Voting experts unanimously reject first past the post

The London School of Economics reports:

22 voting theory specialists voted to select the “best voting procedure” to elect one out of three or more candidates.

Each voter chose from a list of 18 nominated voting procedures as many as she/he approved of. From a possible maximum of 22 votes, First Past The Post (FPTP)­ –­ also known as Plurality Voting – received no votes. Approval Voting won the contest with 15 votes. The Alternative Vote (AV) took second place with 10 votes.

Meanwhile the Yes To Fairer Votes campaign has released a new campaign video:

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  • That video was good, would have been better to have played that than the megaphone thing.

  • It seems they already knew in advance that they preferred approval voting if that’s what they used in their workshop!

  • I agree with Adam.

    Also approval voting is terrible for choosing a single result as it actually rewards people not approving options they like by giving more chance for their most preferred option to win. A very odd result.

  • conservative 23rd Apr '11 - 1:28pm

    we must not forget that the organisation FairVote rejected approval voting as allowing people to fail to elect a person who would have won 50% or more of the vote under FPTP (courtesy of wikipedia). I don’t think 22 voting ‘specialists’ at the LSE will swing the arguments…

  • Tony Dawson 23rd Apr '11 - 6:16pm

    ‘Voting Experts’ is longhand for ‘geeks’.

    Geeks do not rule the world and voting systems are not built for geeks but for ordinary people. So geeks’ opinions, individually and collectively are of passing interest.

    FPTP is still ‘pants’.

  • Again more misleading of the public. AV doesn’t mean that you need support of 50% of those who vote – it means thsat you need 50% of those who cast a preference for the two candidates in the final round. And for those who argue not giving a preference means that “you don’t mind between the last 2 candidates” I say this: If the last two candidates were the BNP or the National Front – would you be prepared to give either a preference?

    And even though you can get elected with about 30% of the vote – well the advert is misleading – in so far as no other candidate did get more than 30% of the vote. You can only get elected on 30% if no other candidate gets more than 30%! If there was a very tough exam and 5 students took it, and one got 30%, the other got 28% , and a third got 25%, the one who got 30% did the best. It’s not about absolute share of the votes, it’s about relative share of the votes so by failing to compare the person who got only 30% with some other student who took the exam, the advert is misleading

    AV is not a good system at all, and so I will be voting NO.

  • As jedibeeftrix points out a classic case of asking a question and then interpreting the result anyway you feel like – this is very very poor stuff

  • Far better video, however is it to little to late and will it counteract the negative publicity from the embellishments of the Yes campaign?

    I also like the fact that you managed to keep a straight face when posting it, wasn’t the only 30% seat an LD gain from Labour (Norwich South – 29.36%) ?

  • The method of voting referred to here as Approval Voting is PRECISELY why AV is a strong voting system where the outcome represents the overall wishes of the electors. Under AV, omitting to rank a candidate is tantamount to a vote against that person and giving a ranking (of any kind) is a positive vote. This point seems to have been totally lost in the very poor quality ‘debate’ yet it is one of the most important points.

  • @ John Earle Posted 24th April 2011 at 11:26 am

    You make some valid points – although I would have to put a “may represent” or change the wording to make sure everyone is absolutely clear that this may not be 50% of the people voting.

    “This point seems to have been totally lost in the very poor quality ‘debate’ ”
    Unfortunately I really do have to agree 100% with you on this one, it has been horrendous on all sides with lies, innuendo, misleading comments (and yes I do include the Yes campaign in that statement). I’ve also heard plenty of people moaning that No are not justifying fptp. Well whoopee doo, we have that system now, we know what it is, we know what it can and can’t do – persuade me that your system is better.

  • I’m highly in favour of AV but WHY ON EARTH are the Yes campaign using an argument in this video that is provably incorrect? You don’t need 50% support to win an AV election. I imagine that in a general election, given that we have over 600 constituencies, a decent number of seats will be won without getting to 50%. The argument is incorrect and their focus on this, when there are many better (and correct) arguments in favour of AV, is driving me mad.

  • @Alex P Posted 24th April 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Having waded through so much and listened to some real tosh, I would be more than interested in your take on what are the correct arguments (said in a serious manner btw – no sarcasm intended).

  • @chris_sh

    For me the main argument is that AV effectively ends tactical voting. It is possible to construct examples where people have a reason to vote tactically under AV, but they are so abstract and unlikely (and rely on having knowledge of how other people are voting) that I doubt they will occur very often. I believe that the need for tactical voting in UK elections (I’ve pretty much done it in every election I’ve ever voted in) is a large cause of people’s alienation from politics in this country.

