Why few countries use FPTP voting

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Oldham Road


At last! Somebody has come forward from those opposed to our adopting the Alternative Vote proposal in the forthcoming referendum and advanced a sensible argument against it.

All sorts of eminent politicians, including our two MPs, have nailed their colours to the mast of First Past The Post but Paul Campbell’s letter (Your say, March 21) is the first reasoned argument that has set me thinking. And having thought, I realise there is a fallacy in his argument. He assumes that if no candidate gets 50 per cent of first choice votes, then the leader at that stage will not pick up any second choice votes in the next round of counting and will therefore be beaten by somebody with more second choice votes. This could indeed happen, but if it does, then more than 50 per cent of voters did not even have the first round leader as second choice and clearly did not want him or her to win. So the result seems fair to me. In practice, a candidate winning most first choice votes, but not 50 per cent, is likely to pick up some second choice votes and therefore win on the second count. The point here is that successful candidates need to appeal not only to their hard core supporters but also to other voters for whom they would not be the first choice.

George Simpson (Your say, March 18) begs another question. Why are there so few countries in the world that use First Past The Post? He implies that those who don’t like AV use FPTP, whereas the vast majority use some form of Proportional Representation. And why has every new electoral body that has been set up in the last 40 years used something other than FPTP - Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, NI Assembly, European Parliament etc? How strange that all of our political parties use some form of AV to elect their own leaders. And elections in just about every organisation you can think of, from the National Trust to the average Trade Union, elect their officials by AV.

Finally, to counter the myth that AV gives some people more than one vote. This is not true. It allows everybody to indicate an alternative to their preferred candidate. In the event that the first choices do not produce a clear winner, the lowest ranked candidate is eliminated. Instead of the voters supporting that candidate being ignored, their second preferences are distributed amongst the remaining candidates. The total number of votes counted will be unchanged.

Tim Kirker