The polls are open across Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Lewisham and Croydon for the referendum on the Alternative Voting system. Visits to the polls early this morning suggested a slow start with only a few lone voters visiting polling stations in Hackney. However polling officers suggested that improving weather could bring in an increasing turnout throughout the day. An opinion poll published by the London Evening Standard yesterday suggested the No vote was ahead which was the pattern of national surveys over the past week.
In Westminster, the Prime Minister, David Cameron cast his vote and this morning national newspapers were reminding voters that the coalition government was split on the issue of the future of the country’s electoral system. Liberal Democrats in the government, including the Deputy Prime-Minister Nick Clegg are overwhelmingly in favour of the Alternative Vote, which is a preferential rather than first past the post system.
Voters have the following question on their ballot papers: ‘At present, the UK uses the ‘first past the post’ system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the ‘alternative vote’ system be used instead?’
Under AV, if nobody gets a majority in the first count, the person with the least votes is eliminated and their second preference votes (or third preferences if they were the second choice of someone who voted for the first candidate to be eliminated) are redistributed to all remaining candidates. This continues until one candidate has 50 per cent or more of the vote.
If more people vote ‘yes’ than ‘no’ the ‘alternative vote’ system will be used for future elections to the House of Commons.
East London Lines reporters say that in Croydon and Tower Hamlets the turn-out was being described as ‘average for a referendum.’ However, this is the first referendum in Britain since 1975 when the country had to decide on its membership of the European Common Market which became the European Union.