Bidet to you sir
On may 5th in the UK there is a referendum on the voting system used in the united kingdom for general elections (and local elections obv), the choice being to keep the current system (first past the post) or switch the the new system, alternative vote.
Now first, Let me give a brief overview of different voting systems.
firstly, the most common, first past the post (fptp)
This is the form that most people will be familiar with, including americans, this is the system where people simply need the most votes to win an election, NOT a majority, but what is known as a plurality.
While in america this usually is a majority, for example in britain you can have a 35, 32, 30, 3 split or something.
No party gets a majority in that seat, but someone got 35, and therefore won because they got more than anyone else.
A lot of people don't think that's fair or more key proportional
Now for example, in england you quite often get con: 35 lab:32 LD:30 or something, these numbers here are obviously wrong, but this is a nice demonstation.
Labour got 32 and lost, lib dems got 30 and lost, but wait a minute, most lib dems hate conservatives, as do most labour voters, but labour voters and lib dem voters actually see eye to eye on a lot of issues.... so what you've got is a party disliked by 62% or more of the electorate in this case dissatisfied with who is in charge, thats THE MAJORITY.
well how does that make sense, isn't democracy rule by the majority? well, fptp does not ensure that, no it ensures rule by the plurality.
Ok so what other systems are there?
Well there are 4 main alternatives, alternative vote, single transferable vote, list proportional representation and mixed member proportional representation.
Alternative vote works in a very similar fashion to fptp, and actually will usually give the same results, but, the system works on a ranking basis where you write a 1 for your first choice, 2 for second etc, and the person who gets the least first preferences is then elminated and his votes are shared until one candidate receives 50% of the vote.
For example, lets do that, thing again. but lets ignore the other parties to make it simpler.
So lets say most people voted conservative first choice etc as before.
so you get a 38 32 30 split, (ignore others to make it simpler), so lib dems came last in first choices.
so they're elminiated.
Now the second choice votes are read, now lets make a big assumption (but this will rarely be the case) that ALL lib dems voted labour second choice.
Well now you have Labour: 62 and conservatives with 38.
Av is often called instant run off voting, as it's essentially the same as holding multiple elections, removing the most unpopular candidate each time (as is done in many countries), but done in one vote.
This is marginally fairer I'd argue, as it gives a candidate with more popular support, it does however disenfranchise those who may have voted for only 1 first choice candidate who was eventually defeated by other voters second choices, personally I don't see this as much of a problem as it's overall better than having the majority of the populace unhappy with their representative in parliament.
There is a better alternative not being given, proportional representation, coming in the forms as I mentioned earlier.
STV is similar to AV in that it's a ranking system, however each seat has more than 1 candidate space to be taken, and instead of needing 50% to win, there is a quota based on number of voters, and number of candidates in the seat.
It also means that say if 1 con candidate gets more than the quota needed then the surplus is shared, so it works by sharing both surplus votes and elimination methods, this leads to a seat with a (largely proportional number of MP's of each party), for example as before you'd basically end up in that unlikely scenario with one MP of each of the 3 main parties.
Then there are list methods, theres 2 versions, both have small differences but the principle is the same, you vote for a party and the party has a list of candidates, if one party gets 33% of the vote, 33% of the candidates on the list are elected.
How the list is ordered is all that changes, some lists are determined by voters in some countries, in others the list is determined by the party.
Then there is mixed member or top up voting, which is a mix between 75% or so fptp and 25% list PR, this fills up the seat with extra candidates and leads to proportional representation.
Those 3 other systems to many here may sound more appealing than the 2 options on the table in britain, and I agree entirely, that's why I think anyone british who thinks so, should vote yes on AV this referendum, largely to bring about further change.
This has been zim, and he has been talking about dull electoral reform.