Most Britons want reform of voting system: polls

By Jodie Ginsberg

LONDON (BestGrowthStock) – Most Britons would like to see a change in their country’s voting system to give all parties fairer representation, polls published on Sunday showed.

Electoral reform has become a burning issue in Britain following an inconclusive election on Thursday that handed the balance of power to the Liberal Democrats, a party that is under-represented in parliament due to the voting system.

The polls could strengthen the negotiating position of Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who is in talks with the larger Conservatives about the possibility of helping them form a government.

A change from Britain’s first-past-the-post election system to a form of proportional representation, which matches the national share of the vote more closely to seats in parliament, has long been a central plank of Liberal Democrat policy.

The center-left party has said securing some kind of commitment on electoral reform would be crucial to any deal with the Conservatives, who are firmly opposed to proportional representation.

Under first-past-the-post, there is a single round of voting in each constituency to elect a member of parliament and whoever gets the highest score wins, even if they received less than 50 percent of the total number of ballots cast.

The Lib Dems say it leaves them under-represented in the House of Commons relative to their share of the national vote. They received an estimated 23 percent of the national vote in Thursday’s election but only 9 percent of seats.

A YouGov poll for The Sunday Times carried out after the election showed 62 percent of voters favored a more proportional system of voting. This was backed up by a BPIX poll for The Mail on Sunday, which found 60 percent would prefer proportional representation rather than the current system.

The Sunday Telegraph quoted an ICM poll which found 48 percent of voters favored a move to PR and 39 percent backed the current system.

One of the arguments of those who favor first-past-the-post is that it delivers clear government. This has been the case for most of the past 60 years, but Thursday’s result shows that is no longer necessarily the case.

A rise in smaller parties has eaten away at the support base of the two largest parties, Labour and the Conservatives, meaning inconclusive outcomes are more likely.

Labour leader and Prime Minister Grown Brown has proposed a referendum to let voters decide whether to keep first-past-the-post or replace it with a different voting system, known as Alternative Vote.

Under AV, voters would be asked to list candidates by order of preference. If no one scores 50 percent, the bottom candidate is eliminated and the second choices listed on the ballots cast for that person are added to the totals obtained by the others. The process is repeated until one candidate hits 50 percent.

The Conservatives have said they do not want to alter the current system. However, one option might be for them to offer the Lib Dems a referendum on a change but reserve the right to campaign against it.

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Most Britons want reform of voting system: polls