Death of the Conviction Voter: Fairness and Tactics under AV

Monday, April 11, 2011
The particular type of AV being proposed in next month's referendum is not the type used in national elections elsewhere in the world (in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Australia) but is in fact employed only in local elections in two Australian states.  Far from increasing fairness in voting outcomes, the introduction of such a system in the UK would:i) result in conviction voters who mark down their preferences in good faith exerting significantly less influence on the result than tactical voters; andii) lead to a huge increase in political parties directing tactical voting for their own ends.The alternative vote system proposed in the May referendum is better known as "Optional Preference Voting" (OPV) and is only used in the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales. It gives voters a choice of how many preferences to put down on the ballot paper. This produces an institutionalised inequality where some voters have one vote and some have four.  The Bow Group paper examines the sorts of outcomes this inequality produces and finds that the outcomes do not show greater proportionality of real voter preferences (what we want) to voter outcomes (what we get). Based on research into the Australian experience of OPV the report finds:Up to 65% of voters might only cast one preference in a future general election.What has been proposed by proponents of AV as the certainty of the winning candidate receiving at least 50% plus one of voter preferences is not true for the form of AV being offered in the referendum.Voters who mark their preferences with conviction will be disadvantaged in the electoral process.The form of AV on offer allows for a far wider range of tactics to voters and political parties than those available under both First Past The Post (FPTP) and even other forms of AV.This form of AV will not increase fairness in voter outcomes.Bernard Jenkin MP, leading voice in the Conservative campaign against AV, said:"I welcome this report, which reveals that the alternative voting system on offer at the referendum does not offer an improvement on First Past The Post.  The debate is all about fairness in voting outcomes, and this system has been seen to be less fair.  Voters deserve the facts about which AV system is on offer and the implications it could have for their vote in future elections. The truth is that this system could mean that our vote counts less, not more."Joan Ryan, Director of Labour No2AV said:"Even if you are the most staunch supporter of electoral reform, moving to such an unfair and less proportional system cannot possibly achieve an improvement on what we currently have." Download the full paper below...