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Alternative Vote (AV) - explaining and an example

There's been a spritied discussion going on about the AV system in the press, and on places like twitter feeds. And as the discussions move from spiritied to passionate, some of the things said become personal attacks, some of the claims made become unsustainable, and some of the speakers forget that most of their audinece isn't as well versed in the subject as they are, so their words (beyond) the personal attacks are lost, and the unsustainable claims cannot be tested by the people who need to test them - the voters.

And yet ... talk more widely to people, and there's a great deal of apathy around. "Why are we wasting money on this", a lack of knowledge as to what an "Alternative vote" system would mean, and an expected tendency for people to follow the lead of their political party in deciding how to vote.




What is going on in the UK?

On 5th May, all voters in the UK may go to the polls and vote on the "Alternavive Vote".

We have voted in 650(ish) individual areas - constituencies - for a single member of parliament (MP) to represent us for the following period of up to five years. Constituency boundaries are redrawn from time to time to take account of moving populations, so that each repreents about the saem number of people an (as a secondary thing, it sometimes seems) is a logical grouping of populations.

Until now, no matter how many candidates have been on offer each voter selects just one of them, and whichever candidate gets the most votes wins the seat. This is known as the "First Past the Post" system, and if you want to retain it you should vote NO on 5th May.

Under the newly offered "Alternative Vote" system, you rank candidates. The one you most want to be your MP gets vote number "1", then you rank others "2", "3" and so on - rank as few or as many as you like. All first preference votes are counted initially, and if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, the one with the fewest votes is eliminated, with his/her votes going to the next choice on each voter's list. And the process is repeated until one candidate has over 50% of the votes. That candidate is then elected.

Have you an example of how that might work?

Here's what happened in the constituency in which I voted at the last election - Chippenham.

CandidateParty Votes
EMMANUEL-JONES Wilfred The Conservative Party Candidate 21500
FLETCHER Samantha The Green Party 446
HAMES Duncan JohnLiberal Democrats 23970
LOVELL Greg The Labour Party Candidate3620
MAGUIRE Jon English Democrats 307
REID Julia UK Independence Party 1783
SEXTON Richard Graham The Christian Party 118
SIMPKINS Michael British National Party 641
Spoiled votes 58


Here's what MIGHT have happened with a single alternative vote system - looking initially at first choice votes:

CandidateParty First votes
DANSBY GeraldineWessex Independent Party670
EMMANUEL-JONES Wilfred The Conservative Party Candidate 20010
FLETCHER Samantha The Green Party 2440
FRANDSEN Jamie Independent320
HAMES Duncan JohnLiberal Democrats 19175
LOVELL Greg The Labour Party Candidate 4501
MAGUIRE Jon English Democrats 705
REID Julia UK Independence Party 2371
SEXTON Richard Graham The Christian Party 405
SIMPKINS Michael British National Party 1644
Spoiled votes 202


Now - that's a guess, but an educated one; I saw seven of the eight canddates at the hustings, corresponded with the eighth, and have met 3 of the candidates - in two cases quite extensively. I have added two name (Random - see [here]) as I would expect to see a broader field of candidates, and I have redistributed the (first preference) votes.

Vote redistribution is largely at the expense of the parties that are most likely to win in this area, and you'll note that the main beneficiaries of this initial redistribution are Labour, Green, UKIP and BNP. Green has done especially well - Samantha was an impressive candidate, but as Duncan Hames also has excellent environmental credentials, in a first past the post system many people probably voted for him ("tactically") rather than for Samantha. I would normally expect the BNP to gain from the Conservatives at this early stage, except that our Conservative candidate was born outside the UK. I have also spoiled a few more papers, as I would expect a few more people to make a mess of things.

For the purpose of illustration, the number of votes case remains the same - 52445.

OK - let's start eliminating canddates from the least popular:

Jamie Frandsen is eliminated, and his votes transferred to next choice.

CandidateParty After One Elimination:
DANSBY GeraldineWessex Independent Party720
EMMANUEL-JONES Wilfred The Conservative Party Candidate 20070
FLETCHER Samantha The Green Party 2525
HAMES Duncan JohnLiberal Democrats 19254
LOVELL Greg The Labour Party Candidate 4522
MAGUIRE Jon English Democrats 709
REID Julia UK Independence Party 2374
SEXTON Richard Graham The Christian Party 406
SIMPKINS Michael British National Party 1644
All preferences eliminated 17
Spoiled votes 202


You'll note that some candidates have gained more than others here, though nearly everyone has picked up extra votes. And there's a new category for "all preferences eliminated" - for those people who just voted for Jamie and not for anyone else.

Let's move on. Next out is Graham Sexton, then (probably) Jon Maguire. Geraldine Dansby gains considerably as Jon Maguire had asked people to put her as their second choice, and Michael Simkins makes gains as one of the eliminated candidates in these two steps attracted similar people.

