So, What is AV?

Seeing as I am getting loads of questions about what it is and the pro’s and con’s, I figured I would just write a post on it. so….

AV, the acronym for Alternative Vote or also known as Instant runoff voting (IRV), is a voting system which allows voters to mark potential candidates in order of preference with numbers for example;

The winner is then decided by counting all the number “1" votes, if at that point a candidate has a majority, then a winner is declared, if there is no majority then the candidate with the fewest number of “1" votes is removed, and the “2" votes on that slip are then added to the other candidates total, this process in continued until there is a majority.

So, let’s have a look at an example;

Candidate A Candidate B Candidate C Candidate D
1st Round 1123 930 285 219
Total 1123 930 285 Removed
2nd Round 89 120 10
Total 1212 1050 Removed
3rd Round 47 248
Total 1259 1298
Removed Winner

Under the current First Past The Post system, Candidate A would win, seeing as they have more votes, Under A.V in the first round Candidate D would be removed from the first round, seeing as there is no overall majority and thus no winner and Candidate D has the least amount of votes. So in the second round, Candidates D’s 2nd preferences are now counted up added to the other candidates totals. Again, there is no overall majority so Candidate C now has the lowest votes, and is thus removed and their preferences are now counted up and added to the other candidate, now we are left with two candidates of which Candidate B now has more than 50% of the vote, and thus wins the election.

AV is used currently in some countries for their elections, such as Australia, Fiji and Ireland. Although in Australia and Fiji there are calls to move away from AV and onto another form of voting. So what are the basic pro’s and con’s of AV?


It would require MP’s to get at least 50% of the vote from the constituency to win, as opposed to the current third that can mean a win, thus meaning they will have to work harder and appeal to more of the electorate.

No need to tactical vote anymore, you can pick in preference and still have a say even if your first candidate doesn’t win.


It is a confusing system for the electorate.

It is not proportional representation.

Now we have to understand why we are having the referendum, the aims of what we need to do in electoral reform, we can summarise to around 11 points;

  1. Produce much greater proportionality between a party’s % of seats and % of votes of major parties than FPTP
  2. Offers voters more ‘choice’.
  3. Will stop MPs becoming elected with no more than a plurality (less than 50%) of votes.
  4. Gives enhanced legitimacy to MPs who have passed the 50% mark (whether of the electorate, the turnout, or the valid vote is unclear).
  5. That the Liberal Democrats will gain more seats for their votes – a presumed yet unspoken aim, implicit in references to ‘fairness’.
  6. To give the leading parties a larger proportion of seats than their proportion of votes,thereby facilitating a majority (or functioning minority) government. It is desirable to maintain some disproportionality.
  7. To offer electors more choice of MPs: several instead of just one, i.e. larger multi-member constituencies.
  8. To increase the presence of women MPs with the aim of reaching a male/female balance of no less than 40% and no more than 60% of either sex.
  9. Better representation of ethnic minorities.
  10. To see a wider range of parties in parliament.
  11. To maintain a straightforward system with a transparent count.

In reality, AV only improves 3 of these points; 3,5 and 6, each point covered off below;

  1. AV is a preferential, not proportionate, voting system. (
  2. AV can offer too many choices, thus meaning voters don’t recognise or know who some of them are, thus meaning people could chose haphazardly, also most peoples 2nd preference would be ignored in the count, seeing as only the smallest parties who get removed from the count will have their 2nd preference counted.
  3. AV is classified as a majority system where a candidate needs over 50% to win, as opposed to FPTP where a candidate only needs 1 more vote to win.
  4. AV does not give MP’s more legitimacy, as some MP’s will have won due to a mixture of low, lower and very low preferences. This could lead to MP’s winning due to the preferences of votes from people who aren’t really their supporters, or even winning thanks to votes from whom’s first preference was to a party who the MP abhors, such as the BNP.
  5. Under AV in the 2004 election the LibDems would have gained 74 seats, as opposed to the actual 62.
  6. The AV system offers no trends in outcomes, it cannot be predicted how AV will ensure a strong majority Government or a comfortable minority Government
  7. The AV is a single-Member system, thus meaning you still only have one MP. Meaning that voters to the runner up will still never have their preferred party elected.
  8. Again, as AV is a single-Member system, it cannot do anything to ensure there are more women, this can only improve by the parties fielding more, the same as it as at current.
  9. The same as above and as Barton says; “It does very little to improve the voice of traditionally under-represented groups in Parliament, thus strengthening the voice of the central viewpoint”
  10. AV eliminates the smaller parties during the process, thus meaning a small party as the same chance as it does now
  11. AV fails to be transparent in the fact that it is presented in a simplified way that covers of the fact that only some voters preferences count and others don’t, also the complexity of counting the outcome can drag on for days or weeks

I am not saying that I disagree with electoral reform, in fact I believe in the opposite, I am strongly in favour of electoral reform, but AV is not the right way to go, and a yes at the AV referendum will ensure that the electoral reform that needs to happen won’t. AV will leave us in the same, if not worst, state than under FPTP, with the likely hood of more coalition Governments. As we have seen, a coalition means that the mandate you actually vote for is not the mandate that is delivered because of deal making between parties, of which the electorate has no say in.

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