Monday, 21 February 2011

An unfortunate series of events (the perils of AV).

Ok, as requested.

There is an election.
For Simplicity only, lets say it involves three candidates.
One Labour,
One Liberal Democrat,
One Tory (what the hell, we've taken back the term ;) .

Results are as follows.
Labour 45%
Lib Dem 30%
Tory 25%
FPTP winner Labour. But this is an AV election, so onto the next round

The Tory Candidate is eliminated. In the spirit of the coalition (and to keep out Labour), 18 of the 25%  second pref Lib Dem and 2 of the 25% vote labour (SHOCK!), 5 were exhausted.

We now have a winner. On 48% of the total vote, the Lib Dem's against 47% of Labour.
Close , but it is obvious that the most popular person won right?

Lets have a look at the information that AV doesn't reveal then.

Lib Dems second pref'd 20 of their 30% voted Labour and 5 of the 30% voted Tory, 5 were exhausted

Labour second pref'd 15 of their 45% to the Lib Dems (Yellow Tories) and 5 of the 45% to Tory, 25 exhausted.

So how does that make the end result look?

Lib Dems AV winner has 30% first round votes and 33% of the second prefs. (63% of people preferenced them 1st or second)

Tory has 25% of the first round votes and 10% of the second prefs (35% of people preferenced them 1st or second)

Lastly we have Labour, FPTP winner. Has 45% of first preferences and 22% of the second prefs (67% of people preferenced them 1st or second)

This highlights the problem of allowing just 25% of people in a vote to second preference.

*Obviously I could have made these figures a lot more biased to prove my point even more but I think this is a quite fair representation of how it could look.*
The AV winner had neither the most support from the populace or the most concentrated support.
In short, it is perfectly possible for the person with the most votes in FPTP to be more supported in the voting populace than the winner under AV.

Which is one of the reasons I support FPTP, not that it'll always get it right, but because it processes the information given to it right.
 If 45% voted labour, that is what it will tell you. If 25% voted Tory, that is what it would tell you.

What AV would tell you under that election up there is that 48% of people support the Liberal Democrats and 47% people support Labour. It is a system that is designed to misinterpret the raw data given to it.

The End (or is it? DUM DUM DUUUUUUM)

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The fanatical supporters of electoral reform think we're stupid

OK, that's it.

In response to the ever increasing misinformation about AV from the 'Yes' campaign, I have deemed it necessary to start holding them to account.

Where better to start then today's article by Andrew Rawnsley

He starts his monologue by telling us about his support for AV before even mentioning it, by saying that the election of Tony in '97 and Margaret in '87 were unstoppable whirlwinds (as I am sure he knows AV would have only have made any opposition to these even more futile, so he is getting those out of the way early).

He then goes on to tell us his geek credentials even going so far as saying "debating the pros and cons of different electoral systems can be better than sex".

So are we clear now guys? This guy loves electoral systems, while we're all away making hay, he is straw counting.
Of course we can trust his wisdom then surely? He must know these systems and politics in general, inside and out!

Well, let's see.

He starts off by saying all the 'No' side of the debate are doing are negative he says "[Nick Clegg] attributed the parliamentary expenses scandal to..first past the post.." and lists Nick Clegg's mentioning of all number of scandals that have nothing to do with FPTP..and while he admits "I'm sceptical that AV is the miracle cure which will purge us of every lazy, disconnected or corrupt MP" he doesn't consider THAT negative campaigning.

OK, now let's get down to this 'better-than-sex' self proclaimed nerd's understanding (or supposed understanding) of the systems involved.

1."It will be a worthwhile improvement if MPs have to gather some form of support from at least half of the voters" Indeed it would..this is not AV though is according to the London School of Economics and Political Science " more than 4 out of every 10 MPs would still be elected with the endorsement of less than 50% of the voters" (Rallings and Thrasher).

