Friday, November 26, 2010

Dear David Blunkett

I heard David Blunkett on The World at One complaining that the problem with the single transferable vote system (STV) was that those who voted for the least popular candidates got more votes than others.

If you are not familiar with STV, you vote by expressing a preference - placing the candidates in order - for as long as you have a preference. So take this election result:

Tilley 25
Johnson 23
Jones 13
Smith 7
Blunkett 2

Under first past the post (FPTP) Tilley would have been elected. Under STV the winner needs more than 50% of the vote so the target is 36 votes.

So Blunkett is eliminated (loving that sentence). The votes for the eliminated candidate are reallocated to their second choice. Both Blunkett voters voted for Johnson as their second choice so the result is now:

Tilley 25
Johnson 25
Jones 13
Smith 7
Blunkett (eliminated)

Now Smith is eliminated and the second choices of the Smith voters re-allocated. We get:

Tilley 30
Johnson 27
Jones 13
Smith (eliminated)
Blunkett (eliminated)

Finally Jones is eliminated and second choices allocated giving a final score:

Tilley 33
Johnson 37

Johnson is duly elected. If any of the transferred votes go to candidates who are later eliminated then third choices come into play.

What the real Blunkett fails to realise is that not only the eliminated candidates' voters get a second or third vote. Everyone does. It is simply that the second and third votes can continue to be for the first choice candidate.

It is a shame that Blunkett is championing a retention of the so obviously unfair FPTP system whilst demonstrating a failure to understand STV.


Anonymous said...

So I vote for someone, they don't get enough votes so I get to vote for someone else?

And that isn't having more than one vote?

Can we vote AGAINST someone, so If my first vote is in the lead (my one vote here) I get to take votes AWAY as what is the point in my second and third vote?

Sorry, but being able to transfer your vote DOES gie you more than one vote. The argument should be bout FPTP or more than one vote. If you have one vote, FPTP, if you want more than one vote 'single' shouldn't be used.

Richard said...

You have only one vote.

You should not confuse being able to transfer your vote between candidates with having more than one vote.

If you had more than one vote you would be able to vote for more than one candidate as your first preference.

You can't, so you don't.

It's easy to vote against someone (which is what a large majority of the UK population do anyway.)

If I was a Tory in a seat where the Liberals were the main challengers to the incumbent SNP, then you could vote Tory first and Liberal second.

This would allow you to vote for your preferred candidate and then have your vote transferred to the candidate most likely to defeat the candidate you don't want.

Under FPTP, you have to choose whether to support your party or vote for the person most likely to defeat the person you don't want.

STV (or ATV as we are now calling it) allows, for the first time in the UK, voters to express a complex preference that better fits how they like to vote.

It also means that successful candidates will have been voted for by a majority of those voting. Again for the first time.

It also means that analysis of 1st preferences gives an indication of people's preferred candidates, something that is impossible to judge today.

St said...

What I was saying, obviously badly, is that you can consider STV either as everyone having one vote or everyone having more than one vote but it is not unfair. You have one single, transferable vote. We all vote at the same time and order our preferences. You can't change your mind or vote again.

Anonymous said...

So what about the People who voted for the winner? They get ONE vote.

Those who picked a looser then get to pick someone else. How is this not a second vote? Their first vote went to a looser.

Sorry, it isn't fair. Those that vote for the winner get one, those that pick a looser get to pick again and again. Although not after the event.

I vote for the winner, counted once. Second round my winners vote is counted once. Where did my other choices go - nowhere yet someone voting BNP gets to back more than one horse.

flyingbishop said...

Steve, you're right in your points about what David Blunkett said, and I think "anonymous" is missing your point.
Having said that, STV is not the answer to "unfairness". Think about the LibDems. Where you have 3 main parties and one is seen – rightly or wrongly, and largely on the basis of trying to appear all things to all people – as the “middle” party on a “left” – “right” spectrum, then that party is likely always to hold the balance of power – and likely to pick up seats under STV as being NOT the “opposite” party to people’s first choice. Thus the government we get depends on which party they decide to work with, and so effectively transferring a massive amount of power to them (albeit at the last election they were responsible enough to side with the party with the most votes and seats). In countries with PR, it’s even worse, with tiny parties being able to exercise that kind of power.
I can see, however, that if you were a supporter of the third party you’d be seething with the injustice of getting a pitiful return of seats for the total votes cast for your party.
There are arguments in favour of both systems, but no real moral high ground such as is often claimed by proponents of PR, STV, AV plus, etc.

Peregrinus said...

No, no, no, anonymous. It’s not the case that, on the second count, Blunkett’s voters got a second vote while Tilley’s did not. On the second count, Tilley voters had exactly the same weight attached to their votes as Blunkett voters did, viz, one vote. If this were not the case then Tilley’s total would have been reduced from 25. But this did not happen.

STV is an attempt to accord more nearly equal weight to the wishes of each voter than FPTP does.

Under FPTP, those who vote for the candidate who receives the plurality of votes get 100% of the representation, while those who express any other preference get not representation at all, even though they are frequently an absolute majority of the voters. In Steve’s example, the 36% of voters who prefer Tilley dictate the entire outcome of the election; the 64% of voters who have any other preference at all are not reflected in the outcome. In short, under FPTP a vote has no value at all unless it is cast for the candidate who secures the plurality.

STV favours the candidate who secures the broadest support across all the voters. Sticking with Steve’s example, the STV outcome reflects wishes expressed by 53% of voters; only 47% are left feeling that their views are not reflected at all in the outcome.

This is still not ideal, but it is better. STV in a single-seat constituency ensures that the outcome can never reflect the views of less than 50% of the voters, and therefore results in a stronger democratic mandate.

Of course, this figure can be dramatically improved if multi-seat constituencies are adopted. In a five-seat constituency, for instance, the result must always reflect the views of at least 75% of the electorate. This approaches much more closely the platonic ideal of attaching equal weight to all votes; FPTP is pretty much at the opposite end of the spectrum of fairness.

Mike Peatman said...

The electoral reform society has a guide to all the systems - and clarifies the difference between AV and STV click here for more

Anonymous said...

In other words, St has now idea what he's talking about?

STV? Really? For one position?

Get real.

St said...

Trying to listen to you anonymous but not finding it easy. Can you come out from behind the sofa and argue nicely?