The Alternative Vote was designed in 1871 by William Robert Ware, though similar electoral systems had been suggested throughout the 1800’s. The first recorded use of such a system was in Queensland, Australia in 1893, and was adopted nationally in 1918 in response to the conservative vote being split between two parties, giving significant wins to the less popular Labour.
Today, AV serves as a go-between the archaic First Past The Post and Proportional Systems, it maintains the link between MP and constituency, whilst striving to secure an MP that best represents the whole of the voters.
Globally, AV is used in the general elections of Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea (Papua New Guinea notoriously switching to AV after a disastrous experiment with First Past The Post). However, AV is not limited to just these countries; it is used in the electoral systems of Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, devolved parliaments in the UK, party leadership elections in the UK, and the United States.
Throughout the world, where AV has been introduced negative campaigning has been reduced. As John Russo, Oakland City Attorney, argued about the introduction of AV in San Francisco, “[AV] is an antidote to the disease of negative campaigning..”
The worldwide use of AV doesn’t end there, as a variant of AV called “The Two Round System” is used to elect the presidents of many countries including France, Poland, Portugal, Finland and Austria.
The “No To AV” campaign would have us believe that AV is a peculiar oddity ignored by most of the world, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. It is ‘First Past The Post’, initially exported by colonialism that is now being rejected for its obvious flaws and polarising effect.
AV has been tested internationally and found to have a beneficial effect upon the electoral system, especially in those dogged by negative and confrontational politics. It is these detrimental attributes that plague our system, and make it a prime candidate for reform and a reform long overdue.