De Do Ron Ron Ron

I wrote in my first blog on Av that I’d voted, campaigned and stood in more than a hundred individual AV elections. Those elections were for roles in Jewish youth organisations, my Student Union, the National Union of Students, trade unions and voluntary groups.

Despite the fact that these elections happened at different times in varied forums, one candidate appeared on most of the ballot papers: my old mate Ron.

RON stands for Re-Open Nominations, and runs as a candidate in many forms of AV election. RON is treated like a real-life candidate. Voters can vote for RON as their first choice or transfer to RON in later rounds as is usual for AV.

When the votes are counted, RON is also treated list a real candidate. Votes are transferred to him in the usual way as candidates are eliminated. If he’s eliminated then his votes are redistributed and he won’t receive any future transfers.

If RON wins, then the election is declared void and nominations are re-opened. In many systems, candidates who have been RONed are not eligible to stand in the re-run election. Read More

AV, Safe Seats, Selections and Primaries

As I said when I first blogged about AV, both sides of the campaign are using weak, wrong and misleading arguments to advance their cases. A perfect example this week was Lord Ashdown’s Sky News interview, where he manages to squeeze at least four incorrect claims about AV in a couple of sentences. He said:

“…no more safe seats, ever; politicians will now have to fight harder to get elected; every vote will count; no MP will get elected unless they get at least 50% of the support of the people in their constituency. Never again will we have more people voting against their MP than actually voted for him when he was elected”“

Today I want to look at safe seats and how to achieve Lord Ashdown’s wish for “No more safe seats, ever”. Read More

Creative uses of AV

Tomorrow is the first day of the National Union of Students’ annual Conference. It’s also five years since I last attended an NUS Conference myself, either as a voting delegate or as a balcony-based observer.

I went to my first NUS Conference in 2003. I was elected by the narrowest of margins in an STV election and joined eight of my fellow Bristol-university students on the trip to Blackpool.

NUS conferences are unusual because elections for NUS’s full-time officers happen at the Conference. This is an archaism; Trade Unions and Student Unions used to elect their officers in the same way, but labour laws and the Education Act 1994 respectively, meant that these Unions now have to legally hold a ballot of all members. NUS is not legally a Student Union and its members are other Unions not individuals, so didn’t have to change away from the old-fashioned system.

NUS has political groupings of varying formality, often disparagingly called ‘factions’: Labour Students is the formal student wing of the Labour party and organises openly. Various groups of ‘Independent’ students run slates of candidates, sometimes openly and sometimes less so. Groups on the Far Left are active, sometimes running joint slates as allies and sometimes opposing each other. Conservative Future sometimes organises for NUS and sometimes decides not to bother. Other groups like the Union of Jewish Students also attend the Conference but don’t usually run candidates for the full-time officer roles. Read More

Misunderstanding AV

I have no particular view about the AV referendum. I haven’t decided which way to vote yet, but it’s not ambivalence as much as non-valence. I don’t feel strongly either way.

But weirdly, I still want to explore the arguments anyway, especially as public debate on both sides has been pretty poor.

One reason for this may be that lots of the people leading the debate don’t actually know what they’re talking about.

A confession: I have probably voted in over a hundred AV elections; I have run in AV elections, been a campaign manager for AV elections, and counted the votes in AV elections.

But I’ve also voted and run and organised several dozen Single Transferable Vote elections. I’ve even counted some small ones.

STV is not AV (though strictly speaking AV is a special case of STV). STV elections are ‘block elections’, where there’s more than one position being elected at the same time. Read More