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AV Referendum: Reasons to Vote

May 4th, 2011 by

Last week a 38 Degrees member summarised the positive arguments made by each side in the AV referendum. The blog and Facebook post unleashed an avalanche of debate and presented more reasons for and against the proposed change. These have been incorporated into the updated table.

Reform voting system to “Alternative vote”.
Stick with “First Past The Post” voting system.
Rank candidates in order of preference:
1, 2, 3
Put a cross by chosen candidate:
Currently used in the UK:
By political parties to elect their leader. By MPs to elect their Speaker and committee members.
Currently used in the UK:
To elect MPs to Westminster parliament.
Supported by:
Most of the Labour Party, Lib Dems, Greens, UKIP, a few Conservatives.
Supported by:
Almost all Conservatives, the BNP, some of Labour.
Leading arguments: 

  • Will encourage MPs to listen to voters who don’t usually support their party because they will have to think about second and third preference votes as well.
  • Will reduce the number of ‘safe seats’ and ‘jobs for life’ among MPs – potentially reducing the kind of complacency that led to the expenses scandal.
  • Will give each voter a say in who their MP is even if their first choice does not win.
  • Will make it harder for “extremist” parties to get elected as they would need to get 50% of voters to rank them highly.
Leading arguments: 

  • It is tried and tested – it’s been our voting system for a very long time.
  • This is the system under which all our previous Westminster governments have been elected, and tends to produce a clear result.
  • It is cheaper than AV (NB this claim is controversial, the YES campaign have described it as a “lie”).
  • It is less complicated than AV and is therefore easy for everyone to understand: the candidate who gets the most votes wins.

Do you agree? Are there any big issues missing? Add a comment below.

You might find these articles by the BBC helpful. Or you could have a look at what the yes and no campaigns for the referendum have to say.

Here’s what a few 38 Degrees members have said about the referendum:

Stuart is voting Yes: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people requires the involvement of the people and the conviction of the people that their involvement counts, whoever they support. AV is a small step in the right direction in bringing power out of the boardrooms and down to our level. It isn’t the whole journey, but it is a first step.

Cathy is voting No: “Either go whole hog proportional, or keep it as it is rather than spending resources on a system that is pretty much as good as, if not only marginally better or worse than, the status quo.”

Lauren is voting Yes: ”If George Osborne, the BNP, the Murdoch Empire, and David Blunkett all want me to vote no to AV, then I’m going to vote yes!

Joe is voting No: ”AV isn’t really any more democratic though. In a way it’s worse because in many cases some votes are worth more than others because you’re mixing first preference votes with second preference votes.

Grant is voting Yes: ”Living in Scotland I have found AV/STV to be an opportunity to change our voting system for the better so we are not stuck with same old parties winning the vote.

Jon is voting No: ”I should be a supporter of AV because I support UKIP / English Democrats or ANY civilised bunch who will get us out of Europe. BUT it’s no good getting us out of Europe if we are left with a bunch of ‘all things to all men’ apparachnikim at home.

It could be decades before we get another chance to vote on reforming the voting system, particularly if there is a No vote. So let’s make sure everyone has a chance to have their say!

Please send this blog post to your friends and remind them to vote.

If you use Facebook, you can post a status reminder here. If you use Twitter, you can tweet a reminder here.

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

  • KrisS

    Again, what grounds do you have for saying it is supported by “most of the Labour Party”?

  • Adam Griffin


    this is a grt video once it gets going on AV yes

  • KrisS

    I thought this from the Guardian


    was quite a good summary

  • uksnapper

    A pointless event as MPs still have to follow the party whips directions and vote as directed so we will still not have a true democracy,just a changeable benign dictatorship.
    Until voting in Parliament is secret we will be at the mercy of the people who influence the PM.

