AV, incarnate via Optional Preference Voting, is a very important and positive potential change to the way the UK is governed. So I’m going to bug you all about it; feel free to ask questions by email.
tl;dr: You should vote Yes to AV because AV is fundamentally a better way of producing a parliament that reflects the country’s opinions than FPTP, which only works well with two candidates. AV produces more representative, engaging governance by removing the need for tactical voting.
Or, with cats: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiHuiDD_oTk
A lot of the campaign literature is based on fear, especially for the no campaign, and personal attacks which I don’t like—it’s all by-the-by compared to the primary issue at stake of whether AV or FPTP is a better voting system.
These are my main reasons for voting yes.
Many of the country’s constituencies are essentially two horse races, or appear that way under the current system. This means that if you want to vote for, say, the Lib Dems but don’t feel that there’s any chance of them actually winning the seat, you may feel forced into voting Labour as otherwise you have “wasted your vote”.
AV allows you to rank as many, or as few, candidates as you wish, so you are always able to put the candidate you want first, and other candidates who appeal, but not so much, on your card. This is a huge change, as it allows minority candidates to receive first preference votes which can show whether they really do have support in a community—support previously nullified by the coercion of tactical voting.
Alternatively, it might show that the “big three” parties really do have the majority of the countries support rather than benefiting parties substantially in the minority. The important point being that you are no longer forced to vote a certain way.
As you can rank candidates, your vote can reflect your views more accurately as it is not an all or nothing affair—one candidate may appeal more than another, but you may also have sympathies for another candidate and so you may also vote for them. This encourages candidates, and therefore the governments they form, to become more aware of and to take into account views outside their personally favoured ones. This is an huge step forward.
A democracy is meant to produce a government broadly representative of the population’s views, not just of the (usually) minority, which FPTP tends to produce with more than two candidates.
In several AV systems, ALL candidates must be ranked, and so your vote my conceivably go to a candidate you don’t want. In the system being proposed for the UK, “Optional Preference Voting”, you only have to rank candidates you support. The seemingly small tweak is very valuable.
If you end the need to vote tactically, which is a huge downer on one’s excitement when voting, then you can hopefully end up with a more engaging democracy where your vote counts. Voter apathy is toxic to democracy and is a vicious circle. AV can help to reverse this tide. Encouraging MPs to become less tribal is also likely to lead to a more engaging system of government as the government tries to come up with solutions that appeal to our shared values rather than tribal loyalties.
Virtually all the literature I’ve seen from the No campaign is unreliably-backed scaremongering, rather than an explanation of why FPTP is better than AV as a system of producing a more representative government.
Saying that, I’m willing to accept that the Yes campaigns haven’t really been all that great either. Neither side seems willing to engage the voter on an intelligent level, discussing the sometimes subtle ways that AV improves on our current system.
On the subject of fear-based campaigning, here’s an excellent summary of all the utter crap being written by the No campaign.
Fundamentally, even if the system was likely to produce governments I didn’t personally support, I’d vote yes to AV because it’s a better system of electing a government representative of the diversity of views in the country and so better supports the fundamental tenets of democracy.
You should do the same.