The campaign has begun

The referendum on AV is just over ten weeks away.   The campaign has begun, but I doubt if many people have noticed.  It will be interesting to see if it does attract attention in the last month, the royal wedding nothwithstanding.  The Government got its way in that there is no threshold requirement in the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act.  However, if there is a low turnout (and a close vote) then there will some fairly intense criticism, given that Parliament has already tied its own hands and has rid itself of any discretion in the matter.  A yes vote, regardless of turnout or closeness of the vote, will result in the Alternative Vote being introduced for parliamentary elections. 

I am opposed to AV and will be arguing against it. I suspect the real challenge, though, will be to get people engaged in the first place.  Does anyone have any bright ideas as to how to get electors interested?

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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13 Responses to The campaign has begun

  1. Carl.H says:

    I am extremely pessimistic about this being on the “NO” side.

    The “Yes” side will push the idea and it is only an idea that it is fairer and will give more power to the people. There will also be a strong anti-Conservative flavour to the vote.

    What we have to get over is the fact that fifth favourite votes carry as much weight as first. That it will bring about what will seem strange results, 2nd favourites beating a clear winner because of the 50% rule. That the 50% rule is NOT 50% of the real amount of votes cast. That smaller parties such as the BNP will stand a better chance of getting elected.

    Overall I think the strongest point is the 5th favourite carrying the same weight as the first.

    5 Candidates, 100 voters = 500 possible votes
    Yet the 50% mark is 50

    The Government I feel have not looked closely at election results, AV will bode very badly for the Conservatives.

    100 voters, Labour 49 votes, Conservative 28 and Lib-Dem 23.
    WHO WINS ?

    Answer: The Conservative Party as all Lib-Dem voters give a second rate vote to the tories.

    As a Labour voter would you feel robbed ?

    Is it right to give two chances to the Lib-Dem voters and you have one ? Is it more democratic that some people have twice the votes you do ?

  2. ladytizzy says:


  3. Mr NB says:

    Belgium has proportional representation.

    • ladytizzy says:

      Precisely, Mr NB. And after its general election in June now holds the distinction of beating Iraq’s 249 days with no government into the No 2 spot.

      Not the kind of PR PR needs.

  4. Dean B says:

    Lord Norton (or anyone else reading)
    I wonder if you can help me with this. I’ve been thinking about the possibilities of election results under AV, and I’m not sure if it’s always possible for a candidate to get to the 50% mark. The problem occurs if not everyone casts a second (or third and so on) preference.
    Let’s say 3 candidates – Con, Lab, LD – and to keep it simple 100 people turn out to vote.
    So imagine the first round goes Con 40, Lab 34, LD 26. No candidate having achieved 50% the LD is eliminated. But let’s say only half of the LD voters cast a second preference. And maybe they split 3 to Con, 10 to Lab. Now we have Con 43, Lab 44. Still no-one has got 50% of the votes (either total votes cast, or total votes counted.) But there’s no other candidate to eliminate. What happens now?

    • Lord Norton says:

      Dean B: You are quite right in that it is not necessarily 50%+1 of those who cast a ballot but 50%+1 of those in the particular round being counted. So if most cast only a vote for one candidate and it goes to the second round, it is 50%+1 of the votes still in play in the second round that results in a candidate being declared the winner.

      I would also make the point that even if everyone cast an exhaustive list (under some systems of AV it is compulsory to complete the list) it would still not result in a candidate being declared the winner with the support of at least 50% of electors, given the point made above by Carl.H. It gives equal weight to a voter’s fourth or fifth choice, so the 50% result is manufactured rather that reflecting the true choice of the electors.

  5. franksummers3ba says:

    Lord Norton,

    I doubt the legalities can be achieved, but I have an idea. This might get electors out:
    1. Allow every voter to vote for a maximum of three people – once for themselves, once for an authorized proxy and once for an unauthorized proxy.
    2. Allow the polls to remain open for weeks instead of a day.
    3. The unauthorized proxy vote counts only if it is someone in the same voting rolls who does not themselves vote in the course of the election. Who these people are will not be confirmed till after the election.

