Changing What A Vote Means

Andrew Sullivan —  May 4 2011 @ 3:05pm

Tomorrow Britain will vote on whether to change its voting system. Harry Joe Enten argues against the alternative vote (AV). How AV works:

Alternative vote (AV) is a type of preferential voting in which voters are asked to rank the candidates from first to last. The basic idea is that if no candidate is the first choice of 50% + 1 voters, then the candidate who received the fewest first place votes is eliminated. This candidate's voters then have their votes reallocated to the candidate they ranked second. This reallocation process continues until one candidate achieves 50% + 1 votes (more on this later). A majority is achieved (or so we think)!

Among Enten's criticisms:

If AV actually encourages more third-party voting (which is debatable) as some AV supporters suggest, then it really is possible than many Britons will not rank every candidate. If they do not rank every candidate, then we could get a winner who does not have support from 50% + 1 of the voters.

This last example is typical of AV's failure to deliver. AV gives voters a false sense of security that they are in greater control of the electoral process. In reality, they are in less control and cannot truly be sure what their vote truly means.