Electoral Systems


First Past the Post (FPTP)

  • Plurality system
  • Used in general elections
  • Fixed-term parliaments ensure elections every 5 years except in cases when two-thirds of parliament agree it should be dissolved earlier
  • Each constituency has a similar amount of people in it, around 70,000
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First Past the Post Advantages

  • Easy to use
  • Result is gathered quite quickly allowing for a quick transition of power
  • Popular, 68% wanted to keep it when asked if it should change.
  • Promotes two-party system which gives people a clear choice and gives the government a clear and decisive majority 
  • Excludes extremist parties as it under-represents them
  • Gives a strong link between the constituencies and their MP as only they are responsible for them and they hold constituencies and receive correspondence from the constituents allowing them to have a strong link with their mp and therefore government.
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First Past the Post Disadvantages

  • MP's and goverments tend to be elected on less than 50% of the vote, this is because they do not need an overall majorty but just more than the second place candidate
  • Reguarlly elects goverments on a minority of the popular vote weakining the mandate of the winning party especially due to the low turnout, so the system lacks legitmacy
  • Does not translate the amount of votes into seats accurately and favours partys that have a more concetrated vote 
  • Votes have unequal value depending on where you go in the UK 
  • Things like safe seats turn people off participating in politicas and encourage tactical voting
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Additional Member System (AMS)

  • Used in the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Greater London Assembly 
  • A compromise between FPTP and party lists
  • Uses a list of people who want to be constituent MPs and a list of people who want to sit in parliament.
  • The first list is calculated first and the winner is declared despite not necessarily having the most votes
  • The second list is then calculated and additional members are added to the parties' previous result to represent the way the country voted.
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Additional Member System Advantages

  • Is more representative than FPTP
  • The FPTP system remains to keep the strong link between constituency and member
  • Electors have more choice and can have a split ballot
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Additional Member System Disadvantages

  • Creates two different types of member - some with constituency responsibilities and some without
  • The party agrees on the list meaning dissident members maybe discounted form being elected
  • Smaller parties achieve less representation than in a fully representational system
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Single Transferable Vote (STV)

  • Used in NI Assembly, European Parliament elections in NI, Scottish council elections
  • There is a quota that needs to be achieved, each ballot paper allows people to rank their choices from 1 onwards if the quota is not filled the lowest scoring member is discounted and those people's second choices are counted this is repeated until thew quota is filled 
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Single Transferable Vote Advantages

  • There is a close correlation between votes and seats
  • Higher voter choice
  • In NI it has resulted in a power-sharing government that balances out the two different sides of unionists and nationalists ending the 30-year feud.
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Single Transferable Vote Disadvantages

  • It is not fully proportional, particularly in smaller constituency areas 
  • IN large multi-member areas the link between members and voters may be weak
  • Although can support powersharing governments but are still prone to conflict 
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Supplementary Vote (SV)

  • Used in London Mayoral elections, Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales
  • Each voter is allowed a first and a second preference vote
  • Any candidate that gains over 50% of the vote is elected automatically 
  • If this does not occur, all except the top two are eliminated. The second preference votes for these two candidates are now added to produce one overall winner.
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Supplementary Vote Advantages

  • It ensures broad support for the winner
  • It is relatively easy and simple to use
  • It has allowed for some independent candidates to win
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Supplementary Vote Disadvantages

  • It is not proportional
  • The winner does not need to get an absolute majority of the votes cast
  • Voters need to be able to identify the likely top two candidates in order to have influence over the outcome and this is not always clear
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Case Study - Comparison Between FPTP and STV

  • STV is the preferred system of the Electoral Reform Society
  • Results in a fair result, which gives equal value to everybody's votes - STV translates votes into seats more fairly, this helps smaller parties and gets rid of tactical voting.
  • Gives a wider choice - allows people to pick more than one candidate from the same party to create multi-member constituencies but may result in 'Donkey Voting'
  • Effective link between constituency and representatives - weaker under STV especially in underpopulated multi-member constituencies which are quite large but the absence of safe seats means representatives work harder for votes as they have to address the issues across the whole constituency. 
  • Creates a strong government that is also held to account - votes take longer to count and coalition is more likely and mandate is decided after voting happens meaning it may deviate from manifesto. Can occur under FPTP but more likely under STV
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