Pyramid Comment

This journal takes an alternative view on current affairs and other subjects. The approach is likely to be contentious and is arguably speculative. The content of any article is also a reminder of the status of those affairs at that date. All comments have been disabled. Any and all unsolicited or unauthorised links are absolutely disavowed.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Alternative Vote (AV)

Voting Mathematics, Unfairness And Absurdity

- First Past The Post (FPTP)

The Alterative Voting system is simplistically complicated. In principle, though, if the Lib Dems are in favour of this system then it must benefit this minority party that otherwise has no hope of ever winning an election with the current first past the post system. However non-representative and unfair this may be, it is reasonably understandable. Generally, the eventual ‘winner’ will be a minority party that bathes in the knowledge that it has no mandate though can behave as a party deluding itself that it does. That 100% of the electorate can be ‘assumedto agree with everything the party stands for.  Even those that failed to vote: the presumed vote can be technically hijacked. Similar to the power of attorney (and that’s a system that can be easily abused and is, therefore, potentially very dangerous in the wrong hands and such is the power in the PoA legal device - DA). Those that did actually vote for the ‘winning’ party are further assumed (wrongly) to agree with everything that the party stands for. Some probably do (the party faithful), but many most likely do not. The mandate.

The rhetorical arguments persist:

  •  More coalitions 
  • The UK will be one of only three other countries to adopt it (Australia allegedly wants to get rid of it). This does not mean that AV is a poor alternative, but that is the obviously inferred meaning 
  • The third-placed candidate can win, but does this reflect the majority's very diverse wishes?
  • The cost will be £250m to administer. The jury's still out on this one: will counting machines be necessary or not? Lies and deceit are implied (this is politics), though if the result is a better quality one then this is a red herring in the argument anyway. 
  • Someone else's 5th preference is worth more than your 1st vote.
One individual, one vote

All individual votes carry the same weight: 1st or 2nd or... all the same, though it would seem that the FPTP advocates would have it with their own interpretation.

  • BNP and other fringe parties would decide who wins. Pandering on the concerns about the BNP. This is a legally constituted party so like it or not it is afforded equal opportunity. That's in the system.
"Defend equal votes by voting No to AV"

Scaremongering tactics like these, even if true, are paradoxically more refreshing than the eventual government formed by the existing first past the post (FPTP) system that nearly always has a minority of the electorate vote (getting what it wants - DA). The majority didn't vote for this minority, but it's what everybody ( = minority + majority + those who didn't/couldn't vote) got. Even more of an irony is that the FPTP principle is used to determine the popularity of the AV system.

This is a bit facetious since only two preferences are available and this demonstrates that there is choice when two options are available, but a preference between three or more choices. Semantic?

Another irony here: the generation that is now too young to vote will be saddled with a system that has been argued with rhetoric and self-interest. Politically driven and not pragmatically or with 'transparent' honesty.


The arguments go around and around going nowhere. It's still about getting power. It's an interesting fact that the Tory part of the coalition is against the AV system, itself forming part of a coalition. In the 1950s, more than 90% of the electorate voted for either Labour or Tory and as a direct consequence, the 'vast majority' of MPs were elected with more than 50% of the vote in their constituencies. But several decades later in 2011, a 'vast majority' has decreased to around 65%. In the last General Election. Add the LibDems to the equation and none managed to achieve a majority. Now, several parties (Green Party, UKIP, SNP, Plaid Cymru) aspire to power over the people. The current FPTP system takes none of this into account and forms a major criticism regarding this 'out-of-date' system.

Less than one-third of MPs are elected with a majority return. Some achieve only 30%. This defines that 70% do not get any representation that reflects their views. Such is democracy:

The majority governed by a minority

The one-person-one-vote as it is at present, condemns that vote to the waste bin if it doesn't support the eventual 'winner'. Sort of: "if you don't vote for us, we'll forget you exist'. Providing a second or third chance with the one vote must offer more democratic choice for the voter whatever the rhetorical (political) arguments.

