Alternative vote would increase power of average UK voter, says new report

Independent analysis from think-tank nef (the new economics foundation) shows that the alternative vote, or AV, would increase the power of the average voter

The Voter Power Index, a report by nef, published exactly one month before the UK votes on whether to change its parliamentary electoral system from ‘first past the post’ to the alternative vote, reveals how the influence of voters would change under the proposed AV system.

Nef found that AV would lead to an increase in the power of the average UK voter by almost 25% and would create 44 new marginal seats, with a higher proportion of seats being categorised as “very marginal.” AV would slightly reduce inequality in the power of votes, the report finds, but would not eradicate inequalities in the UK voting system. The most powerful fifth of electors would go from having 21 times the power of the least powerful fifth, down to having 18 times the power.

The report is based on a comprehensive statistical analysis of general elections in the UK over the last 30 years. It concludes that AV offers some improvements over first past the post, but will not alter the main problem with the UK’s voting system, which it specifies as being the existence of single member constituencies.

Nef proposes that the UK should move towards larger constituencies, where voters elect multiple MPs for their area. Such systems are already used in the UK to elect the London Assembly, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and the UK’s members of the European Parliament.

“Our analysis shows that AV would increase the power of all voters, particularly those in safe seats. But it’s clear that if we want a voting system that is really fair, then we’ll need more choices than just AV and first past the post.” said Stephen Whitehead, nef researcher and co-author of the report.

The Voter Power Index website allows visitors to find their ‘voter power’ by postcode and display a ranking of the UK’s constituencies.

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