  • KrisS


    “10.37am: Ed Miliband told the Today programme this morning that AV would be his ideal electoral system. (See 8.30am.) But one survey of MPs suggests that only a quarter of Labour MPs agree with him. YouGovStone (a division of YouGov) has surveyed a representative sample of 100 MPs and asked them to choose their favourite from a list of seven electoral systems. All 47 Tories contacted opted for first past the post. Twenty seven of the 40 Labour MPs in the panel also went for FPTP, while nine went for AV. Interestingly, none of the nine Lib Dems in the survey went for AV. Eight of them opted for the single transferable vote, and one went for AV plus.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=762094147 Brian Latham

    Don’t forget to add that with AV you can still just put a cross in the box and your vote will be counted

  • 3arn0wl

    AV might lead to more coalition governments, and the move to government by consensus rather than acrimony.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=762094147 Brian Latham

    Don’t forget that you can still just put a cross in the box with AV and your vote still counts.
    Under AV, parties will have to have manifesto pledges that are of two types immovable and negotiable, so we know what sort of coalitions were are likely to get if there no majority government, not backroom deals. There is a possibility of a minority administrations as well. This is how it works in other countries.

  • Martinabum

    You don’t need AV – you only need to vote and every vote counts or how else did a Green candidate get elected at the last election. FPTP works if people bother to exercise their democratic right, perhaps the most important human right there is.

    Take a look at my latest blog for my own take on the AV debate http://martinbaum.co.uk/viewfromthehut.asp?Docid=139

  • Anonymous

    Good summary, just one typo (“the YES campaign have described it as “lie”)

  • Penny

    If your MP has a secret vote, how will you know how well s/he is representing your views?

  • http://twitter.com/jdaviescoates Josef Davies-Coates

    AV isn’t hard to understand either

  • http://keepfakingit.com/ cian

    Cheers, fixed.

  • Selinabonelli

    av isn’t good enough but not voting or voting no means things will carry on regardless – at least now we all realize that this is no way near a democracy and we need change….

  • John Jackson

    In reality, the ‘First Past The Post’ system ensures that each election in this country is decided by a small number of ‘Swing-Voters’ who live in ‘Key Marginal’ constituencies. Worse still, govenments (of both the red and blue types) have been elected with huge majorities despite attracting about a third of the actual votes cast !!
    Furthermore, under a genuinely democratic system, such as ‘Proportional Representation’, the number of votes cast in favour of the Green Party at the last general election would have seen them gain substantially more than just the the one seat in parliament.
    Sadly, PR is not on the table; however, anyone who truly believes in democracy and people power (Tories can obviously look away at this point !) will be voting YES in favour of AV tomorrow as a first step in that direction.
    And I truly hope that Labour voters resist the temptation to give Nick Clegg the metaphorical ‘kicking’ that he deserves – he is a liar and a Tory dupe and yesterday’s man – greater democracy is far more important than he is, or ever was.
    Vote YES to the Alternative Voting system and make sure that YOUR vote is always counted and your voice is always heard !!

  • Joe St Clair-Ford

    Under the current system 66% of us have an MP we voted against, this is not only unfair but undemocratic. Also the current system forces people in many areas to choose their ‘least worst’ of two candidates that are likely to win, AV allows people to vote for the person they really want without the fear of letting in the person they really don’t. It gives voters more choice and give governments a clearer and more honest veiw of voters opinions. People who support PR should look at the two options that are offered now and choose objectively which is best not hold out for an option that is not available and miss the opportunity for a better system than we currently have.

  • http://twitter.com/poglad Paul Taylor

    That Guardian article is interesting – but in what sense is it “a kind of tactical voting” that AV permits a progressive *majority* to be represented? If I want either Labour or the Lib Dems, and you want either the Lib Dems or Labour, and most people feel the way that we do, then we will get a Labour or Lib Dem government. That’s not tactical voting. Tactical voting is having to pretend you want something other than what you really want.

