What is AV
The Alternative Vote (AV) is very much like First-Past-the-Post (FPTP). Like FPTP, it is used to elect representatives for single-member constituencies, except that rather than simply marking one solitary ‘X’ on the ballot paper, the voter has the chance to rank the candidates on offer.
The voter thus puts a ‘1′ by their first-preference candidate, and can continue, if they wish, to put a ‘2′ by their second-preference, and so on, until they don’t care any more or they run out of names. In some AV elections, such as most Australian elections, electors are required to rank all candidates.
If a candidate receives a majority of first-preference votes (more people put them as number one than all the rest combined), then they are elected.
If no candidate gains a majority on first preferences, then the second-preference votes of the candidate who finished last on the first count are redistributed. This process is repeated until someone gets over 50 per cent.
What the Parties think
According to the BBC:
The referendum date caused some concern in Northern Ireland, where assembly elections will also be held on 5 May.
The Democratic Unionists (DUP) and Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) both signed a letter calling on MPs to be given more time to debate the proposals – which would have been likely to delay the poll date until the autumn.
Since the campaign has got under way, the SDLP has swung behind a “Yes” vote, arguing that AV is “a clear step forward”. Sinn Fein says it will also be telling its supporters to vote “yes”. The cross community Alliance Party, which is a sister party of the Liberal Democrats, is also in favour of AV.
The DUP, which has the most MPs of any Northern Ireland party, is backing the retention of First Past The Post.
Some analysts argued that the smaller Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) would have benefited from AV in last year’s election. But despite that the UUP, which has had links to the Conservatives, is also in favour of retaining the current system.
In contrast to their counterparts in England, Wales and Scotland, the Green Party in Northern Ireland is opposed to AV, arguing that the system is inferior to STV and could bolster sectarian voting patterns
Belfast Skeptics in the Pub Debate
This Thursday, 21st April, Belfast Skeptics in the Pub will be hosting a Yes/No AV debate. In favour of the referendum we’ll have Stephen Glenn, the Yes to Fairer Votes Campaign Manager. Speaking against the referendum will be Green Party MLA Brian Wilson. The host for this event is still to be confirmed.
Each speaker will first have a short time to speak on the topic of the vote, then questions will be posed from the audience to get a discussion going. The aim by the end of the debate is that people will have a clear idea of what AV is and is not and whether they think they should vote for it or not.
Belfast Skeptics in the Pub meets on a monthly basis discussing and debating ideas of general scepticism and topical issues.