Saturday, 28 August 2010

Can it be fair that the person third in the first round goes on to win under AV?

There has been a bit of fuss over one of the results in the Australian election that was held under AV.

The key part of this is that the person who came third in the first count (Wilkie) went on to win!

Jackson (Labor)35.9%
Simpkins (Liberal)22.1%
Wilkie (Independent)21.7%
Couser (Greens)19.0%

Some people said this had to be unfair as Jackson and Simpkins seemed so much more popular.

However what actually happened is that Couser was knocked out and almost all of his voters had put Wilkie as next choice. This put Wilkie up from third into second place, so Simpkins was knocked out next. Once his supporters next choices were counted up Wilkie was in first place with over 50% of the votes and so Wilkie won.

Realistically, under First Past the Post, the result would almost certainly have been the same!

This is because in FPTP the greens would have realised that they had no real chance, so voting green would let Labour win. Accordingly they would have voted tactically and voted for Wilkie in the first place!

So the result is probably the same, in which case what is the advantage of AV?

Well the advantage of AV is that looking at the first preferences (above) we know the true level of support for each party - the greens have 19% and keep their deposit, and Wilkie knows that many of the votes that got him in belong to Green supporters.

Under FPTP the result would be the same, but the Greens would probably have (unjustly) lost their deposit, and Wilkie would not have realised how many of his votes were from people who were really Greens.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

FPTP vs AV and the Office Lunch

Ok, your office/department is organising a social - lunch at a local restaurant (on the bosses credit card!).

The local restaurants include a Chinese, French, Italian, Tex-Mex, Indian and Pub-Grub.

Choosing with FPTP:
FPTP: "Where do you want to eat"
You: "I like Indian most"
You: "But if people don't like Indian food, then I'd go for Tex-Mex"
FPTP: "You only get one choice."
You: "Oh... I like Indian and TexMex but others might think its too spicy, I don't want Chinese... OK I'll say 'Italian', thats safe not my favourite but should beat the Chinese".

Chosing with AV:
AV: "Where do you want to eat"
You: "I like Indian most, but if we cant do that Tex-Mex, but if we cant do that French..."

See how FPTP makes you 'self-censor' yourself? If you aren't absolutely sure your favourite will win, there is a strong reason to chose something you don't really want just to avoid something even worse!

With AV you just say exactly what you want - simple.

Monday, 23 August 2010

FPTP vs AV in an ice cream cone.

FPTP = What flavour Ice Cream do you want? If its not available you'll get what your given.

AV = What flavour Ice Cream do you want? If its not available what flavour would you like instead? And if thats not available what flavour would you like instead?

For voters there is no downside of still having a choice even if your first/second etc choice isn't available.

For political parties the advantage of FPTP is that you only get once chance so you have to 'take it or leave it' they don't need to put themselves out to attract your vote

25th August Addition
Checkout my short (1min 23sec) animation demonstrating the above on YouTube

Sunday, 22 August 2010

AV -> PR

When people look at PR - they always focus on how to get an elected house where the number of representatives matches the proportion of the vote received by the representatives party.

These various systems of PR rely on ever more complex methods of recording, collecting and counting peoples preferences at the ballot box.

I beleive this is a mistake. All these methods are based on an assumption that every representative/MP should have one vote each. I see no reason that all MPs should have equal voting rights.

If a party get (say) 20% of the popular vote, then that party should have 20% of the votes in parliament -- regardless of the number of their MPs that are elected... instead of one MP one Vote - each MP of each party would wield a proportion of that parties popular vote...

Say there are 3600 votes in parliament, then with 36% of the popular vote and 307 MPs each Conservative MP would wield 4.2 votes, with 29% of the popular vote and 258 MPs each Labour MP would wield 4 votes, with 23% of the popular vote and 57 MPs each LibDem MP would wield 14.5 votes, with 1% of the popular vote and 1 MP the Green MP would wield 36 votes.

There are a few refinements that may be required - UKIP got 3.5% of the popular vote but have no MP's - so there may be a requirement for 'additional members' maybe the most popular three UKIP MPs being made MPs with 'national' constituencies wielding 43 (or so) votes each. It may also be undesirable for an individual MP to have 'too many' votes - this could be diluted by (again) appointing additional members with national constituencies.

However the first step is to get AV, this works on its own, but the national share of 'first votes' could simply be used to implement a system like that described above...

Yes to AV !

1) What is FPTP (first past the post)?

FPTP is the electoral system currently used in the UK when electing MPs. When people think of 'voting' so a group of people can choose a slngle option from a list of alternatives they are probably thinking of FPTP.

A list of candidates/options is presented, and each person allowed to vote (the electorate) is allowed to say which option they would most like to be selected (they vote), or they may decide to leave the choice to others and not express any preference so don't vote (they abstain).

