Temperature rises in Islington in battle to change voting system

TOMORROW the nation will go to the polls for a referendum on the future of the British voting system.

Voters face a straight choice between keeping the existing first past the post method, or switching to the alternative vote system.

In the former arrangement, each person has just one vote and the candidate with the most votes would win the seat.

The alternative vote requires voters to rate their favourite three candidates in order of preference. Initially only first choice votes are counted and if someone has over 50 per cent of the vote they will win outright.

If not, the person with the least votes is eliminated and their second choice votes are counted. If there is still not a majority, third choice votes come into play.

There are pros and cons to both systems and, as the vote approaches, groups both for and against in Islington are stepping up their campaigns.

Adam Bell, coordinator of the Islington Yes to Fairer Votes campaign, said: “This is about power and who should have it.

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“Right now, when you go to put your cross in the box, you are constrained by who has a chance of winning wherever you happen to live.

“AV allows you to vote for who you want to win, and makes sure your vote actually counts. These days, old tribal loyalties are dying and people want to vote differently on different issues.

“Australia, which uses an AV system, has had less hung parliaments than we have had in the same period, and the fact we have a coalition now shows that FPTP doesn’t always deliver. Low voter turnout is the thing most likely to lead to a hung parliament.

“Also, with AV, extremist parties are more likely to get eliminated in the first round, which is why the BNP are against the change.”

The yes group has already been on the streets of Islington trying to drum up votes, and have planned a busking event, with the slogan “we don’t want your coins, just give us change”.

The Islington no campaign was officially launched next to the angel statue in Liverpool Road, Islington.

Patricia Banke, an Islington no to AV volunteer, said: “One person, one vote is the cornerstone of our democracy. For centuries, generations of reformers were inspired by a simple principle. They believed that because each person is equal, they should each have an equal vote.”

A fellow volunteer, Angelo Weekes, said: “The Alternative Vote system would do nothing to stop safe seats – in fact it would create new safe seats, where the bizarre re-ordering of preferences would give the Liberal Democrats an unassailable lead.”

She added: “In Australia and the Canadian provinces that have AV, turnout has fallen and negative and narrow campaigns are still the order of the day.”