Thursday, April 19, 2007

Democracy is getting sooo complicated...

I'll be at Apachecon EU 07 on May 3rd when Scotland goes to the polls, so I've filled out a request for Nikki to be my proxy, like a good citizen should.

The hard part has been working out, with two different proportional representation (PR) voting systems in action, how to explain how I want her to cast my votes. We have the Additional Member System in place for election to the Scottish Parliament, which has two ballot papers, and Single Transferable vote (STV) for council elections. That means three ballot papers, and the STV one requires us to rank the candidates in order of preference, whereas the others are of the traditional "X" in the box variety.

Whats more I see that there are now concerns about the electronic vote counting machines.

However If you live in the Tarbolton/Symington/Craigie area of South Ayrshire make sure to put Sam Gardiner "1" for the council, failing that make him "2", or "3" etc. (I'm sure that you can see a pattern emerging)
IMHO, and judging from what I can see around me, local issues are no place for party politics.

Sadly I also think that STV removes some of the direct local accountability that first past the post elections enforce.

Ah well, at least we do get to vote, and can be reasonably comfortable that there won't be rioting , ballot rigging (if the machines actually work), voter intimidation (other than that caused by the complexity of the task!), or a military coup.


James Gilmour said...

You need to take a look at the VoteScotland website - then you would see that there is only ONE ballot paper for the Scottish Parliament elections this time. You record both votes on the same paper. The regional vote comes first, of the left side of the paper, coloured buff. The constituency vote is on the right side of the paper, coloured lilac.

With regard to the council elections, I think you will find that STV increases the accountability of your local councillors. Each successful candidate needs the personal support of a local constituency of voters. They voted him or her in, and they can just as easily vote him or her out at the next election.

The "concern" about "electronic voting machines" has been hyped out of all proportion. We shall not be using any kind of electronic voting machine. Our arrangements are completely different from the typical American set-up. We shall vote with good old-fashioned pencil on paper. The sealed ballot boxes will be transported to 31 secure counting centres where there is no realistic chance of anyone tampering with the machines or the software. So we can all rest easy on that front.

Unknown said...

There are *only* going to be two ballot papers, two ballot boxes, two different forms of PR, two crosses and a ranking to make. I understand that, and yet it still seems overly complicated to me, perhaps I'm unusual.

You have minsuderstood the point I was making about STV.
Increasing the size of a council constituency and reducing the directness between councillor and constituents could not possibly increase accountability, it might improve representation for supporters of minority parties, and break the stranglehold which an in-built majority (so called "safe seats") can give to a party, but that is way not the same thing.

Finally you've totally misrepresented my point about machines.
1/ Electronic vote counting machines *will* be used. It says so on the back of my polling card.
2/ I'm not in the least bit interested in electronic voting machines, I never mentioned them. Nor am I talking about how the ballot boxes are handled nor about the counting centres.
3/ What I'm commenting on is concerns that have been clearly expressed elsewhere about the lack of sample checking to verify the counts given by the machines. Can we rest so easy on that one?

Please don't use my blog to post misleading spin, I'm not an idiot and neither are my other readers (with perhaps one or two notable exceptions).

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