Why the voting system sucks

The Herald today, via The Sharpener, has an article called Why Scots are cynical about politicians. A better headline would be, “Why the voting system sucks”.

The research sums up what I could have told you:

…the Scottish electoral landscape… is complex and confusing.

With the reduction of MPs from 72 to 59 – reflecting the post-devolution settlement – the May general election was fought on new Westminster constituencies. However, the Scottish parliamentarians were elected on the old Westminster boundaries which number 73.

I am unconvinced that we really need 129 MSPs. And there is no excuse for using the old boundaries in my view. I thought the original point of using the Westminster boundaries was to avoid confusion. But that’s been chucked down the drain since Westminster’s boundaries changed and Holyrood’s didn’t.

…the majority of interviewees were “unaware list MSPs existed”. One asked: “Are they reserves in case someone dies?”

Once the top-up list system was explained, people were frustrated by not being able to vote for list MSPs individually, and at the prospect of candidates who lost in a constituency still becoming an MSPs through the list.

This was viewed as “an escape route for losers”.

Quite right. I have eight MSPs. What am I supposed to do with them all? If I have a problem, which should I approach? I would think that most people would approach their constituency MSP, the proper one. And this leads us to another problem with AMS: there are two classes of MSP. The role of list MSPs — other than to make up the numbers — is unclear, and constituency MSPs apparently resent it when a list MSP actually tries to do any ‘constituency’ work.

Now there are four different systems for four different elections. It’s no wonder people are confused. Next year’s local elections will be crucial for STV. I believe that there have already been teething problems with boundaries, although almost every system has problems with boundaries. But if next year’s elections are a success then STV ought to be adopted for all elections.

Because let’s face it. First Past the Post is dead as a dodo, because although Westminster continues to cling on to its archaic ways, no election would be changed to an FPTP system now. And after just a few years AMS has led to confusion and resentment. The party list system, meanwhile, takes power away from voters and gives it to political parties — unacceptable.

Update: See also Make My Vote Count on this.

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