Friday, 22 April 2011

Explaining AV.......

This article recently appeared on Commentonline, two Highland Perthshire folks explaining the AV system.

AV is actually just a very simple upgrade to our current voting system, but the winning candidate just has to be that little bit better to get 50% of the vote.

Their explanation is funny all the same though:

“Aye Vee, …Aye Vee, ah tell ye”

“Naw! Are ye glaiket awthegither? Aye Aye Vee is the thing, can ye no see that? ”

The raised, unmistakeable and less than dulcet tones of Jock and Hamish assailed my ears before I reached the top deck. The bizarre notion flashed through my mind that this was some dispute about an arithmetical calculation - but was it being conducted in Roman numerals? Eventually seated beside the protagonists, the situation gradually became clear, and the truth was hardly more credible than my initial thoughts on the way upstairs. Jock and Hamish were ‘discussing’ voting reform.

Although difficult to believe, the cries I had heard were in fact not ‘Aye Vee’ and ‘Aye Aye Vee’ but ‘I.V’ and ‘I.I.V’. They stood for ‘Ither Vote’ and ‘Ither, Ither Vote’ – voting systems devised by Jock and Hamish respectively as alternatives to AV.

Intrigued, I sought and got an explanation of both systems, here offered for consideration.

Jock’s ‘Ither Vote’ system:

Ballot papers as now, but with an additional blank box below the list of candidates and two columns in which to indicate your vote; a ‘Yes’ column and a ‘No’ column. Voters may put a cross in as many of the Yes/No boxes as they wish (in fact, in all of them if they wish), or write in a candidate in the blank box and vote ‘Yes’ or, I suppose ‘No’, or even ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, for the ‘write-in’. (Jock sees this as a positive thing as there can be no ‘spoiled votes’ with his system).

To arrive at the result, all the ‘Yes’ votes for a candidate are counted and his/her ‘No’ votes total is subtracted. A candidate with a net negative result cannot be elected; the winner is the candidate with the highest net positive count; and it is also possible for a‘write-in’ or for no-one to be elected.

In this last case the seat will be vacant until the next election, with a welcome consequent saving to the public purse of elected representative’s remuneration and expenses. (In his perverse way Jock sees the potential for humour in the ‘write-in’ option as his system’s greatest selling point!)

Hamish’s ‘Ither, Ither Vote’ system:

Ballot papers are as now, but with an additional box below the list of candidates to indicate ‘None of the above’. If the ‘None of the above’ votes are in the majority, then no-one is elected and the seat lies vacant till the next election. The same result in three consecutive elections and the electoral area is merged with a neighbouring area which has not yet suffered three ‘None of the above’ majorities.

Hamish sees the prospect of reducing over time both the numbers of elected representatives and constituencies as offering greater potential cost savings than Jock’s IV system.

Asked which system I preferred, I thought it prudent to try to change the subject and asked if they had thought about the problem of low turnout and the introduction of compulsory voting.

“Nae need”, they said in unison, “wi’ oany o’ oor systems, an’ the chance they gie tae cut doon on the nummer o’ numpties wi’ thur nebs in the trough, – man, ye wull hae tae be batin’ fowk ower the heid wi’ sticks tae keep them frae votin’ !”

It is heartening to know that democracy is safe when the likes of Jock and Hamish take such an interest.

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