To AV or not AV? That is the question

Polling cards have arrived at our house and sooner rather than later I will have to make my mind up about how I will vote in the referendum over the alternative vote. There is something to admire about the alternative vote, as my friend Ismail Mulla has said, it means more marginal constituencies, which is a good thing. But then again as my other friend Paul Anderson has pointed out, among many other reasons, the alternative vote isn’t a vote towards proportional representation, and so we should reject it.

The thing that troubles me most about the alternative vote – the thing that may cause me to vote against – is that you are structurally disadvantaged if you don’t have a second preference on the ballot paper. In other words, if you normally vote for one party and don’t like the look of the others, then the current system (first-past-the-post) works better for you. If the electoral system were a card game, under then alternative vote, the more casual voter, who is more likely to cast more than one preference, is therefore dealt more cards than the committed voter, who is only likely to vote once.

I’m still undecided, but have yet to hear a compelling argument for change.