Here in Scotland it's a big day tomorrow. We don't just have a referendum to respond to, but elections for the Scottish Parliament.
It's a bit odd that the referendum on AV is coupled with an electoral process for electing the Scottish Parliament which is much more "progressive" (a word that Mr Cartside used and which of course contains a value judgement).
Coming from a country where proportional representation is supported by everyone as a fairer system, I am biased towards proportional representation. Personally, I think AV is half baked, but a tad better than FPtP, so I'll vote yes.
However, I also see FPtP as a very British institution. The UK is maybe the oldest democracy in the Western World, and has a great tradition of governance. FPtP is part of this and I can understand that it's cherished and rightly so. It is maybe part of the British identity, national pride even. This is a country where democratic principles can live alongside a strong monarchy. I'm no monarchist, in fact, I absolutely loathe the principle, but I also admire Britain for the ability to pull it off and get the whole world to love and adore the newly wed couple. And of course, Britain does not have the same history as Germany; which is why the country as such is able to trust an electoral system and governmental design which could be abused (but never has been).
So I'm easy in relation to the referendum. To me, AV is a slightly fairer version of FPtP. It is no real departure, just a variation. The Scottish Parliament election, to me, are more of a compromise, by marrying FPtP and PR.
Some years ago, I taught undergraduates all about the German political system, and about the Scottish electoral system too - it was the time between Referendum for a Scottish Parliament its first election and the first term. Exciting times. However, none of the undergraduates knew that there was an element of PR in the Scottish Parliament elections.
Therein lies the problem. If the electorate doesn't know how to play the PR system, it's potential is wasted. I hope that tomorrow, people know that they have two votes, and two opportunities to create a parliament for Scotland. As for my constituency, Labour and SNP are the two constituency candidates that are head to head. So with my first vote, I'll be voting for the party I wish to see leading the country. With my second vote, however, I will take the opportunity to support a smaller party in the hope that they will get enough votes to maybe even form a coalition with the winner of the elections, thus making a real difference to Scottish politics.
Truth be told, I'm more excited about the Scottish elections than the referendum. Which actually, isn't that surprising at all. As ever, we'll be making a family event out of it, with all four of us walking to the polling station, and no doubt meeting our canvassing neighbour there.