Bad arguments against voting Yes: Misleading maps

By Symon Hill
April 20, 2011

If you’ve received a leaflet from the ‘No to AV’ campaign, you may have noticed a map showing that only three countries use the Alternative Vote system. But there are lots of things the map does not show.

The rightness or wrongness of AV does not depend on how many countries use it. Nonetheless, I admit that the experience of other countries is relevant to the debate.

However, the map is just one of many misleading items to feature in the leaflet. While it accurately depicts the countries that back AV, it fails to tell us how many use First-Past-the-Post (FPTP).

Many thanks to James Elford, who contacted me via Twitter to send me a link to a more detailed map. This one shows that FPTP is used by only a few more countries than AV. You can see it at

I admit I haven’t examined this map in detail or checked its categorisation of each country’s electoral system. But I accept its general point about the misleading nature of the map used by the No campaign.

A yet more detailed map would show us how many more countries use forms of proportional representation. I would much rather have a proportional system than either FPTP or AV. But the referendum is not asking us whether we want AV. It is asking us to choose between AV and FPTP. This is a very different question.

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