“The voting system is broken, back the Alternative”: ads to help win May’s voting referendum

Last month, The Voice asked the question, Can you design a poster to win the AV “Yes” campaign?, highlighting TakeBackParliament.com‘s competition to crowd-source the design talent of bloggers who support abolishing first-past-the-vote and replacing it with the Alternative Vote in readiness for next May’s referendum.

The winner has now been announced (and sorry, guys, but it doesn’t do it for me). Runner-up was Lib Dem blogger Stuart Bonar, who produced an excellent series of designs.

Here’s an example from one batch:

And an even more inspired set here exemplified by this one:

Congratulations to Stuart for some striking messaging.

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  • John Richardson 22nd Aug '10 - 5:25pm

    I really like the second one. Concise and to the point. Would be slightly improved if it were easier to read the text behind the strike-outs though.

  • John Richardson 22nd Aug '10 - 5:27pm

    Heh, I see on Stuart’s blog it’s already been suggested and acted on once.

  • I like the slogan ‘The Voting System is broken. Back the Alternative’.

    The designs are pretty good, but I think such an abstract concept will need extremely simple and striking visuals. I know it’s easy to gripe when you can’t come up with your own idea – but while all of these are pretty good, I can’t say I feel really gripped by any of them.

    I do like the idea behind the poster with the text that’s partly struck through. But I think it’ll be too cerebral to work as a major campaign poster. If you have to think for just a few seconds before you get the message – that’s not effective enough.

    That slogan, on the other hand…. brilliant.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 22nd Aug '10 - 5:54pm

    The trouble with the ones reproduced above is that neither is necessarily true. If people don’t use all their preferences candidates will be able to win with the support of less than 50% of voters. There will still be safe seats, and in some of these the leading party will win without any reallocation of second preferences. There won’t even be any major reduction in the number of safe seats. If Lib Dem second preferences split roughly equally between the other parties, then the main effects will be to make Lib Dem seats safer and seats where the Lib Dems are second less safe. There will be little change in the safeness of seats where the Lib Dems are third.

    In a way I think this just illustrates the difficulty of finding really strong arguments in favour of AV, which, after all, is not the party’s preferred system.

  • Stuart Bonar 22nd Aug '10 - 5:55pm

    Hi. Thanks for the kind words about my designs, Stephen – much appreciated.

    Jen commented on my own blog that the second batch of posters mentioned in this post (find them all at http://bit.ly/9tlDS6) could be improved through the use of Flash or similar, so that the crossing-out is animated and you see a graphic of it getting scribbled out on screen. This struck me as a great idea, but not one I am up to making happen – can anyone make that happen?

  • Where is the winning entry, please?
    Myself and a few others have tried the TBP site but it isn’t displayed at present, although there are some distinctly unflattering comments about class and bowler hats.
    Don’t say they have gone with the one showing a chap in pinstripes – how crass to launch a class war theme when a YES campaign may need the additional support of those who have stopped being students.

  • Roger Shade 22nd Aug '10 - 7:11pm

    Correct me if I am wrong but I thought the Australians used a form of the AV system. Strangely, if I am right, the media don’t seem to have mentioned it. They mentioned the fine for not voting and In view of the upcoming referendum here I thought that the Australian electoral system might be worth a mention

  • I’m sorry but if the pro-AV campaign is planning on using adverts and slogans than mention ‘50%’ we’re dead in the water – we need to harness the public anger over the expense scandal and the arrogance of MPs in safe seats in order to win. We need emotional adverts, rather than facts and figures

  • Stuart Mitchell 22nd Aug '10 - 9:25pm

    “Under the new fairer voting system, every MP will need to win over half the votes.”

    I am astonished that a poster with this slogan has won the competition, because as Anthony points out (and I have written about here before), it simply isn’t true.

    Under the proposed system, a candidate would need the support of at least 50% of those whose votes are included *in the final round of voting*. This is not the same as saying that they “need to win over half the votes”; in practice, a candidate could win with far less than 50% of the votes.

    If the pro-AV campaign is going to rely on false claims like this, it can only end in disaster.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 22nd Aug '10 - 9:43pm

    And having now seen the winning entry, I really do wonder.

    Obviously there would still be safe seats under AV, and probably the number of safe seats would be similar to the number there are now. If a wholly spurious argument like this is really considered the strongest that can be put forward, is it worth bothering?

  • Wot about: “Vote for AV and get a parliament like the Aussies – third parties not helped much and the government at the mercy of weird independents ….” Oooops
    Maybe the difference between the lower house and the senate tells us why we should be wary of AV with no plus after it!!

  • David Morton 22nd Aug '10 - 10:50pm

    Weird colours, far to literate, no emotional arguments, factually inaccurate statements, no pictures and worst of all the use of statistics. These are dreadful beyond belief and reference those faux dreadful ASA ads which were at least meant to be self refferentially awful.

    Could I do better? No. AV is a dreadful system and we are going to really struggle to explain it. The least worst strategy is just to conceed this and run the Innocent Smoothy gambit.

    ” You can’t polish a t*rd but you can roll it in glitter ”

    The only hope is to reframe the AV referendum away from anything actually to do with AV and make it the anti establishment choice. Even here we are hang strung because we have “Yes” to sell and they have ” No “.

  • I wonder – when will there be an official Yes campaign?

    The Take Back Parliament people are well meaning and good at a certain kind of campaign, but, having seen them in action up close, I’d say they are not the kind of people who will be able to put together a proper, professional campaign to pose a serious challenge to the No Campaign, which will be very well funded, highly professional and probably not overly scrupulous with their campaign tactics.

