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AV Problems

AV is not proportional.

For many years, Canadians have had legitimate concerns that the will of voters is not expressed accurately by our dysfunctional electoral system. Parties are often given many more or fewer seats than their popular vote merits: our system is not proportional.

There are many reforms that would make our voting system truly fair and proportional to voters, but AV isn't one of them. Parties can govern with a majority of seats under AV, despite getting much less than half the vote.

In fact, with AV, a party could get the most votes and actually lose the election to one that gets fewer votes! Instead of another system that distorts the will of voters to the benefit of some partisan politicians, we should be considering proportional reforms to make elections accurately reflect the will of the people.1

AV is a roadblock to Proportional Representation (PR).

Opportunities to reform the electoral system of a city, a province, or a country come only very rarely. They should be used to move democracy forward, not sideways. AV is a reform that distracts voters and will only benefit a few vested interests.2

AV could spread like wildfire.

With political parties on the provincial and federal levels recently adopting AV as their preferred voting system reform, conditions are ripe for AV to spread across different levels of government if it is adopted in cities. Just as Canadians are waking up and demanding real democracy, politicians will use it to deflect growing pressure for real reform because they know AV gives the illusion of more choice - even though election results would mostly be the same.

AV won't help elect women and minorities.

Under our current system, women, visible minorities, and other underrepresented groups face an uphill battle to get elected -- but they often do win races with less than half the vote. In cases where women and visible minorities manage to win under our current system, they could more often be defeated during second and third rounds of vote counting in AV. AV simply won't help us get elected councils and legislatures that better reflect the diversity in our society. 3

AV can wildly distort election results.

Far from being fair, AV produces results that distort the will of voters. Voters will vote for one thing, but AV will give them something else. In fact, it's likely that AV could produce results that are less proportional than those we have under the current system. 4

AV will discourage voters from participating.

Because AV tends to polarise politics into two large blocs, many voters will be disenchanted with just the two choices on offer. Australia had to make voting compulsory because turnout fell after AV was introduced. They also have a much higher number of spoiled ballot papers, meaning lots of people lose their vote altogether.

AV will squeeze out all but the two biggest parties

Under AV, legitimate smaller parties will face an even tougher struggle for survival than they do today. AV tends to favour all but the two largest parties or two most popular candidates, eventually turning any jurisdiction using AV into an effective two-party state. 6

AV won't fix our democratic deficit.

The fundamental problem with our current voting system is that it isn't proportional - the share of the popular vote a party wins is not accurately reflected in seats that party gets. This is because our winner-take-all system elects only a single winner in each constituency, which creates anomalies where parties that receive a large share of votes nationwide but don’t come first locally are underrepresented in parliament. Other parties that have a strong regional "fortress" are overrepresented.

AV simply won't make things any better ...and could make them worse. 7

AV is a politician's fix, not a people's fix

Many politicans will try to present AV as a legitimate reform, but informed voters should ask themselves "Who will AV benefit"? Because of AV's vote transfers, earning people's first-preference votes becomes less important than becoming the "lesser evil" option and winning with more second, third, and lower choice votes.
This often rewards centrist parties or candidates more than those on the left or right, and eventually, only two similar centrist parties will remain. For some, it's a cynical attempt to change the system for reasons of partisan advantage.

1."The Jenkins Commission, a blue ribbon panel on electoral reform in the UK [...] concluded that AV outcomes would be even less proportional than first-past-the-post."

-- The Alternative Vote (or Instant Run-Off Voting): It's no solution for the democratic deficit. Fair Vote Canada. 2009. TOP

2. [T]he adoption of instant runoff voting for legislative elections could actually set back the PR movement, or at least distract from it."

-- Instant Runoff Voting: No Substitute for Proportional Representation. Dr. Douglas J. Amy, Mount Holyoke College. 2010 TOP

3. "[Alternative Vote] is a majority system which leaves out the political minority, especially women and ethnic minorities, and third and other smaller parties."

-- Instant Runoff Voting: No Substitute for Proportional Representation. Dr. Douglas J. Amy, Mount Holyoke College. 2010 TOP

4. "[AV's] effects (on its own without any corrective mechanism) are disturbingly unpredictable."

-- Report of the Independent Commission on the Voting System, HRM UK Government. Lord Jenkins. 1998. TOP

5. "AV had little impact on proportionality and voter turnout, but did contribute to significantly higher rates of ballot rejection [...] On balance, it differed little from the single-member plurality system."

-- The Political Consequences of the Alternative Vote: Lessons from Western Canada. Dr. Harold J. Jansen, University of Lethbridge. 2004 TOP

6. "AV exaggerates the tendency of the current system to direct all voters into a choice between two big-tent political parties."

-- The Alternative Vote (or Instant Run-Off Voting): It's not solution for the democratic deficit. Fair Vote Canada. 2009. TOP

7. "Far from doing much to relieve disproportionality, [AV] is capable of substantially adding to it."

--Report of the Independent Commission on the Voting System, HRM UK Government. Lord Jenkins. 1998. TOP

8."AV is an attractive proposal if you want to change as little as possible, if you think all other concerns raised by the supporters of electoral reform - regional balance and the insufficient representation of women and smaller parties - are unimportant, and if you believe that opposition parties should have an opportunity to unite and rout the Grits. But even on the latter point, the proponents of AV are likely in for a nasty surprise."

--Alternative voting of mixed-member proportional: What can we expect? Policy Options. Dr. Louis Massicotte, University of Montreal. July-August 2001. TOP