Printed in the Nottingham Post on May 5, 2011.
Opinions in Notts are divided over today’s referendum on voting reform.
While many residents agree that there are problems with first-past-the-post voting, the possible complications and costs of the alternative vote remain a worry.
Under AV, voters can list candidates in order of preference.
If no candidate gains more than 50 per cent of the vote initially, the candidate with the smallest share of the vote is eliminated, and his or her supporters’ second choice votes are added to the others.
This continues until one candidate has more than 50 per cent of the vote.
But conflicting claims about the system, which has never been used for general elections in the UK, have worried some.
Claire Hamerton, 47, an administration assistant from New Basford, said: “It is hard to make your mind up as there are so many points of view and dirty games being played, so I am probably going to say no.
“The cost is definitely a factor, especially given the cuts. If AV is anywhere near the amount people are saying, it is a waste of money.
“I am not against some kind of change in the future, but I am not prepared to risk a party like the BNP getting in.”
Krzys Kozlowski, 51, a supply teacher and poet from Sherwood, said: “I shall be voting against because I think it is a total waste of time. There has got to be a complete change of the political system.”
Some objected to the cost of the £91m referendum itself, feeling it had been a “botched” coalition compromise.
John Greensmith, 56, unemployed, from Sherwood, said: “They are spending money on a stupid referendum while they are cutting money to hospitals – it is needed there.”
Dr Donald Henry, 79, retired, from Sherwood, said: “They wanted it politically, and the Prime Minister had to please the Lib Dems, but I don’t see any point in doing it.”
But others look more positively on the issue.
Arthur Miller, 77, retired, from Sherwood, said: “We have had first-past-the-post for a long time, and I think we have to give AV a go. If you have got four candidates and three are on the same level but the fourth wins by ten votes, it does not make sense.”
Claims that AV is too complicated for voters to understand also proved contentious.
Mr Miller said: “I am just an ordinary chap and I understand AV – it is a cheek to say people won’t understand it.”
A poll by ComRes for the Independent newspaper this week put the No vote on 66 per cent, 32 points ahead.
Under the present system, critics say votes for non-winning candidates are “wasted”, as it would make no difference if they were to lose by one or 10,000 votes. Additionally, smaller parties tend to do worse.
In last year’s general election, the Liberal Democrats gained 23 per cent of the vote but only eight per cent of the total seats.
Some believe AV will update the old two-party system and remove the ideas of safe seats and tactical voting. But others criticise it for being more expensive and believe it will make hung parliaments more likely.