Commons OKs Voting Reform Referendum

Feb. 10, 2010, midnight

Members of Parliament on Tuesday approved legislation to hold an electoral reform referendum by October 2011. The bill passed the Commons by 365 to 187 votes. It must now pass the House of Lords before the present Parliament expires. The referendum will ask voters whether first-past-the-post elections should be replaced with the alternative vote (AV), also known as instant runoff voting (IRV). Under AV, candidates must win by majorities, and voters are asked to rank choices. Critics say Prime Minster Gordon BROWN'S Labour-led government wants to solicit Liberal Democrats' support for a minority government in anticipation of a difficult election this spring. Britain's Electoral Reform Society calls AV a "very minor reform," noting that New Labour promised a referendum on proportional representation (PR) in 1997. The Commons earlier rejected 476-69 a Liberal Democratic Member's amendment calling for a referendum on PR sooner than October 2011.

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