From today’s Independent on Sunday:
To try to calculate the case for different voting systems by party advantage (or disadvantage) is not only wrong, it is also a mistake. Although we can guess how past elections might have turned out under AV, based on opinion-poll evidence of voters’ second preferences (as we report today, there might have been a hung parliament in 1992 and a Lib-Lab deal might have been more possible last year), people would behave differently under a different system.
Now it is time, therefore, to consider the philosophical or pure case for the alternative vote. In this, we commend the Yes campaign in focusing on the voters rather than the politicians. From the voters’ point of view, being able to number candidates in order of preference is a significant improvement on voting with an X. It allows people to express a full range of opinion and ensures that they can express a choice between any pair of candidates who may end up topping the poll, instead of, as under the present system, having to guess how others might vote…
AV is a good change on its own terms. It ensures that voters have an equal chance to influence the outcome in their constituency, and to express their preferences honestly so that they can be counted, even if they do not support the winning candidate.
We accept that many people will be worrying about other things. The immediate pressures of rising bills and job insecurity have pushed many longer-term, more abstract priorities, such as constitutional reform and action on climate change, down the agenda. We understand that what could seem a technical change to the voting system does not grab people’s attention, but it should do.
The alternative vote is not perfection, or a magic solution to the problem of disillusionment with politics. Yet it is an important step towards a better democracy that empowers the voter, and so deserves our wholehearted support.