Thought Vomit #37: ft. Electoral Reform

I found out today that there are more than two available electoral voting systems. I found this out because the news finally decided to talk about electoral reform in terms other than first past the post, or proportional representation. Unfortunately, they decided to frame this debate in a process story about whether Alan Johnson was making a bid for the Labour leadership. For shame.

Anyway, it was nice to see some sensible ideas being given an airing for once, without being couched in emotive scare-mongering. Proportional representation, we’re constantly being told, will give us the parliamentary upheaval often seen in Italy, and give parties like the BNP a louder voice. The recent trend upwards of the smaller parties has not seen an increase of share for the BNP, rather it has benefited the Green Party, though one wouldn’t know it to see the news.

So, Alan Johnson has suggested the Alternate Vote Plus, or AVP, which was also recommended by the Independent Commission on Electoral Reform in 1998. AVP gives the voter two ballot papers: one for their constituency representative; and one for their party of preference. Then, the majority of seats in Parliament are filled by the constituency MPs, with the remainder being a proportional share of the parties based on the second ballot.

Another option is the one favoured by the Electoral Reform Society. The Single Transferable Vote (STV) is an effort to eliminate wasted votes. Say for example you vote for a candidate who wins with a massive majority, your vote could be deemed worthless. Likewise, your preference may be for a candidate who comes last on the ballot. With STV you can nominate a second, third, or fourth preference.

So, if eight candidates are vying for three seats, your second choice vote counts as soon as the first candidate meets the minimum number of votes needed. Likewise, when the second candidate gets to the minimum, surplus votes are passed onto the third candidate.

But perhaps the most popular reform would be the Extended Episodic Proto Documentary System (EEPDS). This is where the leaders of each party are filmed doing deliberately vague tasks; tasks which are designed to encourage bickering and resentment. At the end of each week, they are wheeled before an arbitrary authority figure, let’s say, David Dimbleby. Dimbleby then forces the candidates to turn on each other and decide who should be up for deselection. A nationwide phone vote ensues, and the process continues each week until the most bland person survives.

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