    A consequence of this is that AV also ends the two-party stranglehold that FPTP gives over our politics. This won’t necessarily happen immediately: if the next election is done under AV, it will probably still be largely dominated by Tories and Labour, especially as so many people are down on coalitions right now, but in the long term if people get tired of these two parties it will be much easier for a third (or fourth, or fifth) party to gain influence in parliament and help change things. This is almost impossible with FPTP, because so many people are worried about wasting their vote they will instead go with the lesser of two evils. Whereas, under AV, there is no downside to e.g. voting for the Green party as your first preference.

    It won’t end all the problems with our system. The distribution of seats in parliament will still be mostly determined by how support is spread out over different constituencies, so we will still get disproportionate results for certain parties, but I think it really gives a more responsive system so that if e.g. Labour performs badly in government there will be more options than to just say “well, they’re still better than the tories” and vote for them anyway (as many did in 2005, for instance). Also, from a more partisan point of view: I don’t buy the line about kicking Nick Clegg. I am not happy with this coalition, but if the AV vote goes through the tory party will be in ruins, which is a more satisfying prospect than just giving Nick a kicking 🙂

    I’ve posted this link before, but here it is again. It’s a blog about AV by one of Britain’s leading mathematicians, who is something of a genius (as a mathematician, at least), containing all the arguments both for and against. It’s quite long but a really informative and enjoyable read, and I recommend reading the whole thing:

  • @ Alex P Posted 25th April 2011 at 12:11 pm

    Hi Alex

    thanks for taking the time to reply and for the link which was very interesting. I would say it’s the first in depth nuts and bolts explanation of the actual process I’ve seen, everything else has been fairly general (e.g. put your preferences in, party c gets knocked out and their 2nd pref votes are redistributed etc).

    The last time I spent any length of time on this site (or any political site for that matter) was after the election and the coalition forming period, there seemed to be lot of reasoned debate then, I’ve come back this time and there seems to be a lot of ranting (or perhaps I’ve got my rose tinted specs on again 😉 ). So it’s nice to get information and debate from some one who doesn’t label me as BNP!

    Upfront, I suppose I’m drifting to No for the simple reason that I don’t believe in change for the sake of change – give me an option that is worth a change and I may well go for it. But to a few points:

    a. Tactical voting. You are right in that it should end tactical voting, but we don’t really know how much true tactical voting goes on or the effect it has. I would guess that your view is coloured by the fact that you have used a tactical vote where as mine is coloured by the fact that I haven’t.

    I’ve always thought that I’d feel like a right idiot if I woke up in the morning and found that the party I really wanted to vote for had lost by one vote, so I’ve always gone with the choice that I’ve thought right. Also, I’m one of those pesky floaters so I’ve always tended to vote for the people I disagree with less (which is what it usually boils down to in politics). If there are lots of people like me, as there must be as I don’t consider myself unique in this regard, then a result that could look like tactical voting may in fact just be a simple change of attitudes.

    b. Two Party Stranglehold. I’m not overly convinced that this will end with AV. I think the only way that you will truly end the 2 party stranglehold is with PR (and that would depend on how it was implemented). At best, we may get a 3 party stranglehold which hardly seems like an improvement.

    Ironically, one of the arguments being put forward by Yes that gives me a bad feeling is that it will reduce the chance of extreme views gaining ground and they usually cite the BNP as an example. Now I don’t personally care for/about the BNP and I think that they will never get enough votes under either system to be a viable threat, but the debarring/reduction of all extreme views is worrying as the extreme of today may be mainstream tomorrow.

    That probably sounds quite strange, but look at a few things we take for granted today and consider that they were considered extreme or often dangerously extreme when they started out, e.g. Christianity, votes for all, no slave trade. So if fptp is more likely to produce an “extreme” result then we have no real way of knowing if that is a good or bad thing, but should we try and block it altogether by using AV? (again, this may be a non-issue with PR, depending on how it is implemented).

    c. “I don’t buy the line about kicking Nick Clegg”. Well that’s a relief to hear, if you’re going to vote on something in a certain way because of a totally unrelated matter then it probably shows that you’re not paying attention 😉


  • @chris_sh

    Yeah, I sympathise with your point of view. I have to admit most of my enthusiasm for AV comes from having studied it long before it was ever put forward as a possibility for the UK. When considered separately from any specific political context it is easy to see it is a better system than FPTP (I think there is fairly broad consensus among academics on this point), but in the context of our current political situation it’s hard to be so enthusiastic. There are many flaws with the political status quo, and AV may at best address only a handful of them. I will, however, allow myself to be idealistic on this occasion and vote in favour of AV in the hope that it will be an important contribution to a more inspiring political landscape, say in 20 or maybe 30 years’ time. 😉

  • “I will, however, allow myself to be idealistic on this occasion …”
    LOL – go for it mate, the world needs more idealists, you may be right as it may lead to better things. I don’t know if you’ve seen this (I expect you have), but look under the section “AV and the future of electoral system change”.

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