Yes or No? Time to decide as the voting referendum day draws closer

Amber Rudd at the launch of the No campaign
Amber Rudd at the launch of the No campaign

THE campaigns for and against changing the voting system cranked into top gear this week with the referendum just two days away.

On Thursday, May 5, voters will be asked whether they want to stick with the current First Past The Post system or switch to the Alternative Vote (AV) where candidates are ranked in order of preference.

The giant Yes on Hastings beach

The giant Yes on Hastings beach

The argument between the Yes and No campaigns has become more and more bitter over recent weeks with mudslinging from both camps, but with many voters still undecided both sides feel there is still all to play for.

Amber Rudd MP has been leading the local No campaign with a series of public events including an eye-catching launch - in front of a giant “No” - outside the town hall.

She said: “I am encouraging residents to make sure that their voices are heard, and that they vote No.

“AV would do none of the things the Yes campaign claims – it would simply complicate an existing system that is clear, fair and transparent.

“The alternative is complex, costly and confusing.

“Let’s stick to a system that everybody understands, where we have one vote per person,” she added.

But the Yes campaign has also been out in force. Last Thursday volunteers descended on train stations across 1066 Country to hand out flyers to commuters, and at the weekend supporters spelled out a massive “Yes” on Hastings beach.

Gavin Barrass, of the Yes campaign said: “We need an updated voting system which responds to the needs of voters correcting the faults but keeps the strengths of our current system.

“The Alternative Vote makes sure that elected MPs really do represent their constituents and that Parliament can really claim the support of the majority.

“The referendum is our opportunity to put power back into the hands of the people.”

While many towns will be holding council elections on the same day as the referendum, Hastings is not leading to fears that turnout here will be very low.

Polling stations will be open between 7am and 10pm on Thursday and although it is helpful for voters to take along their polling card, it is not needed to vote.

Everyone registered to vote should have received information about where their nearest polling station is - if not call 01424 451087.

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THE AV FACTFILE:

AT the moment MPs are elected by the First Past The Post (FPTP) system. Voters choose the one person they would like to represent them and the candidate with the most votes is declared the winner.

Under the Alternative Vote (AV), candidates would need to win 50 per cent of the votes cast. Voters would be able (but not forced) to rank the candidates in the order they would prefer them - 1,2,3 etc.

The ‘1’ votes would then be counted up and if a candidate had won more than half, they would be declared the winner.

If not, the candidate in last place would be eliminated, and the other preferences of voters who plumped for the losing candidate would be redistributed.

This continues until someone reaches the magical 50 per cent mark, and they would then be declared the winner.

Visit www.aboutmyvote.co.uk to find out more about the proposed changes.

r While the Conservatives and The British National Party (BNP) are against the change, the Liberal Democrats, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and the Green Party are in favour.

r The Labour Party is allowing its members a free vote on the issue, but both campaigns stress this decision is much more important than a party political squabble.

Both sides have been wheeling out celebrity supporters. The Yes campaign boasts Colin Firth, Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley, while the No campaign can call on Professor Robert Winston, and cricketers Darren Gough and David Gower.