Wednesday, March 02, 2011

AV Referendum: why you should vote NO

Theodora Clarke is the London Youth Organiser for the cross-party NO to AV campaign.

There are less than ten weeks to go until the referendum on a change to the voting system for Westminster Parliamentary elections. On May 5th the public will be asked whether they wish to replace the current system of First Past the Post with the 'Alternative Vote' (AV).

Only last week the Prime Minister spoke out against the dangers inherent in replacing our current, tried and tested voting system with one that was “unfair, expensive and discredited". AV, he said, "allows candidates who finish third to steal elections".

So first of all what is it? Under AV the voters get to rank candidates in order of preference and anyone getting more than 50 per cent in the first round is elected. If that doesn't happen, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their second choices are allocated to the remaining candidates. If no candidate at the second stage has a majority of votes, the next lowest candidate is eliminated and their votes are redistributed. This process keeps on occurring until a winner emerges.

What this means is that if you vote for a fringe party who gets knocked out, your other preferences will be counted. In other words, you get another bite of the cherry. However, if you vote for a mainstream candidate who is top of the ballot in the first round, your other preferences will never be counted.

This would cause election results to be based on passive approval rather than active acceptance. As the PM says, it would lead to "a parliament of second choices".

The Liberal Democrats demanded this referendum as part of the Coalition agreement - but the Conservative Party are actively campaigning for a 'No' vote. It is not clear that the Liberal Democrats even want this change. Just two weeks before the last election, Nick Clegg dismissed AV as a “miserable little compromise”.

Connor Burns MP (Bournemouth West) has joined the campaign just this week as a spokesman. Here are his reasons for voting NO to AV:

“Under First Past the Post, a winning party can implement the manifesto on which they were returned without recourse to backroom deals, leading to programmes never endorsed at the ballot box. The Alternative Vote is the compromise that no one genuinely wants. Britain is better by sticking to a system that we know, we trust and that works."

David Cameron said this is a referendum that will determine Britain's future. A Yes vote would be bad for democracy, politics and accountability.
I would like to appeal to all CWO members to vote no in the referendum and to lend their support to the campaign. Together, we can win this referendum and save our voting system.
Without your help, Britain's traditional voting system could be ditched for something that is unfair, expensive and allows candidates that finish third to win elections.


  • AV is unfair. With First Past the Post, everybody gets one vote. But under AV, supporters of extreme parties like the BNP would get their vote counted many times, while other people's vote would only be counted once.

  • AV doesn't work. Rather than the candidate with the most votes winning, the person who finishes third could be declared the winner.

  • AV is expensive. Calculating the results is a long, complicated process, which would cost the taxpayer millions.

  • No-one wants AV. Even the 'Yes' campaigners don't actually want AV - they see it as a convenient stepping stone to yet more changes to how we vote.


  • Go to the No to AV website and sign up to receive emails

  • Ask your local Conservative Association how you can help their campaign against AV

  • Join the NO to AV group on Facebook or follow them on Twitter

David Cameron explains why he is voting NO to AV

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