Reading the arguments against the Alternative Vote being put forward by its opponents in the UK, it seems to me that many of them are only familiar with it on a theoretical basis, having never actually used it in real elections. Or in the case of the Tories electing their leader, pretending that they have never used it.
As I’ve posted previously, we use preferential voting in Ireland. Whilst we vote in multi-seat constituencies, and the votes are counted differently, the voting principle is the same. We allocate preferences to candidates based on our first favourite, second favourite, etc.
In the last election, I went into my polling both knowing who I wanted my first preference to go to, and which candidates I really wanted to keep out, and voted accordingly, as did hundreds of thousands of Irish voters. The surreal “Yes, but what if…” arguments the No side keep throwing out about the psychological meaning of a third preference, etc, never occurred to me, nor, I suspect, to hundreds of thousands of Irish voters. Why not? Because those bizarre arguments tend to be made by professional politicians who really don’t like the increased choice that AV gives to voters. Every argument they make against AV seems to have at its heart the point that “You the voter should not be allowed think or do that”.
Voters, on the other hand, voting under an AV system, think “I really like her, he’s okay, and I can’t stand that other guy with the beard”. The professional politicians on the No side just hate that voters should be given permission by AV to even think like that.
But never mind what I say. If you haven’t made your mind up, just do one thing: Ask some one to show you, with a few scraps of paper, how an AV election works. I believe its inherent common sense and simplicity will convince you. But if it doesn’t, fair enough. Vote the way your conscience dictates. But just make sure that you have seen a simple AV election in action before you vote against it.