To AV or not AV? That is the question

1 min Read Published: 01 Apr 2011

If you are like me, then it's only just dawned on you that the there is a referendum in the UK next month, the first for over 30 years. So given it's importance I've taken a break from writing about money and concentrated on answering your alternative vote (AV) questions.

What's it for?

  • The referendum, which takes place on 5th May, will be to decide whether the electorate want to move from the current first-past-the-post system to the alternative vote system (AV).

Who wants it?

  • The Conservatives agreed to to a referendum as part of the coalition deal with the Liberal Democrats

What is AV?

  • Instead of putting a cross beside your chosen candidate you will be asked to rank candidates in order of preference, voters can rank as many of the candidates they want.
  • Initially only the first preference votes are counted.
  • Any candidate getting over 50% will be elected.
  • If no candidate attains 50% of the votes cast then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, with the second choice of these voters allocated to the respective candidates.
  • A recount is carried out and if one candidate then has more than 50% of the votes then they are elected.
  • If still no one achieves more than 50% then the remaining candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the second choice of their voters (or third choice if they were the second choice of someone who voted for the first candidate to be eliminated!!) allocated to the respective candidates.
  • Rinse and repeat until one candidate achieves 50% of the vote.

Is AV the same as proportional representation?

No, proportional representation aims to directly reflect the view of the electorate. So if 50% of the electorate vote for a particular party then they will secure a corresponding number of seats in Parliament. However, under AV parties could form a government with less than 50% of first choice votes.

Is everyone happy with the date?

No, this date was chosen as it coincides with local elections in many places but critics say this will give an unbalanced turnout. People in areas where no other elections are taking place - such as London - will have less impetus to take part.

How much will the referendum cost?

About £90 million!

To AV or not to AV? Leave your views below.

Image: renjith krishnan /