Thursday, 21 April 2011

There's An Election Acomin'

Posting of Elections, Guildhall, Bath

 It's election time here in the UK. Elections to the National Assembly are taking place in Wales. Northern Ireland will be electing officials to both the Northern Ireland Assembly and to local councils. Scotland will be electing members to the Scottish Parliament. Here in England the elections are local. You could think of it as elections to the city or town councils in the States. These are the people who decide such things as zoning, traffic patterns, rubbish collection, parking allocation, and rents on city-held properties. Folks here in Bath are far more aware of their local representatives than in any place I have lived in the U.S. Both the Lib Dems and the Conservatives are hoping for high turnouts across the UK because there is one more very important issue at stake. 

The British are being asked if they want to change the way they elect Ministers to Parliament. That's not quite true. They're being asked if they want to go from electing Ministers in a first-past-the post-system to an alternative vote system. In the current system (fptps) the party which receives the most votes in any constituency gets that constituency's seat in Parliament. Since this is a country of three major parties and many minor ones, a party that received 30% of the vote could feasibly take the seat. Under the proposed system, each voter would be allowed to rank the parties in order of their preference. The party with the least votes in round 1 would be dropped. Then second choices would be added to the first choices until one party had made up 50% of the vote. Confused? You can read more here. I have more luck explaining these two systems to Americans than I ever had the American system to the British. There's a reason for that. The British are very smart. They value their votes. They do not understand a system in which the whole country could vote for one candidate and another candidate could still end up in office.

 I did try to get a photo of a 'No' sign, but one can only point their camera at people's windows so many times before the locals get twitchy.

A bench outside Bath's Guildhall.

I'm off to the States in a few days. I wonder what I'll find there. In the meantime, I'm packing. I'll annotate my packing list for you.

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