For the majority of voters at least the vote is recognised. Not necessarily ideal, but certainly better (AV) than at present (FPTP). This process does ensure that at least 50% of votes cast were for the eventual incumbent. The FPTP has only one choice. The AV system effectively has several choices by virtue of the preference device. The eventual majority MP has some sort of mandate. Not a perfect system, but tending towards an equal voting weight.

The safe seat MP should be removed as 'certainty' will cease to exist. Especially if more boundary manipulations are brought into play. 

Would a safe-seat just become a safer-seat?

After the vote for or against introducing the new AV system, boundary manipulations are to be 'introduced' (yet again! - DA), allegedly to create a better balance between constituency size. This constitutes more than just tinkering with the FPTP system: it is designed to improve chances in a constituency based on historical voting preferences. This sounds like the Tory dog wagging its tail. Cameron et al don’t want AV, but the Lib Dems do.

A fundamental disagreement within the

coalition 

Apparently, this was part of the deal between the two parties in the effort to (successfully) grasp power. Once in though - that's it. There's no mechanism to prevent breaking the election 'promises'. Make 'promises', get power on the back of those 'promises' then...

'I'm a politician, yet you
actually believed me!'

A political 'promise' is NOT a signed and binding contractual device. It's a 'the cheque's in the post' scenario. And it bounces in any case. No redress. They're in. The keys to the bank vault have been handed over. Tough. You voted for them. Even tougher.

It should be noted that an argument against the AV system is that more coalition-type governments will happen, yet that is what happened with the FPTP system! No clear mandate for any one party and most voters are theoretically not represented. This could, of course, be better represented by:

coalition -> coalition

This complicated (AV) system could be riddled with counting errors that have to be checked, re-checked and checked again. The scope for mistakes is enormous and the cost is one of the many argument against a change to AV. The alleged cost impact is emphasised, but the cost is tiny when placed against an ineffective and unsupported government. The entire concept should wake up any dozy MP in their current 'safe' seats. The fox would be definitely placed inside the chicken coop.


One issue that hasn't been tackled? The return of a voting paper with some boxes left empty being an invitation to enter unauthorised data at a later time. Conspiracy theory or scaremongering? No, simply pointing out a potential weakness.

  • What confidence can there be in the result of an election (of any kind - DA)?
The Tories don’t want it, but the Lib Dems do and that could provide the simple answer.

In principle it seems a system that should (theoretically) result in a government closer to a representative view. Almost a type of proportional representation by another name. The main problem is a pseudo-paradox. The representation of the people is a better ‘fit’, but the politics in government would not be the politics of the country moving progressively forward. It could just be the politics of gaining a power advantge within government by those in government. An ‘elected power struggle. The people that they claim to represent are irrelevant except for providing the means to that power. With the first past the post system once the vote has not been for the ultimate minority winner, the voter is (technically) rejected as part of the electorate. At least with AV the voter can be carried forward with second, third... preference. So, in spirit they are not discounted.

Rather than a simple minority winner takes all it involves a potential mix on the way to outright winning by a single MP in local elections. The resulting government is comprised of those MPs elected by the AV system. It isn’t first past the post, but the overall result should (theoretically) be a fairer (more representative) method of achieving the same thing. It is expected that more coalition governments will be returned to power and that in principle could be a good thing since monopoly government is avoided. Unless, of course, principles are compromised in the interests of party unity.

A choice is gauged by numerical preference (other than ordering choices this is meaningless: the numerical preference does not reflect the real advantage of any particular candidate, just the subjective opinion of the voter to ‘choice’ - DA). This is where the weakness of the system arises in that minimally at least one choice has to be made to count as a valid vote.