  • http://wheresthebenefit.blogspot.com/ DavidG

    “the candidate who gets the most votes wins” This is in fact far more true for AV than for FPTP. The FPTP system regularly elects people with percentage in the low 30s, an absolute minority of votes cast. AV pretty much guarantees to elect someone with an absolute majority of votes, whether those be first, second, or whatever preference.

    The statement could be rephrased as “the person who gets the most first preference votes wins and everyone else’s, no matter how large a percentage that adds up to in total, is discounted”. With sufficient candidates and a sufficiently polarised electorate, FPTP could legitimately elect someone with a single digit percentage of the vote.

  • KrisS

    I am very, very disappointed in 38 Degrees here. I can see no basis for claiming that AV is supported by “most of the Labour Party”.

    I could be wrong, but I have asked a number of times and no-one has responded. It is saddening, therefore, to see this line repeated in the email I just received from 38 Degrees.

  • http://www.thekillingallotments.wordpress.com Fantastic Dan

    Everyone should vote yes whether they want it or not. If it doesn’t work we can get rid of it but not even trying it is useless.

  • P R Fitzpatrick


    Thank you for reminding me how to vote .. .. .

    I’m sorry but I think that your posted summary verged on the naive. At best it was anaemic and probably rather patronising. It should have been altogether more savvy.

    There are other options for voters who are quite canny enough to see strategic voting as the preferable option in this case. I expected you to set out these options too. For example, we could all send Nick Clegg and his mates a big message by either voting yes or, probably better, not at all or by spoiling our ballot papers. We could accompany this by NOT VOTING FOR ANY Lib Dem councillors in the accompanying local elections – the earthquake that that might generate might be enough to sink the coalition as grass root Libdems contemplate electoral annihilation at the next general election.

    You could have explained these more sophisticated options and what they might mean in terms of the coalition which, thanks to Huhne is looking wobblier than ever. So, can we please have some more strategic ideas outlined, again, for example, by setting out the consequences of a “high” local elections voting turnout and a “low” participation in the AV vote – removing any political credibility from the vote and sending a clear message to the government. Just to present this vote as a straightforward yes/ no vote is just too simplistic and it does not do jus-tice to your reputation as an agency promoting serious political engagement.

    Please do something about this before it is too late. I don’t accept the idea that the electorate can only understand a simple Yes/ No vote – again patronising the voters. I don’t want to stop participating in your campaigns but I would like to see something altogether sharper in its analysis.

  • http://thinkactvote.org/2011/05/04/its-voting-time-for-the-uk-referendum-have-your-say-on-the-5th-may/ It’s Voting Time for the UK Referendum – Have your Say on the 5th May! | Think Act Vote

    [...] 38 Degrees have put together these links that they think you might find helpful: [...]

  • Jonathansargant

    I believe in democracy and people power and will be voting for AV as the best system I’ve come across. Unlike PR it keeps power relatively strongly in the hands of the people, as coalitions are still relatively uncommon, and coalitions (as we now know) necessarily result in election manifestoes turning out to be not worth the paper they are written on.
    The only good argument against voting for AV that I’ve heard is that it might lead to PR. So I’ll be hoping it doesn’t as I tick the yes box…

  • Graham

    AV is clearly better than 1st-Past-The-Post, but it could be better, & resolve the problem of some votes having a bigger influence.
    The 1st choice has a ‘weighting’ of 1. In fact, all choices have a ‘weighting’ of 1, which is a nonsense – the 2nd choice should have a lesser ‘weighting’ of, say, a half; the 3rd choice a ‘weighting’ of a third etc. That would be far more sensible.
    In this day & age of computers, the added complexity is trivial.
    The problem of not voting in the AV system is that the PR (Proportional Representation) lobby would eventually get an opportunity to have their way. Unfortunately, despite the democratic-sounding title, PR is a nonsense and could not deliver proportional results.
    So, the imperfect version of AV is the better option for the long term.

