Britain overwhelmingly rejects election reform

With almost all constituencies counted it looks like the AV referendum will, as predicted, fail miserably.   There were some hopes that suppressed turnout would allow AV to squeak out a victory but that was probably quite wishful thinking.   The Guardian has a good article providing ten reasons AV failed.  Not being the expert on British politics that I would like to be I can’t evaluate most of them critically, but they generally sound plausible.

The talk of weak turnout benefiting the “Yes” camp surprised me, because I would have thought that a referendum like this would require an absolute majority of registered voters to turnout in order to be valid.  Extra stipulations like this are quite common in plebiscites worldwide and I think they are generally a better option.  There is a lot of evidence that direct democracy, far from giving more power to the people, is just another channel for elites to push for their interests.  California is the easiest example of this, as the state’s propositions have more special interest money spent on them than campaigns for elected office. Given how easy it is for a small group of intense policy demanders to get their way, I think requiring an absolute majority of voters to turnout is a good idea.  This will ensure those groups can’t push through harmful changes based on the apathy of the general public (Yes I realize this still happens all the time in legislatures but we shouldn’t make it easier). The extra hurdle does matter; Moldova recently failed to alter its method for electing the president – despite 87 percent of voters approving the change –  due to insufficient turnout.  Like in the UK, voting reform was highly political in Moldova, and I think major changes to a country’s institutions should be based on broad legitimacy.

Posted on May 6, 2011, in Elections, Electoral Systems and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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