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Electoral systems used in the UK

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Presentation on theme: "Electoral systems used in the UK"— Presentation transcript:

1 Electoral systems used in the UK
Plurality (“First past the Post”; FPTP) in single member constituencies: Used in elections to the UK House of Commons; local elections in England and Wales Proportional representation (PR), based on party lists in multi-member constituencies: Used in elections to the European Parliament in England, Scotland and Wales Additional Member System (AMS; combination of FPTP and PR lists) Used in elections to the Scottish parliament, to the Welsh Assembly and to the London Assembly Single Transferable Vote (STV): Used in Scottish local elections and elections in Northern Ireland; to the NI assembly, European Parliament and local councils

2 And also… Supplementary vote
Used in mayoral elections in England and Wales So quite a few systems in operation, then! In this talk, focus will be on FPTP, AMS –and STV

3 First Past the Post (FPTP)

4 First Past the Post in single member constituencies – advantages:
Clear-cut and easy to understand Easy for the voter (just one cross on ballot paper) Easy to count (no formulas) Usually produces clear majorities – no need for coalitions or minority governments Provides a personal link between constituents and their elected representative

5 First Past the Post in single member constituencies – disadvantages:
Does not provide ‘fair’ results – some parties overrepresented; others underrepresented (possible to get majority of seats with minority of votes, e.g. 1951) Does not give voters a choice of person within their chosen party “Winner takes all” – possible to win seat with much less than 50% of the vote Tends to preserve the monopoly of the established parties – difficult for new parties to break through unless they have geographically concentrated support Encourages adversarial rather than consensual politics? Party activity concentrated to marginal constituencies. Voters in ‘safe seats’ neglected

6 The General Election, 1983

7 The General Election, 2005

8 Inverness, Nairn, & Lochaber, 1992 General Election

9 Additional Member Systems (AMS)* or Mixed Member
Exists, with variations, in several countries, e.g. Germany, New Zealand Consists of two elements: 1. First Past the Post in single-member constituencies 2. Proportional Representation via regional party lists

10 AMS has a number of variations
In some cases the two elements are not linked The proportion of AM to FPTP seats vary The AMs may be distributed at a National or Sub-National level The elector may have one or two votes In Germany, parties need five per cent of the national vote (in the regional list vote) to qualify for parliamentary seats. No such threshold in Scotland Germany has a national corrective, to ensure that the distribution of seats is proportional No such corrective in Scotland

11 Features of the Scheme 73 FPTP Seats (Westminster Seats pre-2005, but Orkney and Shetland divided) 8 ‘Regional’ Constituencies each returning 7 Additional Members

12 Voting Each elector has two votes:
One for a FPTP seat, the first vote… …and one for a ‘Regional’ party list, the second vote Vote-splitting is possible – you can vote for one party with your first vote, and something completely different with your second vote The regional party lists are closed – voters cannot indicate any preference for candidates Thus, any direct personal link between voters and MSPs goes via the first, single member constituency, vote

13 The Ballot Prior to 2007 two pieces of paper 1st for Constituency Vote
2nd for the Regional List 2007 One piece of paper 1st vote for the Regional List 2nd vote for the Constituency


15 Allocation of Regional Additional Members (i.e. 2nd vote seats)
The regional list votes (i.e. 2nd votes) across all the FPTP constituencies in a region are added up Each party’s 2nd votes are then divided by the number of FPTP seats already won +1 (D’Hondt Quota)

16 Allocation of AMs continued
After the division the first AM (i.e. the first list seat) is allocated to the party whose divided vote is highest The 2nd AM is allocated by dividing the 2nd Votes by seats already won, including the 1st Additional Member. The process continues until all seven AMs have been allocated

17 2007 Summary

18 2007 Seats by Type

19 2007 ‘Fair Shares’?

20 Working of the System Conservative MSPs were mostly returned from the regional lists The Labour MSPs were overwhelmingly returned by First Past the Post Labour and the SNP were over-represented.

21 Working of the system continued
Level of female representation went down in 2007

22 Working of the system continued
The Liberal Democrats held the balance of power in the parliament More parties contested the regional lists than FPTP constituencies All four main parties won fewer regional list than FPTP votes, esp. LibDems

23 Working of the system continued
Ticket-Splitting Minor parties gained representation through the regional lists (7 Greens, 6 SSP, 1 Senior Citizens, Margo MacDonald) in 2003 In 2003 two independents elected via FPTP (Dennis Canavan Falkirk W & Jean Turner; Stop Stobhill Hospital Clousure) In 2007 only three, all via regional list votes (2 Greens + Margo MacDonald).

24 Single Transferable Vote (STV)
Voters fill in a ballot paper by marking their ballot paper 1,2,3, and so on, against their preferred individual candidates… …across any party or combination of parties. Winning candidates must obtain a ‘quota’ of support to qualify for one of the seats in a constituency

25 In the STV system, therefore…
…the voter can mix the vote between candidates from different parties… …or concentrate the preferences to one party The rules vary in different countries, but in Scotland the voter can indicate as many preferences as s/he wants; just one or rank all of the candidates on the ballot paper

26 STV is proportional… …but only in terms of candidates, not in terms of parties! The proportionality is on the constituency level, not at the national level The proportionality is also affected by how many seats there are in the constituency – the more seats, the more proportional

27 STV allows… ..a significant extent of personal voting
The direct personal link between voters and their representatives, however, is not as strong as in FPTP, as the STV constituencies have more than one seat By-elections in multi-member constituencies disadvantage smaller parties

28 AMS and STV systems are proportional systems. Advantages:
Votes count (roughly) equal; fewer votes are ‘wasted’ Voters have more parties with a realistic chance of getting elected to choose from Tends to lead to higher turnouts than FPTP systems Usually leads to coalition or minority governments = consensualism

29 Disadvantages with proportional systems:
Weaker links between voters and the elected Often muddled relationship between an election result and the eventual formation of a government. More difficult for voters to hold governments accountable “Hung parliaments” more common Small parties can be disproportionately influential

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