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On the 5th of May the UK will hold a referendum on whether to change our voting system to the Alternative Vote voting system (AV).
At Yes to Fairer Votes we’re campaigning for people to vote Yes. AV is a system which will force politicians to work harder, give people more say, help end ‘safe seats’ and where no MP can be elected unless at least half of the people in the constituency support them - under the current system, an MP can be elected with as little as 3 in 10 voters backing him or her.
We aim to answer most of the questions you may have about it below:
What’s the difference between the two systems?
The current system the UK uses is first past the post (FPTP) where you vote by putting a cross next to the candidate you want to win and whoever gets the highest number of votes wins.
Things are a little different with AV. First of all, you rank the candidates in order of preference, 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. Then, to get a clear winner, AV uses a knockout system. In each round the candidate with the least votes gets knocked out and then we count again.
If your candidate has been knocked out then your vote goes to your next preference. This means that in each round everyone gets one vote so everyone gets a say in who wins even if their favourite candidate was one who didn’t stand much chance of winning.
The counting keeps going until a candidate gets the support from at least half of the voters in a round - so whoever wins has the support of at least 50% of the voters.
Do I know AV from somewhere else?
You should do. AV is the same system the student union uses to elect sabbatical officers - they use it because it means that whoever’s elected will represent the largest number of voters possible. It’s also the system used by all three major parties to elect their leaders.
Who are you?
We’re Surrey Fairer Votes - part of the national Yes to Fairer Votes campaign. We’re not politicians and we’re not associated with any political party. We’ve got Labour supporters, Lib Dems, Tories, Greens, UKIP-ers as well as lots of people who don’t support any particular party.
Why vote yes?
At the moment, politicians from all parties ignore young people and feel free to break promises because they know they can get away with it. Under the current system most votes have no affect on the outcome so all politicians do is focus on the small number of swing voters they need in order to win. Everyone else gets forgotten about.
A change to AV will mean MPs will have to work harder to win, and keep, your support. Under AV your next MP would have to aim to get more than 50% of the vote to be sure of winning. At present they can be handed power with just one vote in three.
Ranking candidates also gives you more say - in who comes first and who comes last. If your favourite doesn’t win, you can still have a say. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3…
With FPTP many MPs have their ‘safe seats’ for life. AV will let you force complacent politicians to sit up and listen, and reach out to the communities they seek to represent.
In short, AV keeps what works with our current system, and eliminates many of its weaknesses. It's a long overdue upgrade to make a 19th century system fit for the politics of the 21st century.
That’s all very well, but what’s your basic message?
It’s simple. If someone wants to represent your community they need the votes of the majority of the community. That’s what making every vote count really means and that’s why you should support AV.
Why bother to vote in the referendum?
This is quite literally a once in the lifetime opportunity to change the voting system. If you don’t vote in normal elections then you can always vote again next time, but if you don’t vote in this referendum then you’ll never get the chance to change the voting system again. A No vote will be used by the politicians to say that people are happy with the way things are and any chance of changing the voting system will be lost for a generation. If you’re fed up with being ignored by politicians and feel that nothing ever changes, or if you just want a fairer say, then vote Yes for a small change that will make a big difference.
How can I find out more?
We’re running a stall in the lecture theatre block on Thursday the 17th of March. We’ll be there all day to answer any questions you may have and we’ll also have postal vote application forms so you’ll be able to vote in the referendum even if you’re away on May 5th.
Alternatively (hah, see what we did there?) you can go to yestofairervotes.org.uk for more information.