Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Voting Systems - A strong local connection

One thing that generally comes up in comparisons of voting systems is strength of your votes connection to your local constituency.

So in the current UK FPTP system - your vote determines your local area MP - who is a member of a national party.

This wouldn't change under the AV system proposed - it would still be constituency based.

So - whilst this has no relevance to the current referendum - I find it interesting that this argument is used as a criticism of PR systems.

Frankly - if I'm voting in a UK General Election - I'm voting on national policies. I couldn't give a hoot about the local connection. Local council elections allow me to express my local preferences. I don't want MPs to waste their time on local issues - this is what councillors are for. I want MPs to actually attend parliament and work hard to get the national policies I elected them based on actually implemented. They will of course fail horribly - but I want to see them at least try.


Now I accept that with a PR system with party lists - you do have an issue in that you are no longer voting for a person whose policies you understand, but for a party. The party members get to select who appears where in the list, and party members frequently do not represent the people who vote for the party. I tend to vote Tory, but only occasionally smoke cigars, and am not hugely fond of brandy. (I consider it to be a girly version of Scotch. This is strongly supported by the fact my missus drinks brandy, and slightly undermined by the fact that a bowie knife wielding South African friend also enjoys it. I digress.)

This party list selection issue is apparently one of the biggest challenges for PR to overcome. What if the party stuff the list with a bunch of wankers?

Well to be fair - the long term answer to that is that you don't vote for them again in a hurry.

Another option is to bite the bullet, give the bastards a few quid via direct debit and get your party list vote as a paid up party member.

A further option sometimes touted is adding the lists to the voting paper too... but frankly - that is too complex and will probably result in an undemocratic number of invalid votes or more likely a bunch of numpties voting randomly with no idea of what each politician stands for, based on the fact that they had "a nice smile" when I saw them on celebrity X-craptor.

My preferred solution to protect against this would be to put a basic long multiplication sum on the page as a kind of captcha. If they get it wrong, they're so dumb they didn't even think to use a calculator - and thus their vote is discarded. Awesome.

On my next post I promise to be slightly more relevant to the AV vs FPTP debate. Honest. Although on past form it probably won't be for a few years - and thus completely irrelevant to the referendum.

Brandy Glass image above courtesy of: akk_rus (Flickr)

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