Not a good start and for those of you that will say "at the moment we have 6 out of 10" ...Yes, we do...but that is only looking at an X. I'm sure if you use your noggin you can see that under AV many people that won with FPTP would have been pushed over the line with second preferences anyway.
Not so much them gaining extra support, but just adding on the support that is already there.

2."The parties will be impelled to engage with more parts of the country than just a minority of marginals"
The same amount of seats have been singled out to be marginals under AV as FPTP..he knows this, he also knows that no political party will spend money preaching to the choir when the unconverted are next door.
This will happen under any electoral system.

3. "it will pay MPs to connect with more parts of their constituencies."
This is linked to '1' i guess. However an interesting point is that you would not want to convert too many of your rivals if the party in third place is more open to you. Otherwise your rivals will become third and you won't get any 'alternative votes from them'. Best not court those under AV.. wouldn't want having more supporters to make you lose now would we.

4."[David Cameron] contended that "hung parliaments will become commonplace" which will lead to more "haggling" and "stitch-ups".

Being a clever chap, who studied electoral systems at Oxford, he knows this is disingenuous"

Studies by many institutions have shown that hung parliaments in the UK will be more likely under AV. Yes, people will point at Australia "They have only had ONE hung parliament" ..Yes and for a system where 96% of the seats went to two partys last election, that is hardly surprising.
However we do not have a two party system otherwise the fptp system wouldn't be a problem.

5. Well this is an interesting one, because it seems to go against what we have just heard from him.
" AV will, at most elections, distribute seats a little more fairly than first past the post" well..surely then as the Liberal Democrats got 23% of the vote but only 8.8% a fairer system would lead them to have more seats and thus a hung parliament. ..but no "but AV is not a proportional system. It is a majoritarian system" nice twist.

Remember that PR fans, maybe the FPTP squad don't like PR, but nor do the AV club.

6."Well, let us accept that numbering candidates 1, 2, 3 does require a slightly more advanced level of numeracy than simply making a cross. I think Britain will cope." Yes, that's right. paint everyone who doesn't understand AV as stupid by suggesting it is that simple. "Can't you see the Emperor's clothes?! What's wrong with you!"

The long and short of it is yes, marking out a preferential ballot is easy. Explaining why a candidate can still win under AV when they have less first, less second, less third and less forth etc preferences than others is a little bit trickier.

unless of course we are suggesting that people shouldn't have to know what happens to their ballot? We should just say, "Fill this out and don't worry your pretty little heads about it, we nerds will fix it"
There are literally dozens of different preferential systems that all require the same data and a lot will produce conflicting results so of course they have the right to know what it is they are saying will make things 'fairer'.

7. Then another good one.
"Had they used first past the post in their last contest, the leader of the Tory party would not be David Cameron. It would be David Davis."
Wow. This is where I take away your nerd badge.
The MPs pick two candidates out of the total list, the two candidates with the most votes go to postal ballots. The most ballots declared wins.
Now considering he was in the top two candidates in the first round of voting (these are real rounds BTW where everyone can decide on their vote again ;) ) he still would have been selected to the postal ballot stage and as the postal ballots elected him with almost 68% of the vote I can't see that changing.

What a bad argument. Either an outright attempt at misinformation..or he doesn't understand the leadership process for the Conservatives, which means MAYBE he shouldn't be telling us what it would and would not do

8. "The prime minister is surely not suggesting that the fine people of Britain have a lower collective IQ than our friends in the Antipodes?"
No, but considering you have made so many mistakes, it isn't that unlikely that non-'nerds' will not quite get it right either.

9."Whether or not they know it, many millions of Britons already have extensive experience of using preferential selection because they have been regular voters in Big Brother, Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor."

Preferential selection doesn't mean AV.

Imagine for instance, those shows mentioned about but with AV.
Week one, everyone is excited. All the contestants turn up. They all do their thing, some well, some not so well. Everyone votes.

"And the winner is X!" End of the series.. "What what what?" You will cry (and a significant part of the population would shout "Woo Hoo!" too I'd imagine).