CandidateParty After three Eliminations:
DANSBY GeraldineWessex Independent Party1164
EMMANUEL-JONES Wilfred The Conservative Party Candidate 20235
FLETCHER Samantha The Green Party 2669
HAMES Duncan JohnLiberal Democrats 19307
LOVELL Greg The Labour Party Candidate 4588
REID Julia UK Independence Party 2449
SIMPKINS Michael British National Party 1742
All preferences eliminated 87
Spoiled votes 202


In spite of the big gains, Gerldine Dansby is the next candidate eliminated, and insufficient of her support goes to Michael Simkins to save him, so he's fifth to be elimitated.

CandidateParty After five Eliminations:
EMMANUEL-JONES WilfredThe Conservative Party Candidate20685
FLETCHER Samantha The Green Party 2704
HAMES Duncan JohnLiberal Democrats 20038
LOVELL Greg The Labour Party Candidate 4921
REID Julia UK Independence Party 3672
All preferences eliminated 221
Spoiled votes 202


The various "independence" party votes have given Julia Reid a big boost, and she's overtaken Samantha Fletcher who is now the one with the lowest vote count, and eliminated:

CandidateParty After six Eliminations:
EMMANUEL-JONES Wilfred The Conservative Party Candidate 20784
HAMES Duncan JohnLiberal Democrats 21998
LOVELL Greg The Labour Party Candidate 5431
REID Julia UK Independence Party 3772
All preferences eliminated 266
Spoiled votes 202


The biggest gains here were for Duncan Hames, who's very much more in line with Green policies than Wilfred Emmanual-Jones; a scattering of votes went to Greg Lovell and to Julia Reid, but not enough to save Julia from being the next to be eliminated.

CandidatePartyAfter seven Eliminations:
EMMANUEL-JONES Wilfred The Conservative Party Candidate 22344
HAMES Duncan JohnLiberal Democrats 22866
LOVELL Greg The Labour Party Candidate 6607
All preferences eliminated 424
Spoiled votes 202


There are still enough "live" votes with the third candidate for a redistribution of his votes to make a difference - so let's go ahead and do that:

CandidateParty After final Eliminations:
EMMANUEL-JONES Wilfred The Conservative Party Candidate 24427
HAMES Duncan JohnLiberal Democrats 26382
All preferences eliminated 1432
Spoiled votes 202


And so I can announce that Duncan John Hames has been duly elected as the representative for the Chippenham constituency.

Would it really work like that?

I don't know - and nor does anyone. Under two thirds of the voters across the UK votes at the last election (the third lowest proportion in the last 18 elections - see [here]), and it has been suggested that the lack of voting numbers is due to so many constituencies having been so much one-horse races that people didn't bother. So you may see a higher turnout. Or you may see a lower turnout based on the system not being clear to people.

Would the same system be used for elections to the Eurpoean Parliament, then?

No - for the European Parliament, we vote over a far wider area, and the seats are allocated to the parties based on the proportion of votes that each achieves. And that would not change. In the EU parliament, you do not have one member per seat - you have from 3 to 8 ...

So what are the advantages and disadvantages?

