British Government Promises Voting Reform Referendum

Feb. 2, 2010, midnight

Prime Minister Gordon BROWN this week said his government will propose legislation authorizing a referendum on the British electoral system. If the House of Commons agrees, the vote would be in October 2011, well after Parliamentary elections that are due by June 2010. The proposed Alternative Vote system (AV), also known as Instant Runoff Voting, would preserve single-seat constituencies and have voters rank choices in order of preference. Opponents have variously criticized the proposal as a move to buy Liberal Democrats' support for a minority government and an attempt to change the voting system in anticipation of election defeat. One study, however, indicates that AV's ultimate beneficiary would be unclear, and another claims the Conservative Party is most likely to benefit. Britain's Electoral Reform Society has publicly endorsed the possible referendum as "a stepping stone" to farther reaching change.

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