And here is the kicker, the decision is not made on who you like the most, but deciding who out of all these people you have only just heard from is the best, in order, while trying to balance up what you might have missed (while having a coffee perhaps).

AV, is not Exhaustive Run off voting, which is what those shows are. At any one point they are asking you to vote for ONE person.
  Even then, are we all happy that the right people win those shows? Huh

The No campaign are not saying you are stupid people. They are saying the system is a lot more complicated than now, often produces unfair results and offers minority party voters more say than others.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Reasons to vote no

1) Fptp is the easiest, most inclusive system available. There is not one person in the UK that has trouble understanding it and therefore there is not any group of people that will be disenfranchised or cowed away from voting if they wish.

2) FPTP is one voter, one vote.
I have offered the yes campaign to critique a voting system let’s call it ‘DB Voting’
where everyone votes, and if someone doesn’t have 50% of the vote, the lowest candidate is eliminated and anyone who voted for them gets given a brand new fresh vote to add to any un-eliminated candidate.

Obviously, this is a system that gives some people more than one vote. The results compared to AV are however exactly the same. So if it produces the exact same result as some people being given an extra vote, then that should give cause for concern straight away.

3) AV counts someone’s third preference as the same value as someone’s first.
I have asked a few AV people if you had 49% of people give a 1st preference to candidate A, and Candidate B get 25% 1st preferences, 15% 2nd preferences, 11% 3rd preferences, who would they think had the most SUPPORT? They invariably say candidate B ..which I disagree with. Quality not just quantity.

4) Leading on from point three…
In the average AV context even though almost all voters will give preferences, only 35% of voters will have anything but their first preference taken into account.
If the AV supporters claim that 2nd preferences are so indicative of support, why are we ignoring a majority of the information that can help?

5)The 50% myth,
AV supporters often quote the 50% myth to push their arguments. They sometimes wrongly say 50% of the total voters, or 50% of the electorate. This is no true. What they mean is 50% of the last round of voting.
I.E. 50% of people who preference’d the two remaining candidates out of the starting 8-12 or so.
They then hold this up as an achievement, normally saying something like “see 50%...its more than 35% which a lot of MPS are elected with”.
However they are comparing two incomparable figures.
One is % of last round of votes, one is % of total votes.

So if you have 100 voters, 35% of the total vote would be 35 votes.
If only 70% of these choose to preference either of the two candidates that end up in the last round, 50% of this is 35 votes again.

6) ..this point only affects you if you favour PR, i.e. 1% of votes =1% of seats.
Out of the last 4 elections AV (according to studies) would have led to a less representative government than FPTP in three of them.

7) Coalitions will be more likely.
This point you’d imagine to be self evident. If AV encourages smaller parties and more single issue groups (which AV says it will and I agree) then the % of seats held by the bigger parties will be less.
This will lead to king makers, not just one but many. Policy will be decided in back rooms where one policy is dropped in return for support of another. The recent events with the coalition show the trouble with coalitions in a country not used to them better than I can explain.

8) Politics under FPTP can be decisive. Under AV a politician would have to hedge their bets. Will their be cuts in spending and in tax? Or will their be spending increases and tax increases? Best not to say really at AV election time as you have to remain as neutral as possible. After all, like discussed, it isn’t about how much people support you, it is about the quantity of people that will put up with you.
This to me means each election we will be guessing what the MP will be doing for the next 5 years.

off the top of my head that is about it…
comment if you have any further points or if you want to discuss one 

Monday, 7 February 2011

Preferences and weighting

It's the world cup, and like always England have been knocked out of the competition.
One England fan decides to support his back up team Brazil.
Of course if England were still in he would prefer them, but he doesn't mind Brazil now England are out.

Brazil is playing Spain in the final and in a pub our England can is sitting with a Spaniard. They are both cheering on their respective teams.

Now who do you think is likely to be most happy if their team wins?

Who cares more would you imagine?
Both teams have one supporter, but who would you imagine has most support?