  • What isn’t clear is if a spoilt paper can be regarded as placing a non-numerical value in an otherwise empty box to prevent insertion of anything else. If the space were to be filled by a simple diagonal line this is clearly not a number or deliberate defacement of the ballot paper, yet could be regarded as a spoilt (and wasted) vote, however clear the intention.
A majority of the voting electorate (+50%) will result in an overall winner. The provision of alternative choices only suggests ‘power to the people’, but there is no further control of the outcome after the vote has been cast. Where, say, four choices exist and all have been filled, the candidate with the least votes is removed from the ‘contest’ and the voting preferences of this loser are reviewed as to the second choice. The second choices are reallocated to the appropriate stack of votes. If more than 50% of votes is still not achieved, then a third round is entered: the candidate with the least number of votes at this stage is removed from the process and the third choices of this loser are then reallocated as appropriate. This continues until a 50% majority has been reached.

  • It’s a shuffling procedure by regrouping votes after each count. The stacks of the preferences will change as second, third... choices are added to the growing stacks.
The majority of 50% will eventually be reached
as this %age is of only the votes cast

The procedure only masquerades as selection by majority, otherwise a result would be reached before a 2nd/3rd... regrouping became necessary to forcemajority. It may be a distasteful system, yet just a tad less so, perhaps, than the current first past the post.

The David Cameron opposing view is the possibility that a newly elected local MP may not have received the most votes. So, what subtle difference is there from the first past the post system where an elected MP does not need a majority, simply the most votes of all the standing candidates? It’s just another alternatively unfair electoral system. But the definition of ‘unfairness depends on what party you prefer. Winner takes all though this winner can be voted in by a minority of the electorate is ‘unfair’ as it leaves the majority of the electorate (who voted) unrepresented by the eventual government. A Coalition government was acceptable during WW2 with Churchill as the PM from 1940 - 1945. Churchill was opposed to AV and Cameron applauds Churchill. It all descends into an argument in semantics and political persuation.

The argument becomes very weak by scaremongering (association with unrelated topical facts). What has voting for or against the euro got to do with a new electoral voting system? That one has failed (euro) has nothing to do with the argument. According to Cameron, it’s wrong that the fifth choice of some ‘fringe’ voter can count as much as someone else’s first. This suggests arrogance in that one individual’s vote has less importance than another’s and violates the principle of ‘one person, one vote.


All votes are equal in their potency

And what is a ‘lame-duck’ politician? Perhaps it’s an ineffective MP sitting in a safe seat?

The AV system claims that MPs will have to work harder to ensure that the most interested voters will vote for what they perceive as the most worthy representative. It should encourage a more conscious decision process rather ‘vote for X, Y or Z because I always have attitude. The unconscious voter walking into a poorly considered future. Politics is all about subjectivity and belief in a politician’s honesty. Too many times has a pre-election ‘promise’ been overturned after power has been obtained.

The first past the post system does not require a majority vote and support of the entire electorate. Just one party obtaining more votes than any other. The minority government electoral system.

The conclusion here is that the voter is being used (again) in nothing more than a political power game. In all probability, it seems just a little better, perhaps, to side with AV rather than the ‘alternative (existing) system. As is common in politics the choice is between two options. Classicly, between a rock and a hard place. Of course, a third option is to do nothing, but could apathy be an option? Who cares!

Elections: 1945 - 2005

  • From 1940 to 1945, Winston Churchill presided over the British war (WW2) cabinet with representatives from three parties. His first act as prime minister in 1940 was to invite the leaders of the Labour, Liberal and Conservative parties (Attlee, Sinclair and Chamberlain) to serve in a coalition Government. Churchill defined himself as the servant, not the master, of Parliament and went to the House of Commons to persuade and not to insist, in spite of near-dictatorial powers he had been given. The country faced mortal peril and the coalition partners appropriately 'accepted' his more outrageous initiatives and loyally supported him as the nation’s war leader. 
  • The unity of a country in war time should have an all-party following. Chamberlain stood down from the premiership on 10 May 1940 Labour as the Liberals would not enter into a coalition government while he was still PM though remained as head of Churchill's War Cabinet. Due to ill-health he eventually resigned from government and died from cancer 6 months after leaving the premiership.