2) What is AV (additional vote)?

Like FPTP a list of candidates is presented, like FPTP a voter can select the single candidate they want to win. However, the voter can also indicate which other candidate(s) they would prefer if their first choice candidate doesn't win!

The voter numbers any acceptible candidates in order - first choice with a '1', second choice (if any) with a '2' and so on.

When votes are counted, if no candidate gets more than 50% of the votes cast, then the worst performing candidate is removed from the poll and the votes are recounted - any one who had voted for the removed candidate will have their second preference (if any) counted instead. Again if no candidate gets more than 50% of the votes counted, the next worst performing candidate is also removed and the votes are counted again as before.

Eventually, as candidates are removed one by one, a remaining candidate will receive over 50% of the recounted votes and so 'wins'.

3) Why is FPTP being challenged at all? What is the 'problem' that is supposed to need solving?

Using FPTP with only two options is quite simple and straight forward - the option that the majority of voters select wins!

But with more than two options (like 3 or 4 different political parties), it is possible (and quite common) for the option that gets the most votes, doesn't actually have the support of the majority of voters.

i.e. with 3 parties if two get 33% of the vote each and the other gets 34% then the party with 34% wins even though they were supported by far less than half (50%) of the voters. You have a situation where 34% of the electorate 'beat' 66% of the electorate!

It can be argued that this is 'fair' because they are more popular than either of the other two, it can also be argued that it is 'unfair' because most people wanted someone else...

Because of this perceived 'unfairness' - tactical voting has become popular. In this case, where people don't want a particular candidate to win, they vote for whichever candidate is most likely to beat them (instead of the one the support most). They will do this even if there is another candidate that they would prefer to win. Voting for a candidate that is almost certainly going to lose is often called a 'wasted vote' even if it is the candidate that you most want to win. This situation puts pressure on people to vote for people they don't really want to win just to avoid someone else they like even less winning.

So despite the FPTP voting slip being very simple, the process people go through to choose who to vote for (not just policies, but whether or not their vote might be 'wasted' etc) is quite complex.

Tactical voting also means that their is no true record of the preferences of the people of the country - some votes will be for preferred parties/policies/people but many will be for non-preferred parties/policies/people just to try to stop even worse parties/policies/people from getting elected. It is impossible to separate the different types of vote out.

So the problems are:-
a) Questionable mandate of an MP with less than 50% of the vote.
b) Difficult decisions to be made over 'wasted votes'
c) Difficult decisions to be made over 'tactical voting'
d) No real record of the peoples preference

4) Does AV fix these problems?

a) Questionable mandate of an MP with less than 50% of the vote.
Once the worst candidates are removed, the winning candidate will have more than 50% of the votes counted - more of a mandate than 34% vs two candidates with 33%!

b) Difficult decisions to be made over 'wasted votes'
There are no 'wasted votes' - if your main candidate is knocked out, your next choice will be counted. Right up until a candidate has over 50% or the counted votes.

c) Difficult decisions to be made over 'tactical voting'
There is no way of voting 'tactially' voting for what you beleive in is the most likely way of getting your most prefereable MP, and of not getting the MP you don't want at all or prefer least.

d) No real record of the peoples preference
The first preference votes across the country will be a true reflection of peoples preferences. I beleive this is what most scares the old established parties! regardless of the election results and numbers of seats etc. We will have a clear and honest picture of what the people of the country really want - a picture that politicians cannot feign ignorance of.

5) What of PR (proportional representation)?

Well AV is not PR, but neither is FPTP. So PR is almost irrelevant to this argument. But, not toatally...

The first preference votes in AV are an unambiguous record of the preferences of the UK public! Following AV, implementing PR (if wanted) would not require any change to the voting system - we would know the proportions to be represented, so implementation of PR would be a change to the mechanics of the way parliament votes, no change to the way the public votes!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

British Justice - so what?

British Justice (for better or worse) is the result of hundreds of years of experience, negotiation, discussion etc

What we have is the result of thousands of British people over many generations - it is our 'settlement' between the British Citizen and the State.

We are quite precious about it (after all a lot of work has gone into it!) We abhor the idea of 48 days detention without trial, we hate the idea of trial without jury - people have fought and campaigned against these things.

But now 'our' government allow UK citizens to be extradited to other EU countries at the whim of those other countries judiciaries - the UK citizen has no right of recall to their native institutions - the foreign courts demand is submitted to without another word.

This is no different to the American 'extra-ordinary rendition' every one was so angry about. But this time almost no-one seems to care.

FFS whats wrong with everyone?

We (British Citizens) are not just subject to UK law, we are subject to the law of each of the other 26 countries of the EU - laws over which we have absolutely *ZERO* influence. Laws we don't know, don't understand, laws we probably cant even read.

Am I the only person angry about this?