Battle for votes hots up ahead of referendum

DECISION DAY Thursday, May 5 sees a national referendum on the Alternative Vote
DECISION DAY Thursday, May 5 sees a national referendum on the Alternative Vote
HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in Portsmouth            Picture: PA

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CAMPAIGNS for and against the Alternative Vote (AV) are gathering pace ahead of a referendum next week.

Rivals are stepping up their bids to convince the public either to drop or stay with the current electoral system.

Campaigners have been setting up stalls in Portsmouth’s shopping centres and delivering leaflets to homes throughout the area.

Suzy Horton, leader of Portsmouth’s Yes to AV campaign, said: ‘In the last week there has been an increase in awareness.

‘Prior to that it was only people who were selectively interested who were getting involved.

‘We are expanding our campaign online now too, but talking to the person on the street is still the most effective method.

‘It’s a positive campaign and I think a lot of people genuinely want a fairer system. A problem for some people is the idea of change.

‘But once upon a time you couldn’t vote if you were a woman or if you were under 21 and it seemed radical to change that.

‘Anything like that, with hindsight, seems like a good thing to have done.’

The referendum takes place on May 5. People will decide whether elections should continue using the ‘first past the post’ system, in which the candidate with the most votes wins.

Using AV, voters would instead list candidates in order of preference.

If no candidate wins 50 per cent of the vote, the one with the fewest overall drops out and their second preferences are counted.

This continues until a candidate reaches 50 per cent of the vote and is elected.

Councillor Graham Burgess, deputy leader of Gosport Borough Council and co-ordinator of the Gosport Against AV campaign said: ‘It’s going very well. We have had a great response on the doorstep.

‘I think people are swinging behind the “no” campaign.

‘All the promotion in the press has made people more aware of the repercussions of a switch to AV.

‘I am hopeful it will be a resounding success for the “no” campaign and we can carry on under the same electoral process we have had for hundreds of years.

‘Simply put: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’

On Wednesday, The News will host a hustings debate at the University of Portsmouth on the issue of AV.

The event is open to the public and will start at 7pm in a lecture theatre at the university’s Richmond Building in Portland Street.