Many people in Australia find it odd that 'optional preferential' voting is not permitted in the UK and more widely.

Have you any objections to it?

I am part of a small minority who think that people should have a possibility of voting for 'no candidate' -- so that if 'no candidate' is elected, the seat remains vacant for a year.

Any thoughts?

Expand full comment

Optional preferential voting isn't something I've thought much about: it would be interesting to work out how often and in what way it would make a difference to the FPTP result. But I suppose there are two different things, aren't there: voting within a traditional single-member constituency; and then having a different system overall to reflect more closely the proportions of votes cast. One of my instinctive shudders about preferential voting is candidates who are "meh": unobjectionable enough to be lots of people's second choice. But I'd need to have a think.

I've no objection in principle to "no candidate", I don't think: in student elections at St Andrews we always had RON (Re-open nominations) as an option on the paper, and it was not my finest hour when, otherwise unopposed, I only beat RON by a margin of two to one. I confess I've not thought about it, and it would be interesting to see if many people voted that way. Increasingly they might.

Expand full comment

RON may be OK in student union elections but to suggest that it be an option in parliamentary elections, on which the formation of a government depends, is irresponsible. What do you do if RON wins a majority of the seats?

Re your comment on preferential voting, the "meh" candidate can only win in a single seat constituency after allocation of second preferences if they are sufficiently highly placed after counting first preferences, most likely in first or second place. So a significant number of people will have expressed a strong preference for the candidate you find "meh".

Expand full comment

Thanks for your comment, and for the Ideas Lab.

We had a re-open nominations option at University of Queensland Union elections in the 1970s (called 'No Candidate'), but your mention of the practice at St Andrews was the only other instance I'd heard of -- searching under the term 'RON' revealed that it occurs elsewhere -- Edinburgh, Warwick, Derby.

So -- now I am of the opinion that RON and optional preferential voting are a matter of justice in places like Oz where there is compulsory voting.

Expand full comment