Guest blog: Paula Keaveney says AV is only complicated if you can't count to three
At a time when politics is dominated by the huge problems of debt and deficit, to talk about a change in the voting system may seem a little off the point.
And yet later this year citizens will have the chance to have their say on whether to make the UK Government a lot more democratic. And this weekend supporters of the campaign for change in Merseyside will be getting together to plan their fight.
When the referendum comes, we'll all be voting on whether to change the way we elect our MPs. And that change could make the people who represent us REALLY represent us.
I'm sure readers of this blog have already heard about the referendum on AV or the Alternative Vote. People will be asked to choose between this new system or the old First Past the Post.
But actually what they are being asked to choose between is a system in which votes count more equally and candidates have to work harder to win, or one in which, in many parts of the country and many parts of Liverpool, some people's votes don't count.
At the moment when you vote for an MP you put an X next to one person's name. The person with the highest overall total wins. It's possible to be an MP with only 30 percent of the vote. In fact there is one constituency in Scotland where the MP won with just over 26 percent. When this happens, most people who vote end up voting against the winner.. and yet the winner wins!
The system has a corrosive effect on campaigning too. How often are you told to vote for X not because they are your first choice but because they stand the best chance of beating Y? First past the post encourages negative choice voting. It encourages you to vote against what you fear rather than for what you hope for.
What the AV Campaign, and I am as it should be clear a supporter of this, wants is a better system. Instead of using an X you would vote 1,2,3. 1 would be your first choice, 2 your second choice and so on. If your first preference candidate didn't have enough support to win, your second place vote would help your second choice and so on. Your vote would count.
This would mean MPs would have to get majority support to win. They would have to get more than 50% of the votes cast. No more just working on the core vote. It would also mean you could vote for your real first choice rather than just for your second in order to stop your third! Voting would become a positive act rather than one of negative prevention. It would be fairer. The results would be more representative. People would feel that their vote actually counted.
Now I know some people have said this is complicated. But quite frankly it is only difficult if you can't count up to three!
Liberals have campaigned for years for electoral reform. And some of us do wish we were going further than this and making more of a change. But the Alternative Vote, if accepted by the British people, will be a big step forward and stands a chance of changing our politics for the better.
This isn't a tribal thing or a party thing. There are politicians from all parties supporting the Yes to AV Campaign. The leaders of the Liberal Democrats and the Labour party will be working together on this. In Merseyside Steven Twigg MP is playing an important role for example.
However the Conservative Leader will be campaigning for a no vote and some well known Labour MPs have already said they will join him in that campaign.
I very much hope the referendum will result in a Yes Vote - a vote for progress.
* Further information about the Yes to AV Campaign is available at www.yestofairervotes.org. This website also includes details of the Merseyside planning meeting and other campaign activities.
Paula Keaveney is Lib Dem Councillor for Cressington, a former Parliamentary Candidate and the opposition spokesperson on regeneration on Liverpool City Council. She blogs HERE.