The Thick of It


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

People don't get it

It is hardly suprising that according to YouGov, large swathes on London voters don't understand how the voting system for mayor and assembly works. Neither is it surprising that a great number of voters, including many I have met recently, don't realise that they will have up to four votes on three different ballot papers.

The Electoral Commisson has spent a great deal of effort and money running ads in all of the London newspapers and at bus stops reminding people that there is an election. I'm sure everyone knows there is an election on. I'm also sure most people don't really get how the preferential Alternative Vote system works.

Voters get two choices as I'm sure my readership knows. Of course, those voting for Ken or Johnson for Mayor only really get one. The second preferences only count for those voting for candidates finishing outside the top two after the first choices are counted. Only in the last decade has Britain moved away from plurality (First Past the Post) voting to more proportional voting systems for regional and European elections.

It probably doesn't matter that much that some people might not make a second preference as most will vote Labour or Tory. What does matter is much of the effort in explaining the voting system has been left to partisan door-to-door canvassers and party literature. How about using some of the broadcast slots reserved for party election broadcasts for a spot by the Electoral Commission to actually explain this in a neutral way?

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