Alternative vote, or not?

Northern Ireland has had a variant of the Alternative Voting scheme for many years and in the vote today one of the biggest downsides of it is very plain to see.

In place of what was once a relatively short voting paper were two around two feet long with around 20 candidates on each. Even reading down the list takes a while and with two elections and the ballot for the AV system today, the queues are somewhat longer than usual. Is that a fairer system? Well, it would be, if people paid as much attention to their vote as politicians always seem to think that they do. In reality, people just don’t do that and thus the system probably ends up producing a result that’s less representative of “the people” than what went before. Picking one person that you’d quite like to represent you is much easier than choosing two or three amongst a much longer list of people.

Having said that, it’s more likely that people will add a name or two as a protest which they couldn’t do if there was only one person that they could vote for. Thus in response to the widespread dislike of the mass immigration that we’ve experienced one could expect that the BNP will pick up some protest votes.

Although it can take longer (a lot longer) to produce a final result from AV, that’s something that only happens every four or five years so is probably the weakest argument on the anti-AV campaign.

Is it worth having to give the potential for a protest vote? Maybe, but for me the biggest downside is that it makes it a good deal more difficult to use your vote effectively and that more than cancels out any advantage of protest vote potential.

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