I'll follow on with those in a later post - I'm keeping this one purely as a detailed explanation of how the voting system would work, together with an example for my own area.
(written 2011-04-25)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
Z300 - Politics and Religion
  [216] Cheap purchase - votes paid for with selfish promises - (2005-02-15)
  [257] Politics gets nasty. Must be an election coming up. - (2005-03-25)
  [280] Spotted - the local MP - (2005-04-15)
  [289] MP for Devizes, Wiltshire - (2005-04-23)
  [301] General Election day, UK - (2005-05-05)
  [313] Making bona fide international marriages more difficult - (2005-05-16)
  [326] UK Tax payment totals and where the money is spent - (2005-05-27)
  [335] Sad priorities - (2005-06-03)
  [377] A Strengthened City - (2005-07-14)
  [384] Managing conflict and disappointment - (2005-07-20)
  [415] Campaign Drift and efficiency. - (2005-08-15)
  [469] Yesterday was Kiss and Ride - (2005-10-19)
  [505] Would you steal ... petrol? ... a training course? - (2005-11-26)
  [539] rich and famous - (2005-12-23)
  [602] MP face to face - (2006-02-12)
  [607] On being British - (2006-02-14)
  [671] Both ends of the animal - (2006-04-05)
  [674] Wiltshire to get an extra MP - (2006-04-07)
  [682] Iran has enriched uranium ... - (2006-04-12)
  [696] Is than an uphill or downhill task? - (2006-04-23)
  [750] Almost everyone loses - (2006-06-07)
  [780] Separation and Integration - (2006-06-27)
  [875] Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones - (2006-09-22)
  [967] Realistic on line shoot'em up - (2006-12-05)
  [1003] Room at the Inn, Guy at the station - (2006-12-21)
  [1060] What a relief from the tax office. - (2007-02-01)
  [1109] False imprisonment - a contrast from the news - (2007-03-15)
  [1135] Government pressure on me to shut up after I make the papers - (2007-04-05)
  [1175] Local elections - choosing who to vote for - (2007-05-03)
  [1247] An afternoon at a public enquiry - (2007-06-27)
  [1260] An inspirational business talk from one of our prospective MPs - (2007-07-06)
  [1350] FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) Western Region - (2007-09-13)
  [1386] New software product for warmblooded programmers - (2007-10-10)
  [1428] Travel Across Wiltshire - the game - (2007-11-11)
  [1526] Carers at work - court case changes - (2008-02-01)
  [1573] Budget tax increases hit vehicle market - (2008-03-14)
  [1579] Rome, and the faith of Rome - (2008-03-17)
  [1729] Back from the future - (2008-07-30)
  [1769] July child ponders on August children - (2008-08-23)
  [1872] Barack Obama wins US Predidency - (2008-11-05)
  [1881] Wiltshire Council says - part 1 - (2008-11-13)
  [1882] Wiltshire Council says - part 2 - (2008-11-14)
  [1987] One Cheer for Local Democracy - Asda in Melksham - (2009-01-11)
  [2012] The Wiltshire Police - (2009-01-29)
  [2028] Things people say on the phone - (2009-02-06)
  [2075] Supporting Parkinsons and Trains - (2009-03-11)
  [2178] Melksham Candidates for Wiltshire Unitary Election - (2009-05-12)
  [2206] Spot the odd one out - (2009-05-29)
  [2257] Ramblings on church and state linkage in Melksham - (2009-06-25)
  [2270] Wiltshire - a chance to improve life for everybody - (2009-07-05)
  [2279] Understanding the new local government structure in Wiltshire - (2009-07-11)
  [2288] Wiltshire Community Area Partnerships - (2009-07-15)
  [2353] All change - Wiltshire Parliamentary - (2009-08-13)
  [2640] How is your tax pound spent? - (2010-02-18)
  [2689] Can my dog eat potatoes? Doggie Dietary Research, and political sleaze! - (2010-03-23)
  [2712] A more informed decision than ever before - (2010-04-08)
  [2740] Melksham Hustings at George Ward School - (2010-04-26)
  [2752] Voting day - UK General Election - (2010-05-06)
  [2757] Bodicea, Lincoln, and our new MP - (2010-05-09)
  [2792] Should Government compete with private industry? - (2010-06-03)
  [2824] A pint of Black Rat, and a lazy barman - (2010-06-25)
  [2856] Two sides of the coin - (2010-07-06)
  [2864] Changing with weather and seasons - (2010-07-10)
  [2870] Old prices - what would the equivalent price have been in 1966? - (2010-07-14)
  [2948] Melksham shamefully makes the national headlines - (2010-09-07)
  [2971] Should the public sector compete with businesses? and other deep questions - (2010-09-26)
  [3051] Positively reforming the system - could it be done? - (2010-11-14)
  [3313] What does our MP do on a Bank Holiday? - (2011-05-30)
  [3323] Is Melksham town centre dying? - (2011-06-11)
  [3325] The Olympic Torch, and Melksham House - (2011-06-14)
  [3438] Melksham to become a part of Trowbridge? - (2011-09-13)
  [3592] Are we one man, one vote? No, and we never have been. - (2012-01-26)
  [3676] Rising prices, changing habits and society - (2012-03-31)
  [3806] 2011 Census results - initial figures for Wiltshire. - (2012-07-17)
  [3845] Good cause giving - getting the charity beggars off the street - (2012-08-21)
  [3905] How should we choose our Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner? - (2012-10-27)
  [3921] On rememberance, on war, and on preventing the war cycle - (2012-11-11)
  [4079] Melksham Area - Unitary Council results, May 2013 - (2013-05-04)
  [4223] Democracy - alive and well with the beauty pagent starting up again - (2013-12-16)
  [4275] Eurpoean Elections, and other elections ahead. Some thoughts on campaigns and policies - (2014-05-08)
  [4286] Reaction in Radstock to new First bus prices - (2014-07-12)
  [4343] Politics and the railway the connects Wiltshire - (2014-12-06)
  [4354] Wiltshire Police - assuming someone is guilty just on the say-so of a member of the public? - (2014-12-16)
  [4476] Upcoming election - Chippenham Constituency - the major candidates compared - (2015-04-29)
  [4485] Misusing statistics? - the seedy side of election campaigning - (2015-05-04)
  [4489] Election results - what if we had a party list system? - (2015-05-08)
  [4548] Melksham - two small townships, or one big one? - (2015-10-22)
  [4597] Not standing as your local councillor - (2015-12-18)
  [4614] PC Plod - alive and scaremongering in Wiltshire? - (2016-01-04)
  [4625] Where does Wiltshire bus subsidy money come from? - (2016-01-19)
  [4720] Celebrating our diversity rather than discriminating for it - (2016-11-02)
  [4725] Writing Python 2 such that Python 3 is easy - (2016-11-06)
  [4729] The oldest part of Los Angeles - (2016-11-23)
  [4734] Thoughts on the new Blackmore Ward of Melksham Without Parish - (2017-02-22)
  [4735] Revisiting - should I stand for Melksham Without Parish Council in May? - (2017-02-24)


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