An Asian Christian woman living in London blogging about the everyday issues of religion

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Go on, say 'YES'

No, this isn't a post about marriages. That was last week's news. For the benefit of those who live abroad and have been spared the countless times that we, in the UK, have had to listen to 'NO' and 'YES' tomorrow (5 May) the country will vote on whether to change the current voting system which is based on First Past The Post (FPTP). Tomorrow's referendum is about changing FPTP to the Alternative Voting (AV) system. The question being asked is this: At present, the UK uses the ‘first past the post’ system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the ‘alternative vote’ system be used instead?

Are you still with me? If you are you deserve a pat on the back and one of my curries. If you don't need an explanation of FPTP or AV please skip down to the last 4 paragraphs.

Anyway, FPTP refers to how a Parliament seat is won by a candidate. UK voters put an X beside the name of the person they support. The person with the most amount of votes cast in his/her favour wins the seat. There is no threshold or minimum level which must be acquired before a candidate is declared a winner. The majority rule applies here as in who has the most amount of votes cast in their names wins. Currently, candidates with as low as 30% of votes have been declared the winner because the other 70% of votes cast have been split between other candidates.

AV, on the other hand, works on the principle of distribution. On the ballot paper voters are asked to list in numerical order their order of preference of candidates. If there are 6 candidates called, for simplistic reasons, A, B, C, D ,E and F, voters must write down, for instance, 1 against A, 2 Against B and so on till number 6 is reached.

The number 1 votes for each candidates are put into a pile and counted. Anyone with over half of the number 1 votes cast wins. However, if no candidate has polled half or over half of the votes (3 or more in my example) then the candidate with the fewest number 1 votes is eliminated from the contest. As an example, if this candidate happens to be F then F's ballot papers are looked at again for the other choices made. If there's a number 2 vote for E then the vote is added to E's pile. This process goes on till a candidate receives more than half the votes.

I will be voting 'YES' but in no way do I think that Christians who vote 'NO' are going against the faith. It is only my view that the principles of Christianity accord well with the theory of distribution inherent in the AV process. Communion is distributed to the congregation just as Jesus did with his disciples. Our faith and belief is meant to be shared, which is another word for 'distribute', with others. Our very existence is meant to be distributive through the giving of ourselves or through our acts. In fact, the Archbishop has said that, 'We shall live lives of selfless generosity, always asking how the gifts given us-material or imaginative or spiritual or whatever-can be shared in a way that brings other people more fully alive'.

The process of reallocating votes in AV is a distributive process of democracy. Everyone's vote will count even if it's a number 2 or 3. If a candidate wins outright on a number 1 vote then he/she still wins with the approval of the majority of voters. Christianity doesn't sit well with monopolies. We don't hog Jesus or the scriptures for our own. The FPTP is a monopoly system which is not based on the majority of the votes cast. AV is inclusive democracy. has prepared a briefing pack. It states that no voting system can claim a scriptural mandate. Ten bishops have backed the 'YES' vote calling it a 'fairer voting system'. The policital think tank, Theos, states that 'the fact that AV will increase the likelihood of hung Parliaments is a positive consequence, as a hung Parliament is a clearer expression of the public's mood today, shifting as it has from two broadly defined and oppositional alternatives to a more complex and plural party system'.

Plurality and diversity are key themes of our modern society. An anachronistic voting system will not allow us to elect politicians that reflect these themes. Although the main political parties do have differences on how to tackle economic issues they have shared beliefs on championing equality, eradicating poverty and introducing progressive measures for society. A more inclusive electoral system will allow for an infusion of political views that could very well change the face of British politics for the better. If change hadn't been made in 1928 women wouldn't have been granted the same voting rights as men. In 1948 the business vote was abolished thereby rendering all voters to be of equal standing. We now have a chance in 2011 to change things.


  1. Good post. I voted Yes - await results with interest.

  2. Dear Nancy,
    Thank you. Counting starts at 4pm today. I am on tenterhooks.