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Britain holds referendum on voting system

05-06-2011 08:51 BJT

LONDON, May 5 (Xinhua) -- British voters went to the polls on Thursday to decide whether they want to replace the first-past-the-post system with an alternative vote.

Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron, leaves after casting his vote at Methodist Central
Hall in London May 5, 2011. Britons voted on Thursday in a referendum on electoral reform
that has split the year-old coalition government and raised doubts about whether the
partnership will last. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Under the first-past-the-post voting system, the candidate who gets the most votes in his constituency is elected to parliament, no matter whether the total passes 50 percent or not. The alternative vote asks voters to rank candidates in order of preference.

According to the AV voting system, people can nominate as many preferences as they like. Only first preference votes are counted initially. Anyone getting more than 50 percent is elected automatically.

A couple leave a polling station after casting their ballot in London, the United Kingdom,
May 5, 2011. Voters in the UK are expected to go to polling stations Thursday for a
referendum to decide whether to replace the current first-past-the-post system in the
parliament elections with an Alternative Vote (AV) system, where voters list their
preferences on the ballot paper and the one polling the least is eliminated and their votes
redistributed until one party gets a majority of votes cast, which is advocated by the
Liberal Democratic Party in the coalition government but strongly opposed by the
Conservative Party. (Xinhua/Zeng Yi)

If that doesn't happen, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their second choices allocated to the remaining candidates in a second round of counting.

Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement that "today's referendum is massively important for Britain."

"Nothing less than the way our democracy works is on the line. First Past the Post has worked for generations," Cameron said. "It is simple to understand, gives each person an equal voice and lets the people kick out governments they don't like. We cannot give all this up."

A Guardian/ICM poll shows that support for the No to AV campaign has grown in the past week. The latest survey found that 68 percent of respondents were opposed to AV, while 32 percent supported it.

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