Alternative vote or first past the post?

DO you know what the Alternative Vote is?

That was the question The Comet asked 50 members of the public in Stevenage town centre on Wednesday afternoon with two-thirds replying “no”.

A referendum on the UK’s voting system takes place in conjunction with the local elections on May 5 but, with three weeks to go, 33 people we asked didn’t know what AV - the alternative to the current system of First Past The Post (FPTP) - was.

We asked those involved in politics who represent different parties at national and local levels for their views on the voting system.

Conservative Oliver Heald, MP for North East Herfordshire, said: “I support one person one vote. Our system is well understood and the most widely used in the world. Alternative Vote is complicated, unfair and unpopular. It is only used in Papua New Guinea, Australia and Fiji.”

Cllr Robin Parker, leader of the Liberal Democrats for Stevenage Borough Council (SBC), said: “I’m going to vote for AV and would ask others to vote for it as well - it is not a perfect system but it’s a step in the right direction. The present system I refuse to call First Past The Post as it’s just winner takes all. With AV it will mean councillors and MPs will have to get 50 per cent of the votes to win meaning there will be more competition even in ‘safe seats’.”

Labour’s Sharon Taylor, leader of SBC, said: “I will be voting no. The reason for this is I think that it’s an expensive process and it leads to less clear results at the end. It’s not the time to be messing about with the election system, we should be sorting out the economy.”

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THE Comet held its own election to compare the two systems by voting on their favourite chocolate bar.

A total of 18 office participants were asked to rank their favourite chocolate bar out of Boost, Kit Kat, Mars, Snickers and Twix in order of preference using the AV system, by putting a ‘1’ next to their favourite, ‘2’ for their second, ‘3’ for their third, and so on.

Voters did not have to vote for more than one chocolate bar but at least one had to be ranked to be counted.

The winner would be determined once one bar had obtained more than 50 per cent of the vote.

Round One: After all the ‘1’ votes were counted, Boost had five votes, Kit Kat had four, Snickers had four, Twix had three and Mars had two. No bar had more than 50 per cent of the vote so on to round two.

Round Two: As Mars had the least number of votes it was eliminated. Both Mars voters put Boost as ‘2’ so these votes were added to Boost’s total.

Boost – seven votes, Kit Kat – four, Snickers – four and Twix – three. No bar had more than 50 per cent of the remaining votes, so on to round three.

Round Three: As Twix had the least number of votes it was eliminated. Two Twix voters put Boost as ‘2’ and one put Kit Kat as ‘2’ so these votes were added to relevant chocolate bars’ totals.

Boost – nine votes, Kit Kat – five and Snickers – four. No bar had more than 50 per cent of the remaining votes. On to round four.

Round Four: As Snickers had the least number of votes it was eliminated. Three Snickers voters put Kit Kat as ‘2’ and one put Boost as ‘2’ so these votes were added to the relevant totals.

Boost – 10 votes and Kit Kat – eight. Boost had more than 50 per cent of the vote so was declared the winner.

Had the FPTP system been used, just the round one result would have been taken with each voter choosing one chocolate bar only, which would still have seen Boost emerge as the victor.

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