AV and minority parties

It seems like one of the main objections to the Alternative Vote (AV) is that the second (or higher) votes of those who voted for minority parties could be decisive. The main objection seems to be “why should the second, third or fourth, etc., preference votes of people who’s first vote goes to the likes of the BNP or UKIP get to – in some cases – determine who wins the election”. Firstly, I think this attitude is wrong. I object to the BNP and I think UKIP is a silly party that also has some rather objectionable views, but they are currently legitimate parties and those who vote for them are entitled to make that choice without prejudice. Arguing that AV would give these voters some say and that this would therefore be bad is wrong, in my opinion. I know we’re not disenfranchising these voters, as the AV system doesn’t exist yet, but this argument does feel equivalent to an argument for disenfranchising a section of the community. Maybe the views of these voters would change if they felt their votes were having some influence. It could be a positive step.

Secondly, I don’t actually see the logic in this argument against AV. I looked up some numbers and at least 80% of UKIP and BNP candidates lost their deposits. This means that they received less than 5% of the vote in their constituency. Only a total of 2 or 3 candidates in each of these two party received more than 10% of the vote and the average for UKIP was 3.1% and for the BNP was 1.9% (since neither party had a candidate in every seat, the average per candidate is somewhat higher). These are minority parties, which by definition means they receive very few votes. If the second, third or fourth preference votes of voters who’s first votes went to UKIP or the BNP makes a difference, it implies that there must have been two other candidates both of whom had close to 50% of the votes counted and hence were similarly liked (or disliked) by the voters in that constituency. If the UKIP and/or BNP higher preference votes pushes one of these candidates over the 50% threshold, surely this is a reasonable result. You have two candidates who are similar (since not all people vote, a few percent difference may mean that the popularity of these two candidates is statistically the same) and a sensible method had been used to differentiate between them.

There are probably some reasonable arguments against what I’ve said above. There will be some constituencies where the UKIP/BNP share of the vote is above 10% and this could make quite a big difference. Again, why should the views of these voters not be taken into account. Also there are planned to be 600 constituencies and the number in which the UKIP/BNP share exceeds 10% is something like 5 (so 1% or less). Another argument might be that higher preference votes from UKIP/BNP may preferentially support the Conservatives rather than Labour and the Lib Dems. However, there are other minority parties (Greens for example) who’s voters are more likely to support Labour and the Lib Dems, so again this doesn’t seem like a reasonable argument either. As I’ve said in a previous post AV appears to produce results that – compared to FPTP – will more reasonably reflect the views of the electorate. Arguing that it will give undue power to minority party voters is not only wrong as these voters should have the right to express their views (as long as they’re not breaking the law), but these are minority parties and so the only time that they will make a difference is when two candidates are very close anyway, in which case why does it matter.

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