Tomorrow we get to vote on how we vote and ignoring the 'handbags at dawn' duel between Huhne and Cameron and ridiculous radio adverts, "I'm intelligent, I can work it out for myself!" I thought the issue needed the clarification that only a Vicar can bring (so best give up now).
The existing system
Apparently no one ever gets the person they voted for and the whole of our electoral system is controlled by candidates in marginal seats, for they hold the balance of power (not the voters). The existing system is wrong because it means people can stay elected for ever even when the majority of the people haven't voted for them. Taking this on board, it is obvious that we need a new system so that everyone who votes sees the person they voted for get elected - this is democracy! Government will be made up of people that everyone have voted for, or at least almost everyone, and so there will be no reason for complaints anymore.
Before too many of you traditionalists get excited, this stands for 'Alternative Voting' not the 'Authorised Version' (sorry if you thought it would mean a fairly elected government and a return to the 1662 BCP).
In the current present system, in a constituency where there are four candidates, when the votes are counted, the result is: Harriet - 34%, Kofi - 30%, Anjit - 19%, and Tom - 17%, the winner is of course Harriet, because she is 'first past the post' (she has the most votes). But this is wrong because Harriet only has 34% of the vote, which means that 66% of the voting public didn't vote for her, so she's not really the people's choice at all, in fact she's been elected by the minority!
To overcome this, we need a system where the person elected gets more than half of the votes so that they are truly representing all the people. To make this happen we ask the voter to not just vote, but score each of the candidates in order of preference.
Now, although Harriet would have won using the old 'unfair' system, now because she hasn't got 51% we drop Tom and look at the preferences of the people who voted for him., assign the votes to their second choice.
When this is done, we find that we have Harriet - 36%, Anjit - 33% and Kofi - 31% and so, we now drop Kofi and take the second choice of those who put him first. This makes the result: Anjit - 53% and Harriet 47% and so Anjit wins because the majority have voted for her!
Simple , isn't it? The person who would, under the old system, have won hasn't and the person who who wouldn't have, wins because this is how democracy works (and it'll be nice to have a BNP member of parliament, won't it?)! It's also Biblical because it does say the first shall be last and the last first and with this system, this can happen!
Now, this is obviously isn't as quick as the 'first past the post' system and although the Australians are using it, they are discussing dropping it because it isn't all that they hoped. Still, when people vote tactically (i.e. put Labour or Conservative last) using AV we will have many more Greens, Lib Dems, BNP, 'No to the trunk road' and other minority groups siting in the House of Commons and will mean hung, no sorry 'balanced' (but impotent and hamstrung) governments, but it might mean Clegg might get a go as Prime Minister!
And for those who will ask why the BNP are urging a 'no vote to AV, it's because they want proportional representation (as do the other minority partis like Lib dem really) because it will mean they get even more members of parliament. The reality is that AV will still benefit them, but not as much and the hope a defeat for AV will bring back the discussion with a PR bias next time.
So, make you're own mind up about AV, but I think we'd be better served if we could get the electorate to be the electorate myself. Problem is that I don't like the Aussie mandatory voting much either.