All voting systems have their flaws. The Alternative Vote, while far from my favourite voting system, has flaws that are considerably more to my taste than the system we have at the moment. At heart, it attempts to reflect that people can, and do, like more than one option in a list, and really do have degrees of preference. Life is based on grey scales rather than absolute black-and-white decisions; so should be our politics.
If you like exactly one political party and dislike all other parties equally, the current system is fine. If you recognise that all candidates - and all parties - have pros and cons to differing extents, the proposed AV system is better. If you want to be able to express a preference for your favourite party above all others, but also express a preference for your second least favourite party over your least favourite party, by far the best way to make the change happen is to vote YES on Thursday 5th May. Please take the time and effort to go out and do so.
The campaigning has been depressing so far. So far the "no" campaign has made claims that I consider misleading at worst and annoying at best; the "yes" campaign has not caught people's attention and has spent its time arguing against the case made by the "no" campaign. Too much time has been spent trying to associate "yes" and "no" with particular politicians and particular parties, when there unfortunately aren't actually any significantly popular politicians in the UK at the moment. I haven't yet seen a "Vote YES to get all of them out!" campaign, which might do quite well. Hey, voting no certainly isn't going to get all of them out...
In practice, the case for "yes" seems to have been made around "AV isn't ((some negative adjective or other))", which is not the sort of way to get people interested and excited. I've tried to give positive reasons for the change I want to see. I'm happy to rebut the arguments against in the comments, if you like, but I view AV as a change for the better first and foremost and "not actually a change for the worse" only incidentally.
There's also a lot of campaigning, mostly unofficially, taking the form "give ((some party or some politician)) a bloody nose, vote ((one way or the other))", which is also really grubby on both sides. It's really not possible to say what the effects of AV would be in practice; there have been competing analyses suggesting AV favours and disfavours each of the large parties separately. That said, on the face of it, AV would seem to do better than the current system at treating relatively small political operations equally with larger ones, and would also tend to disfavour parties with extreme positions. Even if you have a strong partisan preference, this really is an issue where you have to vote based on this issue in particular, not what it might or might not do for your party, and I think that's the way it should be.
For me, the most important reason to vote "yes" is that a "no" vote will be taken, rightly or wrongly, as a statement that the UK people have no interest in electoral and political reform. Of course I want the government to get on with the act of governing the country, but I don't feel that enough time, effort and money is spent at the moment on thinking and acting about the systems in place and whether they are the most appropriate ones for us for now. The beneficiaries of the current system (that is, whoever's in power, regardless of which party they are) have every incentive to make changes that will benefit them, rather than changes that will benefit the country. A vote for "yes", as well as bringing about some degree of improvement in one particular voting practice, would reflect that the people of the UK care about how political decisions are taken, as well as what decisions are taken.
Please redirect any comments here, using OpenID or (identified, ideally) anonymous posting; there are comments to the post already. Thank you!