Wrong electoral system….

We had the statement yesterday on constitutional reform.  In the Lords, it was made by Lord McNally.   In the course of replying to questions, he asked “What is wrong with AV plus which is, after all, a system that is good enough for Scotland, Wales and the London Assembly?  Why is that system not good enough for the country?” 

The problem is that AV plus is not in use in Scotland or, indeed, anywhere else.   The Jenkins Commission came up with the system of AV plus in 1998 but it has not been taken up.   Scotland and Wales employ the additional member system (AMS). 

No doubt Lord McNally’s officials will be briefing him in readiness for when the Bill is introduced…

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About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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11 Responses to Wrong electoral system….

  1. Jonathan says:

    Lord Norton, I’ve just looked at Hansard, and it seems it was Lord Pearson of Rannoch (who is, of course, leader of UKIP) who referred to AV plus being used for the devolved assemblies. I would be rather surprised if Lord McNally made this mistake due to his party’s eagerness to change the voting system, but when it comes to UKIP, nothing surprises me.

    Lord McNally does go on to quip that a flaw in AVplus is that Lord Foulkes was elected to the Scottish Parliament on it – a pity he wasn’t slightly more on the ball to pick Lord Pearson up on his mistake.

  2. Carl.H says:

    I would be extremely interested to hear which version of AV the parties use to elect their leaders, Lords and Ministers.

    • djb13 says:

      Labour uses a modified version of AV using an electoral college divided into three parts (affiilated organisations – e.g. unions, members and MPs and MEPs – but not MLAs, MSPs or AMs). Each part has an equal portion of the votes. The Tories use a sui generis system which combines Instant Run-off Voting (like AV) and Secondary Ballot. Firstly everyone delcares their candidacy. If there are two candidates then it goes straight to a members ballot. If not then Tory MPs vote, the lowest total being eliminated. This is repeated until there are two candidates who are then voted on by the membership. The Lib Dems use straight AV.

      Lords and Ministers aren’t elected by the party. I don’t understand why you mention them?

  3. ladytizzy says:

    I am on a quest to understand what the fall-back position of the AV system is if no-one indicated a second preference and the top-scoring candidate received less than 50% of the vote: any ideas?

    The Electoral Reform Society didn’t provide an answer but I did note that, in the event of an absolute tie : “If two or more candidates are still equal and lowest, the returning officer shall decide which shall be excluded.”

    Um, by what democratic voting system is the returning officer selected? This is too easy.

    • Croft says:

      LT: in an absolute tie the normal tie break rules for elections would apply drawing lots cutting cards and so on. In answer to your first I’m sure the majority candidate would have to win or I suppose they could have a new election but the cost would be prohibitive.

    • Lord Norton says:

      ladytizzy: my understanding is that it is 50%+1 of the electors in any one round, so if you confine your choice to the first candidate then you are not counted for the purpose of calculating a majority in the second round.

    • djb13 says:

      Whether or not the 50%+1 threshold is recalculated every round varies system to system. Ultimately, if the threshold is not recalculated it would go to the one remaining candidate, so it actually doesn’t make a difference mathematically if it’s recalculated or not, it just annoys one set of nerds and makes another set very happy.

      We cut cards or draw lots of two candidates receive the same number of votes under FPTP. Under AV I suspect returning officers would look to see what position candidates were in during previous rounds (the higher ranked candidates surving for longer), or could just draw lots. The chances of the difference being crucial to the election of a single MP are minimal, and the chances it could decide an election are tiny.

  4. ladytizzy says:

    Ooh, am I being moderated? (Last comment not displayed.)

  5. David Barry says:

    In the Republic of Ireland the election system is the single transferable vote in multi member constituencies, the same system now being used in Scotland for local councils I believe. Irish constituencies have between three and five members. However when a member resigns or dies a bye – election is held to fill the single vacancy. And as every nerd will know the STV in a single seat constituency is what is usually called the alternative vote. The Irish AV rules provide that to win on the first count you must get over half the first preferences cast ie an absolute majority of the votes. If no one gets this then the candidate with the lowest number of votes is excluded and their ballot papers transferred to their second preference. This process goes on until either someone gets the absolute majority calculated at the first stage or until there are only two candidates left in which case the top candidate wins, as clearly no one else could….

  6. David Barry says:

    For completeness I should have mentioned that as well as at bye elections the AV is used in the Republic for elections to the office of President, where again, of course, only one person is chosen.

    Regarding ties. A tie that matters, so something has to be done about it, MOST rare.

    If at the first stage two candidates have the same number of first preferences this would usually only raise an issue if there were only two candidates altogether. In which case get out the coin to toss etc. If there are a number of candidates then a tie would matter if it made it impossible to determine the order in which to exclude candidates – ie a tie for joint lowest on the first stage – in which case lots would be cast. However I suspect this has never happened in 90 years..

    If there is a tie on the second stage then the candidate furthest ahead on the first stage -most first preferences is preferred. Which seems fair to me.

    I think that has happened.

    Hope this helps.

    Readers of this blog might be interested to note that when there is a coalition the practice is for ALL parties to contest the election with the coalition parties asking people to cross transfer.

    So that would be “Vote Conservative and Lib Dem
    1 and 2 in order of your preference ” coming to your doorstep next election?

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