The Brits...No Diebold!

Britain's opposition Conservatives got more votes than either Labour or the Liberal Democrats in the UK's parliamentary elections yesterday, although those two left-wing parties together got well over half of all votes cast, leading to speculation that Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg will lead his party to form a ruling coalition with Labour's Gordon Brown, keeping Brown in the position of Prime Minister.

During the campaign, Clegg had advocated changing Britain's electoral system from one where local people vote for the local party that will present its candidate to Parliament, to a more standard proportional representation system where local votes are replaced with a nationwide vote, with each party getting a number of seats in parliament in proportion to the percentage of the national vote it got.

Clegg also said that he'd give whichever party got the most votes would be the first he'd work with, and right after the election results were in, he reached out to the Conservative's David Cameron implying that if Cameron would embrace his proportional representation changes, he'd support Cameron for Prime Minister.

The Conservatives, however, don't support these changes - and neither does Labour. Which will make the next few months very interesting as kingmaker Clegg keeps pushing for this.

The entire nationwide vote, by the way, was done on paper. No voting machines in the United Kingdom. No Diebold. No Kathleen Harrises or Ken Blackwell.

And television advertisements for candidates or parties are banned in the UK, so the election lasted only a few weeks and very little money was spent on it.

We could learn some lessons from the Brits.


nigelpeacock's picture
nigelpeacock 14 years 7 weeks ago

The way conversations are going between the political parties hhere in the UK (where I am), it may well not be the Liberal Democrats joining with Gordon Brown and the Labour Party.

The current buzz, is that Nick Clegg (Lib Dem) doesn't want to work with Labour, who lost a huge number of seats last night. Clegg and Camerson (Conservatives) are due to talk around now to discuss possibilities.

In the UK, it isn't all over yet and despite the meetings, it could go either way. What the voters want however, is for it to be decided quickly and not drag on for days.

Timmid1's picture
Timmid1 14 years 7 weeks ago

Thom, I keep hearing you say that in the UK voters vote for a party, and the winning party then appoints a member of parliament. Not so. In the UK the ballots look very similar to paper ballots here in the USA. There is a list of names of actual candidates on the ballot and people vote for a candidate, not a party. (If a candidate is affiliated with a particular party then the name of the party appears below the name of the candidate -- see a sample here: )

making progress's picture
making progress 14 years 6 weeks ago

EXIT POLLS - By Karl Rove

From yesterday's Washington Post.

Let's get rid of exit polls. I hate 'em.
On Election Day, the news media endows exit polls -- surveys asking people whom they voted for and why -- with false scientific precision. And their early release often generates off-base projections and misleading coverage, which can affect the contests themselves.

Remember 2000? Early exit poll numbers released midday on Election Day showed George W. Bush tied with Al Gore in Mississippi, Colorado, Arizona and Alaska, and had Bush losing Florida. It was virtually impossible for Bush to prevail without Florida, yet those early poll results encouraged commentators to put the state into Gore's column as early as 7:48 p.m., while voting continued in the Florida panhandle.

This affected turnout. The 24 states where polls closed after 8:30 p.m. Eastern time saw turnout rise by 2.3 percent over the 1996 election. But in the 26 states and the District of Columbia where polls closed before 8:30, turnout increased 2.9 points over 1996. This meant that more than 400,000 voters stayed home in the central and western United States, most of them likely Bush voters. This potentially affected New Mexico (which Gore won by 366 votes) and Oregon (where he won by 6,765).

The exit polls colored the night's coverage. For example, CNN's Bernard Shaw declared Georgia and Virginia "too close to call," even though Bush ended up winning the former by 12 points and the latter by eight points.

In 2004, things were even worse. Early exit polls had Bush losing Ohio and North Carolina and dead even in Florida, Arizona, Colorado, South Carolina and Mississippi -- all states where he prevailed. Again, the polls affected the coverage, with the media reluctant to award Ohio to Bush, though he won it by nearly 120,000 votes.

On election nights, networks feel pressure to display early exit poll numbers in snazzy graphics to explain what groups are breaking what way. But these numbers almost always differ from the final version of the exit polls, after gurus crunch the data during the evening.

If America must have exit polls, then let's not add up the numbers until the voting ends -- and let's break our addiction to these polls over actual returns.

Karl Rove is the former senior adviser to President George W. Bush.

elhypnotoad's picture
elhypnotoad 14 years 6 weeks ago

It's true about the ballots. I voted last week in Bristol, UK. I went into my local library, made a single x (in pencil!) next to a candidates name, and put it in a box, which was then hand counted. This link between MP and their constituency is one of the things opponents of Proportional Representation claim as a drawback, when actually the Single Transferrable Vote system proposed by the Lib Dems involves multi-member constituencies. This would basically mean that adjacent areas would be expanded so that each larger constituency controls 3-5 MPs, and the vote for that area would be proportionally assigned. As long as these larger constituencies are roughly equal in size, this would result in a far more representative system - and of course far more seats for the Lib Dems (about 4x what they actually received last friday). The Tories believe (quite rightly) that a change to PR could keep them out of power for a generation, as a coalition of labour and lib dem would be difficult to match electorally, so they've ruled out a referendum on that.

Now a few hours ago, as Gordon Brown announced his resignation, and the lib dems announced they were starting talks with labour, the Conservatives finally caved in and at least offered a referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV) which would keep the current constituencies but allow people to rank candidates in order of preference. This to me would at least stop the "wasted vote" mentality that has propped up the two-party system for so long, but the injustices remain. I along with many people, voted "tactically" for a hung parliament simply so that we could get some election reform on the table. Anything less than a referendum and a lot of people will be let down...

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