Electoral Reform it

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Jennifer Clutten
th October 2004


When looking at Electoral Reform it is important to understand that there are many factors that effect whether a particular electoral system is effective in producing the results it is needed to.  For example, in some situations it is important for the results to be conclusive, to sway in one particular direction so that things can be implemented.  Yet in other situations it does not matter because people are only voting for one of two options and results are therefore conclusive and can only go one way or the other.  Therefore it is important that there are different electoral systems because not all systems would be suited to the situation.

Due to first past the post being seen as an unrepresentative voting system there are many supporters of electoral reform.  However, when thinking about Electoral Reform it is important to note that anyone who has power is unlikely to want to give it away.  Therefore due to this, those who can get to power by first past the post (Labour) will not want reform, and those who cannot get to power by first past the post (Liberal-democrats and other minority parties) will want it.  Yet even though first past the post is unrepresentative due to the constituent candidates it is however very effective at being able to produce decisive governments. It is a plurality system, and this way parties can campaign with a clear manifesto and will then have enough power to implement it if they get elected.  With the first past the post system the constituents also is therefore able to vote within their constituency for the party they wish to see govern and following on from this, they expect their mp to represent the publics best interest.  However first past the post does not give all voters an equal vote.  It is known that a Labour supporters vote is worth far more than a Conservative or Liberal Democrat vote and that because of this tactical voting is encouraged.  Also the first past the post system provides pre-elected candidates for each constituency therefore meaning that due to the local mp candidates may not vote for who they want to have overall control in government but for who they feel will represent them best in their constituency.   And also the system is arguably part of British traditions and changing to an alternative system may confuse voters and then there would be less confidence in the results produced. Also, in comparison to other systems first past the post is relatively cheap and easy to operate.  However, there are many arguments against the first past the post system.  Many people believe that our current first past the post system distorts the popular vote to an unacceptable degree through the election of MP for each constituency and then disregarding the votes in that constituency for other parties.  This therefore amounting to many wasted votes.  This system is also believed to give very little choice for voters often leading to tactical voting and therefore disadvantaging the smaller parties.  Also, the first past the post system is believed to lead to artificially polarized adversarial politics and it perpetuates the current geographical strongholds of some of the political parties.  Due to these reasons it is believed that first past the post may not be in the best interest of voters in fairly electing government and due to this we must therefore look at the alternative systems and how they would work as the British government electoral system.

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There are several alternative voting systems, firstly there is the Alternative Vote (AV.) This system is used to elect the Australian House of Representatives and is a majority system.  In this system voters return one candidate to represent each constituency.  Voters place all candidates in order of preference and if any candidate receives 50% or more of the vote they are elected with an overall majority.  This system would be an ideal electoral system for electing the British Government as it produces decisive results just as our current first past the post system delivers yet; it also wastes fewer ...

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