    This crowd sourcing exercise (£ 20 reward?! really???) already is a sign of the kind of amateurism which we simply can’t risk in such an important cause. I find it pretty embarrassing, actually! Is this supposed to be a nationwide campaign to change a crucial aspect of this country’s constitution? And that’s where it has got so far? Yikes!!

    I just hope that there will be a proper organisation to sort this out very soon. At the moment, it’s got the feel of an early 1970s student movement, and that’s not going to be effective enough for this purpose.

    Where’s the electoral reform society in all this?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 23rd Aug '10 - 12:04am

    I think the one real virtue of AV is that in effect you can vote tactically while still registering support for the party of your choice. I can believe a clever media communicator could come up with an effective slogan/poster/campaign based on that, but I don’t think anything shown above qualifies.

  • @David Morton
    If you were a Mythbusters fan (one of the best shoes on TV, IMH), then you’d know that you can actually polish a t*rd – Jamie and Adam showed it’s quite easy actually!!
    Now – whether they could polish AV or save the Cleggster from the righteous wrath of real Liberals, I’m not so sure

  • The fact that in the final count more than 50% of votes are required to elect someone is the main strength of AV. This is the factor that the FPTP battalions will find hardest to counter.

    Anthony Aloysious St’s objections are for the wonks. The one thing needed is to keep it simple: simplicity is a virtue of AV. It will be a disaster if the vote is not successful, however miserable the reform.

    Constituency seats could be marginally less safe under AV, but at least it does give people the chance to at least express their preference. First preference for who you want, second preference to keep out who you don’t want.

  • Stuart Mitchell 23rd Aug '10 - 9:37am

    Martin: “The fact that in the final count more than 50% of votes are required to elect someone is the main strength of AV.”

    That’s a preposterous statement.

    You could simply modify FPTP by saying that all votes for candidates other than the top two are ignored and then FPTP would be able to make the same claim. Pretending that thousands of votes do not exist is no kind of “strength” for a voting system!

  • Bit of a shocker really ….

    Will an alternative voting prevent expense abuse ?

    Will an alternative voting system remove safe seats ? (which aren’t in themselves undemocratic)

    Is a bowler hat/umbrella/pinstripe combo an outdated stereotype ?

    Is it a good idea to ask the reader to answer the poster’s question with a “no”
    All of the posters I’ve seen mooted above preach to the converted. Nothing there in my opinion would persuade people to care enough to vote … never mind to vote yes.

  • David Allen 23rd Aug '10 - 1:41pm

    All too cerebral and unconvincing. What’s supposed to be so great about the figure 50%? When you’ve digested that FPTP lets someone win by 45% to 30% and 25%, do you really feel in your bones that this is a dreadful thing?

    Let’s write the No campaign’s ad for them. It will be the Grand National. With the jockey who comes first past the post walking sadly off the field. Then the guy who comes in a poor second raising his arms in triumph, with massed ranks of nerds and weirdos applauding him from the stands, waving their Guardians.

    If we’re going to stand a chance, that’s the level we shall have to compete at.

  • Stuart Mitchell: I am no great proponent ov AV, but I do recognise that it will be a disaster for us if the AV referendum is lost. The simple point to make is that once second preferences are taken into account, the winner will have over 50% (or pretty close to that if you count voids etc).

    I repeat, quibbling is for wonks (which we who discuss it are), across the electorate, the positive message can be clear and simple, we need to let the ‘NO’ faction tie itself up in convoluted argument, which they will need to if they are to successfully convince that black is white…

  • @ Andy: that’s good to know! 🙂
    I’ll be happy to be a foot soldier for this campaign, and I want it to be as good as can be.

    I have been talking to various people about AV in recent months.
    In my experience, the best argument isn’t about 50% and complex procedures – that’s all far too technical! Try to work out what it’ll look like from the voters’ point of view.

    The crucial argument for most people seems to be this:
    Any candidate will have to canvass not just for the votes of his/her natural supporters and a few undecideds in the middle. They’ll have to actively go out and find those second preference votes.

    This will mean that for the first time ever, many MPs (even those in safe seats) will have to bother about the half of their voters they could conveniently ignore under FPTP.

    In short – under AV, your MP will have to take into account a much wider group of people and opinions.

    People like that, and it’s easy to understand, too.

  • ooops – I meant to smile up there. Not sure why it came out as a frown!

  • Patrick Smith 23rd Aug '10 - 7:54pm

    `Fair Votes’ campaigning hinges on the sublteness and finesse in the campaign of choice of the most eye catching poster slogan on AV.There are two cardinal winning parts of the campaign message to convey to the Electorate.

    1.The threat to democracy of returning the vestiges of `corruption’ via long standing MPs winning time out of number, with massive majorities, in Seats where there has not been any hope of defeating them over 100 years, due to FPTP.

    AV makes it more certain to eliminate the risk of any return to the venality of `MPs Expenses’ scandals.

    2. The L/D led Campaign for `Fairer Votes’ should show in that in 2005 General Election a British Government was elected on a third of the popular vote i.e.35.2%.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Aug '10 - 9:31pm

    As I have already said, I think we should stick to putting the case for AV in terms of the mechanics for it, because I think then the case is overwhelming. The winning entry of this competition gets this all wrong, because it tries to argue the case for AV by arguing about other things and saying AV will solve them. The problem with this is that the anti-AV people will be doing the same. The more we let the argument be shifted from the mechanics to possible effects, the more we give ground to the anti-AV people because it’s abandoning the high ground we hold.

    While I know the case for AV against FPTP on who gets to be the MP in a constituency involves a little maths, surely as it’s only a bit of addition and subtraction, it’s not impossible to give it. I think we could find ways to put it quite neatly in a visually attractive way.

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