April 24, 2011

General Musings for the week 24th April 2011

Happy Easter to everyone!

So let's talk about politics this week. Controversial topic, I know, but stick with me.

Actually to be honest I'm not talking abouts politics per se, rather the topic of Alternate Voting. Alternate voting (or AV) is a system whereby instead of placing a single vote for a single candidate in an election you rank the candidates in order of preference. When the votes are counted the candidate with more than 50% of the votes wins. If there is no candidate with more than 50% of the votes then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and his or her votes are allocated to the remaining candidates according to the preferences stated by the voters. This continues until one candidate receives 50% or more of the votes. (I would also like to point out at this juncture that I am not advocating either method of voting in this post just discussing them both)

I received a pamphlet through the mail today which is trying to persuade me to vote against AV in a forthcoming referendum. I thought it had an interesting method of trying to persuade me. Let me explain:

The pamphlet (which is entitled 'Keep One Person, One Vote. Vote NO in the referendum on 5 May') has a big sign on the front saying "None of you taxes have been used to print this leaflet".

When I opened it the fold-out document had a number of compelling arguments about why the authors felt that AV was the wrong system for Britian. These arguments are - in order of presentation:

- It will cost £250 million to implement at a time when people are losing their jobs or having their pay frozen
- The second or third 'best' can win under AV
- AV is unpopular in other countries where it is being used.

It's an interesting fact that - according to the pamphlet I have in front of me - the most compelling reason for not voting in favour of AV is the cost issue rather than anything else. I find that a very telling point.

What I also found interesting was the fact that - according to the pamphlet -
"AV is not a fair system: That's why only three countries in the world use it: Fiji, Australia and Papue New Guinea. And even they don't like it - Fiji has got plans to ditch it, and in Australia, 6 out of 10 people want to go back to the system we use in the UK".

But ignoring the whole issue of whether this is a biased document (which it clearly is), looking at the main point of will this be a fairer voting system, I have to think that, maybe it is.

The example given indicates that under the current system in a vote Candidate A may garner the most votes in the first ballot. However with AV if this candidate does not get more than 50% of the votes they may - under the right circumstances - come in second after the votes have been redistributed. As far as I can tell there is no reason to think that Candidate B will receive votes that are not due to him, nor to think that Candidate A will have legitimate votes taken away from him. But the key to remember here is that we are talking about ensuring that the candidate that wins will have more than 50% of the votes. Historically in the UK elections a Candidate standing in a seat with 4 other people only needs to get 21% of the votes to win. So this means that the current system will see a candidate with 21% of the votes take a seat over a candidate with 51% of the votes under AV. Is that fair? I personally think that the person who receives the majority of the votes should be the person who wins. And in any mathematical equation, the majority has to be greater than 50%.

But what happens if the person who ultimately ends up with 51% is a BNP candidate, for example, or - worse still - a UKIP person? I am trying hard to identify a situation where, out of a general population of voters, enough people vote for the BNP candidate so that ultimately more than 50% have placed a vote for him somewhere.  Can this happen? According to the pamphlet;
"The number 1 votes for each dandidate are put into a pile and counted. If a candidate receives more than half the votes cast they win and there is no further counting. If no candidate receives more than half the number 1 votes there would be at least one more round of counting. In round two the candidate with the fewest number 1 votes is removed from the contest. If their supporters ballot papers show a number 2 vote for another candidate, they are added to that candidates pile. if the ballot paper does not show a number 2 vote, it is no longer used. If no candidate recahes 50% after the redistribution of votes, the candidate with the next fewest votes is removed and their supporters ballots are looke at again to see if any of the remaining candidates are ranked....." 
Well, it certainly sounds complicated, much more complicated than the current system. Any thoughts from my readers on this?

I was out walking earlier this week in tue good weather and came across a park bench that has recently been installed. This park bench looked like a normal wooden one but was made of hard, black plastic. The little plaque on the back indicated that it was donated by Waitrose and was made entirely of recycled carrier bags. Jolly good idea - although I'm not too sure about the black plastic look.

Teachers fear traditional playground games like British bulldog and conkers are disappearing from many of England's schools, a survey suggests. Health and safety gone mad.

Video of the week this week is called Symmetry. I offer it with no comment other than "Watch"

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