    I know everyone who does not vote lets others vote for them but I think put in these stark terms the reponse might be a bit different. I do not think it is very good law but neither is prolonged apathy arguably.

  6. Carl.H says:

    “The campaign has begun”

    Badly. The leaflets were crass and in direct conflict with the Government FUNDED ONS Happiness survey.

  7. Alice Stretch says:

    I feel as thought most of the campaigning is being fought on social networking sites as most people on Twitter either have a yes or no “twibbon” on their profile picture. On Facebook the party’s pages update where to go to stand for or against nearly every 5 minutes. Also MPs on twitter seem slightly more enthused than usual, tweeting what they’re doing in there area. Considering the percentage (55%) that are under 24, using facebook, it seems as though the campaign structure of both sides isn’t doing particularly well, targeting at those who can’t vote and therefore excluding others. These “non-networking others” will probably get a stream of adverts 10 days before the referendum when they’re looking to the Royal wedding (or the day off- depending how they look at it) and the long weekend. Let’s hope for my sake, as a No to AV supporter, that those who have a preference to Yes for AV, don’t turn up to vote due to them being well-rested.

  8. Chris K says:

    Look no further than the Australian Sex Party whose voters’ umpteenth preferences can determine the “winner” of a seat.

  9. michael says:

    how to move voters:
    Carl.H stressed, in my view, an argument at the start of his comment on Febr 22

    First, the ‘NO’ campaigner should make clear to everyone who tends to ‘NO’ the high risk to wake up with a voting system most of the British people don’t like only because the ‘Yes’ supporter voted but the ‘NO’ supporter thought exactly this that most of the British people do not support a changing of the voting system and, thus, going to poll is not necessary – you can imagine the circle. Therefore, voting ‘NO’ is the only way to ensure the own wants.
    (By the way, May 5 is the bithday of Karl Marx, founding father of communism. It should not be the birthday of a destructing measure of British Culture which is, at least similar, adopted in many states, sucessfully.)

    Second: It is not a voting in favour or against the government. This is obvious according to the coalition’s conflictive standings. It is also not a voting in favour or agains the PM or the Conservative Party. Because it is not a voting about policy as there is no one to become elected and it is, in a close sense, no policy-referendum. It is, not more but also not less, a voting about how to elect not only the next but also the successive Governments. Insofar, there is a deep responsibility regarding the living environment of your children and grand-children – would you really elude yourself? Then, you are taking the responsibility for a not wanted and not useful outcome. Would you really want to burden your children and grand-children in not going to poll?
    To deepen, it is a voting about the very basics of the British culture – do you realy want to see injured what was fought for and stabilised during the centuries and what is, for serious reason, admired by most of the rest of the world?

    Third: the campaigner should make claer some of the strongest ‘No’ arguments which I would select in comparison to the wants of the voters regarding an election process for Westminster Parliament, e.g.:
    – clear responsibilty: The manifesto determines the points a party want to be judged at the end of the term. One person=one vote ensures this best; one responsible MP within one constituency as well; one-party-government as well. As we know, FPTP is the best scheme to support clear responsibility
    – simple kind of election and voting: one person=one vote as with FPTP ensures a simple kind of making the own choice in the mind and with the hand
    – no pre-electoral arrangements between the parties: this is, in my view, the strongest point against all other thinkable voting systems exept FPTP, in addition: voters want to gain what they voted for or even loose the election campaign but not wanke up with something designed by intransparent counting as Carl.H and Lord Norton shed light above
    – results should be generated short and cheap: Both are fullfilled by FPTP
    – beside these, I see a moral argument as well: For, one person can only have one view to the needs of the polity – if not in risk of schizophrenia. Therefore, there is only one person to whome I can transfer my vote trustful. Exactly this ensures the FPTP, but not the other one which would make me untrustworthy before both, me and all others.

    sofar in short and with some need for sharpening – but we are talking only
    best celebration

    Therefore, vote ‘No’ if you want your voice to be heard in Westminster.

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