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Matthew Elliott: One Person, One Vote

Matthew Elliott is the Campaign Director of NO to AV - for more information please go to

Over the past three months, the NO to AV campaign has gone from strength to strength.

NOtoAV logo We’ve demonstrated how the Alternative Vote would be an expensive mistake, costing the taxpayer up to £250 million. We’ve also shown how AV is a politicians’ fix, bargained for by Nick Clegg last May, and enabling him - and not the voters - to choose the government.

This message has been supported by everyone from the Prime Minister, to the Shadow Cabinet and over half of the Parliamentary Labour Party, to independent academics like Professor Vernon Bogdanor; as well as over 25 respected historians including Niall Ferguson, Amanda Foreman, and David Starkey. And, while there is much more to do, the latest polls also show that support for a ‘no’ vote is on the rise.

This coming week, NO to AV will be launching the next phase of the campaign, urging people to go out and vote ‘no’ on 5 May to ‘Keep One Person, One Vote’. This message emphasises that not only is a ‘no’ vote about the huge cost of AV, and the political consequences of changing our voting system, it is also about the fundamental right of every citizen to cast an equal vote.

For centuries, generations of reformers were inspired by a simple principle. They believed that because each person is equal, they should each have an equal vote.

It took many years for that principle to become part of our politics. But today, that principle stands as the cornerstone of our democracy. We call it: one person, one vote.

Under AV, people are asked to rank candidates in order of preference. When the votes are counted, if the person coming first doesn’t have 50% of the vote, the votes of the lowest ranked candidates are recycled until someone gets over the winning margin.

In this way it allows people who vote for the minor, fringe parties to have their votes counted several times, while those voting for mainstream parties can have their voted counted just once. AV is the opposite of one person, one vote. In fact, if you support a less popular party, you are more likely to have your vote counted multiple times.

In close marginals, why should the winner be decided by the second preferences of fringe parties? It’s absurd and unfair that these parties would be rewarded, while mainstream voters don’t get to have their second preferences considered.

The No campaign began by exposing the £250 million cost of AV. It’s a cost which the Yes campaign has desperately tried to deny – even though the Scottish Director of their biggest donors, the Electoral Reform Society, said in the aftermath of the £9 million electronic vote machines malfunction in Scotland, that elections shouldn’t be “run on the cheap”.

Of course, we’d expect the Yes campaign to try to hide the cost of AV given their financial conflict of interest. As an exposé in the Spectator revealed, the Yes campaign has benefited from over £1 million in funding from the Electoral Reform Society, which earns millions from electronic vote counting ventures in the UK.

We then highlighted the political consequences of AV, detailing how AV is a politicians’ fix that transfers power from voters to backroom political dealmakers. Nick Clegg was willing to sacrifice his promises – on tuition fees, on VAT increases – to get a referendum on AV because he knows a Yes vote will make him the ‘kingmaker’ of the next government. AV provides a unique boost to the Lib Dems, making hung parliaments and political deal-making much more likely.

And now we’re focusing on how AV undermines the fundamental principles of our democracy. One person, one vote is our legacy to the world; when other nations threw off the shackles of tyranny and dictatorship, they were inspired by our Parliamentary democracy.

With the launch of One Person, One Vote, we provide those who know that AV is the wrong change with a simple reason to reject it. One Person, One Vote is a principle which has become a beacon to the rest of the world. Look around the world and we see the legacy: 2.4 billion people choose their governments using first-past-the-post. That’s 2.4 billion people – each with one ballot paper and one, equal, vote.


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