Electoral Systems

Covers some of the Electoral Systems used in the UK including advantages and disadvantages.

  • First Past the Post
  • Single Transferable Vote
  • Additional Member System
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First Past the Post (FPTP)

650 Constituencies (areas) in the UK - 2010 election

Each area has a representative (Member of Parliament (MP)) in the House of Commons

Voters given choice of candidate and chose the candidate that best represents their constituency - one vote per person

Most candidates belong to a party or are independant.

Candidate with the most votes in an area becomes the representative of the constituency - They have won the seat.

They then sit in the House of Commons. The party with the most seats in the house of commons forms the government.

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UK general elections

Usually end up with:

  • Large majorities
  • Coalitions are unecessary
  • One party can rule alone
  • Large majorities can pass nearly any policy it likes
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FPTP Advantages

  • Clear and Decisive, one party tends to have a majority. Since 1922: 19/23 elections have led to majorities.
  • Clear mandate to govern due to large majorities. Public appears to have endorsed manifesto.
  • Often leads to a strong government because weeks do not have to be spent negotiating coalitions.
  • Constituency link. The electorate have an MP who they can contact about issues rather than have to try and contact Parliament .
  • Simple, cheap & part of tradition - too expensive & complicated to change.
  • Extremist parties do not get elected, unlikely to get enough concentrated support to win seats.
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FPTP Disadvantages

  • Disproportional - 2005 - Labour's majority of 65 achieved with 35%
  • Unfair and Undemocratic, electorate not getting what they have voted for.
  • Wasted Votes due to safe seats & marginal constituencies
  • Differential voting values - 2005: Labour seat = 29,000 votes. Lib Dem seat = 97,000 votes.
  • Third Party Squeeze. Led to the Liberal Democrats being the 3rd largest party despite huge amounts of support. 1997 - 17% Vote but only 7% Seats
  • Too little choice - due to 2 party system - Labour or Conservative this leads to adversial politics
  • Tactical voting takes place
  • Other countries are all moving away from FPTP - New Zealand have adopted a more proportional system.
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Single Transferable Vote (STV)

Proportional system

There are multi-member constituencies with more than one representative per consistuency.

Each candidate must meet a quota - a certain number of votes - the number of votes to be reached is determined but a special formula.

If quota not filled, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated.

Votes are then redistrubuted according to 2nd preference

This process continues until all seats are filled.

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Used in Northern Ireland for local, devolved and european elections.

This way was adopted due to religious divide as it allows all point of views to be expressed.

Normally end up with a multi party system and a coalition government.

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STV Advantages

  • A lot of choice within parties and between them
  • Constituency link - More likely to have one that holds the same views as you do - Northern Ireland has about 6 seats per constituency and so 6 different candidates.
  • Fairly proportional
  • Fairer to smaller parties
  • Good for democracy - Coalitions stop one party from dominating.
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STV Disadvantages

  • Complicated, expensive & time consuming - Lots of redistributing votes and waiting for someone to achieve quota.
  • Coalitions often lead to weak government - have to work together to come to agreements over policies and actions - lots of different viewpoints means lots of squabbles - N.I. parliament has often stumbled from crisis to crisis.
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Additional Member System (AMS)

Majoritarian & Proportional. HYBRID!

A certain proportion of the seats are allocated through FPTP

Rest of seats are allocated through Party List

Electorate has 2 votes each : 1 x Local Rep. 1 x Party

Wales = 2/3rds FPTP 1/3rd Proportional Representation

Scotland = 55% FPTP 45% PR

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Used in Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Germany

Coalition Governments are common as a result of AMS

Proportional "top-up" balances the unfairness of FPTP.

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AMS Advantages

  • PR top-up offsets disproportional FPTP - Government quite close to what electorate vote for.
  • Good amount of choice. Each voters gets 2 votes.
  • Atleast 1 vote isn't wasted - 1 vote = proportional.
  • Constituency link maintained - because of FPTP.
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AMS Disadvantages

  • Not fully proportional - part of it is still FPTP
  • Coalitions are common - since 1999 in Wales had LibLab Coalition.
  • Wasted votes still a problem because of FPTP.
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