An argument that has often been wrongly levelled at AV by both the official No campaign & various Conservative & some Labour politicians is that it allows some voters to vote multiple times. The most recent MP to voice it is David Blunkett, one of the Labour figures who have joined the frontline of the No2AV campaign. If taken at face value it appears to be a strong point & something that anyone who believes in “one man, one vote” would find appalling. The truth is those that spread this myth are either misreading what AV (or Instant Run-Off Voting as it’s also called) is all about or are deliberately misrepresenting it in a bid to see of what would be a great improvement on the current flawed system.
The blog for Fairer Votes Edinburgh features a great explanation of how AV works, with the focus on showing that voters don’t get to have more than one vote at all. It also shows what a sensible approach AV is for electing our MPs in single-seat constituencies, making sure the winner receives at least half of the total votes without the need for voters to have to keep returning to polling stations to vote again as lowest ranked candidates are eliminated-
The Alternative Vote … attempts to mimic a series of elections or run offs. In each run off the candidate with the lowest support is eliminated. You could do this by having a number of actual elections and each time a candidate is eliminated everyone votes again. This would be time consuming and cumbersome and expensive, particularly in seats like Edinburgh North and Leith, with up to a dozen candidates. Alternative Vote or Instant Run-Off Voting gets round this by asking voters to rank their choices. Their vote is a contingent vote. It depends on who stays in the race and who gets knocked out.
When you vote using the Alternative Vote method the preference system is a way of asking you a question. The question is “If your favorite candidate is eliminated and we had the election again, who would you vote for?” For most people the answer will be “My candidate wasn’t eliminated so I would continue to vote for them.” Voters, whose first choice candidate is knocked out, don’t get a second vote. They get to pick who they transfer their vote to as if we had re-run the election but without their 1st preference candidate.
The bottom line is this- if the candidate you gave your 1st preference to is eliminated, you don’t vote again, your vote is simply transferred to whoever you gave your 2nd preference to, & so on. It’s as if that candidate & his/her votes are removed & the count is instantly run again with those votes redistributed to their 2nd choices. If the candidate you give your 1st preference to stays in the count through to the last round, it means you have effectively voted for them in each round of the count because they’ve been available for you to still vote for at each stage of the run-off. You can read the full piece that explains it all very well here- “Vote Early, Vote Often”