However, as we argue in our latest report – Counting on reform: Understanding the AV referendum – we can’t decide between these two systems simply by objectively adjudicating between comparative examples, statistics or electoral predictions. Rather, we have to ask ourselves, how do we expect democracy to do its core work of both legitimating and holding political authority to account? When cast in this light, we see that the referendum debate has become a cipher for the ongoing contest between two different visions of democracy.Do we elect people in order to create a socially reflective public assembly, an institution where all interests and groups are represented? Or are we looking to pick the right team – the senior ministers of government – who are then free to make decisions in what they think is the public interest. Alternatively, do we think that good government emerges from a constantly negotiated consensus of interests, or from giving a government a mandate to lead according to a defined mission and purpose, over which the public can stand in judgement at the next election, and – if they so choose – judge harshly and eject the government in question?Our answers to these questions rest on assumptions – albeit not unreasoned ones – about what a good democracy looks like. So when you come to cast your vote, the real question is not ‘to AV or not to AV?’. Rather, it is ‘which vision of democracy is the more realistic, the more convincing and the more satisfying?’
This, I think, is why the #yestoAV and #notoAV campaigns are continually arguing past each other.