For UK folks only, on the off chance that anyone reading this is swayable. Do you need any more than my recommendation (which is, FWIW, that AV is marginally better than what we have now, and voting no-I-want-PR is silly)? Then how about JEB? Or the cats-n-dogs version?
And just to pad out the post, a Q-and-A I had with a doubter:
> I'd heard the gist of the Gibbard-Satterthwaite theorem and was aware
> tactical voting could happen in AV, I just wanted to know how and
> whether it was significant.
As I read that page, tactical voting is possible in theory (but possibly only under rather implausible conditions: "IRV permits tactical voting if voters have complete and reliable information about the other voters' full preferences").
> I have an aversion to hung Parliaments and coalitions.
Ah. I have no such aversion. Indeed, I would marginally prefer it, if that reflected voters wishes. At the moment, no party has a majority of the popular vote, so I would support a coalition, on the grounds that is what people want (well, not what they want, but what their votes lead to).
> I also would like to see extremist parties do less well. I've not seen
> an analysis the affect of switching to AV on how, for example, the BNP
> would do. Noting that the BNP are opposed to AV is doing much to
> encourage me to vote for AV. (The BNP are in favour of PR which tends
> to reinforce my rejection of that too).
I think we disagree there, too. Having extremist parties like the BNP crushed by the voting system is (a) unfair and (b) bad, because we rely on that to crush them, rather than actually attacking their arguments and support.
> Actually, as far as I'm concerned, the campaign that's most persuading
> me to vote Yes is the No campaign. If the arguments they've been
> trotting out are the best reasons to vote no then, it's pretty much a
> no-brainer to vote yes. :-)
I can go with that.
[Update: well, as you by now know, the result was "no" :-(
* Vote 2011: Greens gain English council seats - Green party leader Caroline Lucas said there is now a sense that the Greens are a real alternative, after gains in the English local elections.
* Vote 2011: UK rejects alternative vote.
* At least Cambridge said Yes.
1. Australia rarely has hung parliaments. The current government IS a minority government but rest on a less fragile alliance than the one in the UK. AV down-under doesn't seem to have led to unstable government.
2. Preference deals are more of an issue/side-effect of AV than tactical voting. However preference deals are more democratic in so far as people know what alliances are occuring up front.
3. Extreme parties are no more of an issue in Australia than the UK. True the ugly spectre of 'One Nation' and Pualine Hanson have exploited paranoia about immigrations and other right-wing populist causes buteven they aren't as tied to the neo-fascist right as, say, the BNP in the UK.
Overall, looking at both countries UK and Australia, I'd say AV is a minor reform. On the plus side it is unlikely to cause much damage but, on the bad side, that's because it won't make a big difference. However that small difference is significant.
If the Yes vote succeeded, I don't think I could bear the endless "public service" announcements and explanations before the next election explaining to people the bleedin' obvious - that you number your preferences in order. For all the protestations that it won't cost much to change, I'm not convinced they won't commission expensive leaflets to be posted to every household, never mind mindless TV ads.
For a system that is only "marginally better than what we have now" as you acknowledge, I'm not sure it's worth changing.
The Alternative Vote system (aka Instant Run-off) does not produce hung parliments. AV does remove the many anti-democratic effects of 'splitting the vote'. A notable effect of AV is that if a majority of the voters really hate a candidate/party, they cannot be elected, no matter how split the votors are over their other preferences. That is good for forcing government to respond to the opinions of the wider public.
Australia has AV for the lower houses in 5 of 6 states and the federal lower house, and all of those have functioned smoothly. The state that has multi-member seats (proportional representation lite) does get hung parliments, as does our multi-member elected federal senate. Pure proportional representation does seem to produce seriously disfunctional parliments, and would be a drastic change to British parlimentary practice.
I'd say definitely vote yes for AV - it is a real improvement.
[Please wait until my comment appears]
Also it tends to be fairer to the third most successful party (good) but less fair to the second most successful (bad).
Examples: The BBC's neutral expert determined that the biggest landslide majorities for Thatcher and Blair would have increased.
On the YES side: its good for small parties who need to have more of their votes counted, even if they don't increase their representation.
[I like the random-stand-for-reelection suggestion. Scoring is good, too, though +/-1 is probably all you need. My own pet idea was that an MPs votes should be weighted by their majority -W]
I'm not sure I buy a lot of the retroactive analysis of past votes - if there's a point to AV it consists as much in how it changes the candidates' behaviour as in how it changes the actual counting of votes.
The scoring idea is known as "range voting". Unlike AV, range voting is monotonic (improving your preference for someone can never cause them to lose - this is possibly AV's most significant theoretical weakness); but it has weaknesses: it fails the majority criterion (a candidate preferred by an absolute majority of the voters is not necessarily elected unless all of that majority vote strategically), and the majority loser and Condorcet loser criteria. Accordingly strategic voting is much more important in range voting than in AV; I think that's a good reason to reject it.
Hurrah! Oxford, Cambridge and Haringey all voted Yes to AV. Proof, if proof were needed, that ivory towers still exist. Well done.
In other news...
[I don't think we want the other news right now -W}
Your comment 5, Andrew G is interesting. I had no idea that game theory had been applied.
My other suggestion was partly based on systems control theory of which I have only a very slight knowledge. In our system, governments tend to run out of control. In a closed loop system, the controlled behaviour is measured and subtracted from the desired behaviour to construct an error signal which is fed back into the input. The transient response has to be chosen carefully, neither too fast nor too slow.
This can be remarkably efficient compared to an open loop system which depends on the forward transfer function being very reliable. Our five year feedback might work well if only the parties were honest and reliable; failing that, we need a faster feedback and adjustment (see earlier comment) to achieve democratic control.
Speaking of knocking others for being unrealistic.