Why I’ll be voting Yes to AV on 5th May: it’s all about choice

by Stephen Tall on April 28, 2011

I will be voting ‘Yes’ to the alternative vote in the referendum on the 5th May. Here’s why.

For me, this referendum is all about choice. The ‘Yes’ campaign stands for giving voters greater choice — the choice to rank candidates standing for election according to our individual preference.

But, in fact, the ‘Yes’ campaign stands for more choice than just that. If you prefer, you don’t have to rank your candidates by preference. That’s right, under the alternative vote, you can express as much preference, or as little preference, as you choose:

  • If you love only one party — let’s for sake of argument, call that party the Liberal Democrats — you can quite simply mark a numeral ’1′ on the ballot paper next to that party’s name. And, if you choose, you can leave it at that.
  • But if you hate just one party — let’s for sake of argument, call that party the BNP — you can ensure they don’t get elected by expressing your 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc preferences for other parties.
  • And if you’re a floating voter — let’s for sake of argument, call you a progressive, liberal, moderate voter — then you can express your preference for the parties you think best represent your views in your preferred order, perhaps Lib Dems ’1′, and then any combination of Conservative/Labour/Green as ’2′, ’3′ and ’4′.

It’s a simple system, one which places control firmly in the hands of you, the voter.

The ‘No’ campaign wants to withhold that choice from you, to deny you the choice that the alternative vote offers. The ‘No’s want to boil down all your thoughts on politics, all the nuanced views you hold, all the arguments you’ve ever had with family and friends, to a single, crude cross against one party’s name.

It’s absurd that we as voters — with our increasing expectation of consumer choice, and of the responsiveness of institutions, private or public, to our aspirations — should have our only expression of political power trampled into such a blunt, meaningless anachronism as a single ‘X’.

The referendum campaign has, sadly, generated more heat than light. And nor should those of us who are voting ‘Yes’ heighten expectations unreasonably. Our politics will not be magically transformed overnight by a new voting system, even one that’s fairer than at present.

But it will improve things. It will remind the elites in power that we citizens value our vote. And it will give us all as much — or as little — choice as we individually want.

That’s why I’m voting ‘Yes’ on 5th May. I hope you will consider voting ‘Yes’, too.