Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Memo to Finkelstein - we've never "weighted" votes by levels of enthusiasm

One of the recurring patterns in the AV referendum to date is that of a sanctimonious commentator informing us that the quality of arguments "on both sides" has been extremely poor, and that he really couldn't care less about the whole thing. He then - with no sense of irony whatsoever - trots out one of those extremely poor arguments himself, and declares himself a committed supporter of the No side on that basis. Really is uncanny how that keeps happening.

Exhibit Y : Danny Finkelstein (now, who'd ever have guessed Hague's old aide wouldn't be an electoral reformer?) -

"I’ve been thinking why the arguments in the referendum campaign have been so poor...Which all brings me to the reason why I intend to vote “no”...The system gives my fourth preference the same weight as someone else’s first preference. And it shouldn’t."

Just as well it doesn't, then. Under AV, just like the current system, everyone has an equal vote in any given count, and that vote is always for their most preferred candidate left in contention at that stage. Of course you might wish that your vote could still count towards the candidate you like even more but who has already been eliminated - but for obvious reasons it can't. Similarly, under our present system, you might wish you could vote for any one of several thousand superior hypothetical candidates who are not on the ballot paper - but you can't. And yet your unenthusiastic vote for the 'least worst available' will have exactly the same weight as someone else's full-blooded vote for a candidate they consider to be superb. If Finkelstein genuinely wants to call time on this long-standing 'problem', he might want to campaign for a US-style option to write in the candidate of your choice, rather than peddling the hoary and contrived fantasy that it's somehow an issue unique to AV.

1 comment:

  1. Great point. In FPTP contests, there's never any argument about how ethusiastically voters may have awarded their vote to their chosen candidate. Yet it's pretty clear that people's levels of committment and engagement in the entire voting process can range from the passionate to the hardly bothered. If it's not an issue for FPTP, why should it be one for AV?