Electoral System Notes

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  • Created on: 05-12-12 15:04
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Electoral systems
1. Majority Systems
Aim to ensure that the wining candidate achieves more than 50% of the votes cast in a
constituency, there are three main types.
Supplementary Vote System
Voters have only 2 preference votes.
Candidates win by gaining 50%+ of the vote
If no candidate wins 50%+ in the first ballot only 2 candidates are left in the ballot the 2
with the highest first preferences.
The second preferences from the first ballot are redistributed.
Second preferences from the eliminated candidates are discarded and those for the
2 remaining candidates added to their total.
Which ever candidate has the greatest number of votes wins the seat.
Majority systems do not ensure that the election result reflects the proportion of votes caste for
each party in a general election. However they ensure that the candidate does enjoy majority
support in the constituency.
2. Proportional Representation
Proportional Representation systems do not work in single member constituencies as used
in the plurality and majority systems. In fact the larger the number of voters, the better.
Supporters of PR consider the whole country should be divided into multi member
constituencies and voters vote for their party not candidate of choice.
The aims are to
have seats that reflect the relative support for the party across the country as
accurately as possible.
Provide voters with real choice between parties and candidates.
List Systems
Helps achieve the first aim as seats are allocated to parties on the basis of the
number of votes caste.
Candidates gain seats in proportion to the party's vote starting from the top of the
In closed list systems voters have no say in the order of the list. This is the system
used for European Parliamentary elections on the UK mainland.
In open list systems voters can identify individuals and indicate their preferences
and these are taken into consideration when allocating seats. Used in Italy and
Single Transferable Vote (STV)
Helps to achieve the second aim as votes are given to candidates not parties.
The country is divided into multi member constituencies.

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Parties provide as many candidates as there seats
Voters crank all candidates in order of preference or just 1 or 2 candidates if they wish.
Seats are allocated according to a quota system
Q = Number of votes cast + 1
Number of seats in the constituency +1
If a candidate achieves the quota on the first preferences that person is elected.
If receives more than the quota the second preferences are redistributed proportionally
to other candidates.…read more

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The FPTP system is grossly unfair if it fails to markedly under represent the number of
seats gained compared to votes cast. E.g. in 1997 the Conservatives gained 17.5% of
the vote in Scotland and had no seats!
A majority government would more represent public opinion as it would enjoy over
50% support.
PR would overcome geographical bias which at present favours the Conservatives in
the South and Labour in the North.
The more proportional the system the more every vote counts equally.…read more


Old Sir

A useful outline of the principle systems in use in liberal democracies outside the UK. Could form a good starting point for further reading.

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