A central plank of the ‘No To AV Campaign is that AV is an expensive system to implement. A figure of 250 million pounds was concocted based upon the referendum itself, educational leaflets and vote counting machines. These sums were hotly denied by the Yes To AV camp, so which side is correct?
In other areas of the UK where popular elections have been switched to AV it is true that vote counting machines have been employed. But these were during a time when money was not so tight and the relatively small cost of the machines was easy to bear. There is no reason why AV cannot function without machines, Australia has managed quite well without them for years.
As you’d expect the true answer can be found in the treasury, after all it is this department that allocates public spending. Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, stated, “the Government has no plans to reopen departmental spending review settlements as a consequence of a Yes vote in the referendum on AV.” In other words, the funds allocated to hold the next general election will be exactly the same regardless of the outcome of the referendum.
But other than the ‘cost’ of implementing AV, what would the impact be upon our electoral system? Analysis of previous elections is shaky, as it is difficult to determine how voters would behave if tactical voting and negative campaigning were eliminated. Studies do suggest however a generally more proportional result with landslide elections being slightly more dramatic.
In the short term the results wouldn’t be overly dissimilar. Political parties would still run campaigns as they have always done and would get similar results. The shift would take place over the course of several elections, the results gradually favouring the party that indulges in the least negative campaigning. A boost would also be given to smaller parties that have always struggled to demonstrate their level of public support, strengthening their hand in influencing the larger parties.
The doom-sayers would have us believe that AV would destroy certain principles that we hold dear, but in truth it is a small, yet significant step in the right direction. Those who fear change need not fear AV, it is an improvement, not a replacement.