Campaigners outline their case on voting

DEBATE Philip Cane, left, against the Alternative Vote, Rory O'Keeffe political editor at The News and chair of the debate and Peter Facey, right, speaking for the Alternative Vote.    Picture: Allan Hutchings (111485-438)
DEBATE Philip Cane, left, against the Alternative Vote, Rory O'Keeffe political editor at The News and chair of the debate and Peter Facey, right, speaking for the Alternative Vote. Picture: Allan Hutchings (111485-438)

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THE POTENTIAL benefits – and downsides – to changing the voting system were discussed at The News’ Alternative Vote hustings.

A crowd gathered last night at the University of Portsmouth to hear the arguments for and against changing from First Past the Post to AV, a week ahead of the national referendum.

Peter Facey, of youth politics group Unlock Democracy, argued on behalf of the ‘Yes to AV’ campaign.

Philip Cane, a Portsmouth-based ‘No’ campaigner, who writes the campaign’s blog and Twitter pages, argued people should stick with the current system.

He said: ‘Out of the two systems I would pick FPtP, because I don’t think we should vote for a miserable little compromise, to use Nick Clegg’s phrase. You should go for the system you really want, not settle for second best.’

A week today, voters across our region, and the UK as a whole, will decide whether to stick with our current electoral system, or change to AV.

It is the first time British voters have been able to vote on how they choose who runs the country.

Under First Past the Post, voters make one vote. The person who wins the highest proportion of votes is elected.

Critics say candidates with just 30 to 35 per cent of the vote are often elected, meaning up to 70 per cent of voters are represented by someone they object to.

Mr Facey said: ‘Too many people feel like there’s no point voting. Despite big majorities for certain parties, there are Conservative voters in Stoke-on-Trent, and Labour voters in Surrey. I want them to have a voice. FPtP hates competition. It creates a never-ending two-party system.’

Voters using AV list candidates in order of preference. To be elected, one must gain 50 per cent of the votes.

If no-one reaches 50 per cent, the candidate with fewest first choices is removed and their votes are distributed based on voters’ second choices. This process continues until one candidate reaches 50 per cent.