Polling station staff not allowed to advise voters on referendum

POLLING station staff will not be able to explain the referendum details tomorrow, so here is an independent look at the Alternative Vote.

Horsham district voters are not only electing their district councillors tomorrow, but also taking part in a landmark referendum to decide whether the voting system for electing MPs should be changed.

Members of Parliament are currently elected using First Past the Post (FPTP), which means the person with the most votes wins the seat.

The referendum asks people whether they would like to see it changed to the Alternative Vote (AV).

Under this system voters use numbers to rank the candidates in order of preference putting 1 next to the first preference, 2 next to the second choice, 3 next to the third, and so on.

People can choose how many candidates they wish to rank. If they prefer, they can rank just one candidate and leave the other boxes blank.

In order to win, a candidate must have the support of 50 per cent of the electorate, whether that be as their first or last preference.

Initially everyone’s first preference vote is counted. If one candidate comes out with 50 per cent of the votes, they are elected.

If not, then the person with the fewest votes is eliminated and the ballot papers are re-allocated using voters’ second preferences (or third preference if their second choice has been eliminated).

If there is still no winner, again the person with the least votes goes out of the competition, but this time voters’ third preferences are counted.

This process continues until one candidate has more than half the votes or there are no more votes to be distributed.

The FPTP system will still be used for electing councillors in local elections.

A spokesperson for Horsham’s returning officer said that polling station staff were not allowed to explain the referendum to voters on election day. They will only be able to give voters a telephone number and website address where they can find more information.

For more information on AV and FPTP go to the Electoral Commission’s website www.aboutmyvote.co.uk