AV poll referendum battle lines drawn

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SOUTH Yorkshire MPs are split on whether to introduce AV - with the majority, including former Home Sceretary David Blunkett, against the idea but several prominent names including Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband backing change.

The position appears to be reflected among the general public with latest opinion polls showing the ‘No’ campaign has a lead with 55 per cent support, compared with 45 per cent saying they would vote ‘Yes’ to the new system.

The main arguments of the ‘Yes to AV’ campaign are that barely one in three of MPs are elected by a majority - over 50 per cent - of voters in their constituency. Supporters say the system is easy to understand and widely used, from electing the Speaker of the House of Commons to deciding who wins the Oscars. Supporters say its introduction in parliamentary elections would also end the practice of ‘tactical voting’ where if people’s preferred candidate has no chance of winning, they vote for candidates they may not actually like - to prevent someone they like even less from being elected.

They add that the system also prevents extremists from being elected because candidates must have 50 per cent of votes to win a seat. But those against change point out it will cost £250 million to implement at a time of cuts to public services, and that councils would have to waste money on costly electronic vote counting machines and expensive voter education campaigns.

‘No’ campaigners believe the winner should be the candidate who has the most votes - whereas AV could see second and third-choice candidates being elected, their support having been topped-up with second, third or even fourth-preference votes from supporters of other candidates.

Opponents say it is unfair that voters who choose candidates who only attract limited support should have their votes counted twice, which would happen under AV when their other choices are taken into account.

They point out that AV is used by just three countries - Fiji, Australia and Papua New Guinea - and would lead to ‘more hung parliaments, backroom deals and broken promises’.