Sunday, 3 April 2011

Alternative Vote (AV) in simple terms

From all the reports about AV I've seen there seems to be a general attempt to portray AV as being hard to understand. But it's not hard, it's just different to what you're used to. About the best explanation I've seen involves chocolate bars.

Let's assume you've won in the ubiquitous school raffle and your prize is a chocolate bar. The choices are a Twix, a Mars Bar, a Marathon (yes a Marathon, this is Great Britain we're talking about), or a Bounty.

Now if I ask for a Twix and they have a Twix left in stock, then I'm happy. Twix is my favourite.

The issues arise if they don't have any Twix left, because then I'm just going to get a random selection of the others depending upon what is left. So I might get a Bounty, and I can't stand those.

What I want to be able to do is give my full order. I'd like a Twix, but failing that a Mars Bar. I'll have a Marathon at a push, but avoid a Bounty unless there is nothing else.

It doesn't stop you getting a Bounty (you might be a Twix person in an area of Bounty lovers and they've got a job lot in stock), but it makes it less likely that you will.

And AV works like that. What you're actually doing is telling the system how much you dislike each candidate. The higher the number, the more you dislike the candidate.

Which with politicians is probably the best way of looking at them.