PR to be used as a weapon against AV in the forthcoming referendum.

  • I think the most important thing in choosing a PR method should initially be what can most easily be sold to the public; because a PR referendum will be a very difficult to win. Once the referendum has been won we can campaign for a future parliament to move to the best form of PR, which could probably be done without another referendum.

    Initially we should propose a system that involves minimal change from the status quo, at least superficially. What I would suggest is a simplified form of AMS in which the elector casts only one vote, for a constituency MP. Then these votes are added up nationally to determine who wins top-up seats. This would mean that when the elector enters the voting booth he won’t notice that there has been any change in the voting system. The evidence from Scotland is that most people are very confused by the additional vote for a party list.

  • Stuart:

    You seem to be trying to paint the coalition as an effective merger. I will, I’m quite sure, be casting my first choice vote for the Lib Dems in 2015, but if I have a second one, I don’t yet know who that will be for. It may be Labour, it may be Conservative but it will more likely be neither. I still feel they have an equal number of flaws – I’m just glad the Conservatives have been willing to give more of theirs up than Labour would have.

    When I moved to Merthyr Tydfil with my partner to settle down in 2008, I was very saddened by that lack of political dynamism in the area. The council ward I live in is a three member ward, but in the 2004 election there had been just four candidates – three for the Labour party and one independent – so I can certainly simpathise with your lack of choice. However, that had nothing to do with the elctoral system. I suggest if there isn’t a candidate for the party you would most like to vote for – stand for them yourself. That’s what I did and am now half way through my first (but hopefully not last) term of council office.

    Also, I still think your suggestion that my vote – or anyone elses – will count twice is still disingenuous. If I voted for both the governing parties, my vote for the second would only count once it was impossible for the first to win.

    Needless to say my view on Clegg’s behaviour differs from mine – but yours is a valid interpretation so I think that debate is one best saved for a different time and place (perhaps you can write an article about it somewhere and point me to a link to comment?).


    You reminded me of a point I didn’t make earlier. The 2007 spoilt ballot ‘scandal’ in Scotland was all people filling in their Scottish Parliament AMS ballot wrong, not people filling in their local government STV ballot wrong. I don’t recall the STV spoil rate being significantly varied from the FPTP norm.


    I still think that STV on multi member constituencies would be better – but I thin you are absolutely right that this needs to be all about the voters – not activists and psephologists.

  • @Dave:

    “How refreshing to read an article calling for what voters want, rather than for what party activists want”

    This sounds like wishful thinking on your part. Can you back it up with any evidence? I think it’s far from clear what voters would chose if the various systems were explained to them.

    The clearest terminology is “PR-STV” for multi-member constituencies and the “Alternative Vote” for single seaters. Referring to the Alternative Vote as “STV” is correct in a sense, but I think it causes unnecessary confusion between two very different systems.

    (Also Thomas Hare, who invented STV, never intended it to be used for single seaters. The Alternative Vote was devised later by another inventor.)

  • Apologies, my last post should of course have been addressed to Dane.

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