  • http://twitter.com/Mikey_PB Michael Bowerman

    At the last election I voted for my Lib Dem candidate. Having recently moved, I didn’t know that in my area the result was very close between between Conservative and Labour, with Conservatives getting the seat.
    After learning this, I wished I had voted Labour in order to keep the Tory out. This kind of tactical voting is what FPtP breeds, and lead to my disenfranchised feeling of having wasted a vote.
    This is not how democracy should work.

  • Marion

    I agree that second votes, third votes should have lesser weighting and why should the last candidate’s next vote be any more valid that all other people’s second vote? Yes, everyone has a vote but, under FPTP, only one vote counts; AV is unfair and taking inclusion to ludicrous extremes. Much as I would vote for PR )and there are many systems which should be up for debate), I cannot bring myself to vote for this ludicrous system – I shall be voting ‘NO’ in spite of the fact that AV is likely to produce less right wing governments

  • 12rocthedog12

    So the last government Labour go into power on the back of 37% of the those that voted….Then that particular government run wild and put the country on the road to ruin. AND THAT WAS RIGHT 37% percent of the vote able to put a party into power how stupid is that. It’s down right wrong dishonest and not fair at all. At least with AV that will not be able to happen. ….I point out Australia rode the recession easily because no government could run wild on it’s own policies……..Australia has an Immigration policy THAT THIS COUNTRY WANTS TO FOLLOW…Not bad for an AV voting country……………Australia has a policy that a say Austarlians for Australian jobs….Not bad for an AV voting country……………..So choose carefully…….we have had FPT post and look where that has got us……………

  • KrisS


  • KrisS

    What’s made me even more angry is that you’ve wind me up so much with this untruth that I’ve posted in block caps on the Internet.

    The shame!

  • Guest

    Simples: 5 voters vote for 4 candidates (A to D). Voting results:

    A got two 1′s, one 3 and two 4′s.
    B got one 1 and FOUR 2′s.
    C got one 1, two 3′s and two 4′s.
    D got one 1, one 2, two 3′s and one 4.

    FPTP – A wins.
    AV – A wins.

    Voters weighting, B should have won – neither system appears to be fair, why change if it costs so much to make the change?
    Maybe our money could be better utilised…

  • Chris_56uk

    Having been in a total quandry about whether to vote yes or no – neither side of the argument actually came through with a strong argument as far as I am concerned – I voted YES to reform! As far as I am concerned, our politicians seem to think that AV is good enough to elect political leaders and the Speaker so why not give it a try? If we were to carry on down the same old road which we have travelled and has led us into almost bankruptcy (and who knows, that might even be actual bankruptcy!) we will soon be in the same area as poor old Greece, Ireland and now Portugal! What amazes me is, if we are that bad off why can’t we have a united parliament? All Party co-operation! Anyway, I’ve rattled on the main thing which I want to get over is PLEASE GET OUT THERE AND VOTE YES!!! If we lose this chance for voting reform we wont see another in (well, my lifetime anyway!)

  • Chris_56uk

    You’re right! But if the yes campaign wins (which I very much doubt) we could go for actual P.R. at a later date – David Cameron obviously realises this which is why he didn’t want to opt for P.R. as first option. i.e. if this campaign loses then there will not be another referendum for many years so it will be ‘same old, same old!’

  • Karl

    I’m voting no. Anything that is likely to give the traitorous Lib Dems more power isn’t getting my vote.

  • http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/05/07/the-yes-to-av-campaign-let-the-post-mortems-begin/ The ‘Yes to AV’ campaign: let the post-mortems begin | Liberal Conspiracy

    [...] failure of 38degrees to endorse the #Yes2AV campaign: This is the dreadful fence-sitting job they came up with in the [...]

  • http://twitter.com/jamesclayton James Clayton

    This post was a disgrace. 38 Degrees should have come out hard and early for AV.

  • https://about.me/polleetickle Polleetickle

    AV makes the second most popular preference the winner – thereby putting strident politics and a nations strengths into a lower gear than top. Democracy is what it is – get over yourselves.