NI Electoral Systems - First Past The Post

For UK Westminister elections this is the system used. Voters, organised in terretorial constituencies, are presented with a a ballot paper containing a list of names of candidates, most of whom are attatched to politial parties.

Voters choose one of these candidates only and the candidate whom the largest number of voters identifies as their choice wins the seat.


  • By denying voters the opportunity to express a range of preferences it leads to 'wasted votes' where a voter can feel that he or she has little effect on the outcome of the election because their community is in the minority in that area. 
  • in constituencies where there is a very even split between nationalists and unionists there may be a high turnout and a 'ribal contest' will result. This may lead to electoral pacts between parties and a straight unionist V nationalist contest will take place. This will obvioulsy reduce the representaion presented to the electorate.
  • it strongly disadvantages smaller parties.
  • the system encourages tactical voting within the communal groups. nationalists or unionists will vote for the candidate from the party they feel will have the best chance of success against the other communtity. 
  • it encourages the continuance of sectarian voting patterns and discourages voting on social issues.
  • it is relatively simple for the electorate.
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NI Electoral Systems - Single Transferable Vote/ P

The Single Transferrable Vote system is used in Assembly, European and Council electionns in NI. Voters are presented with a list of candidates competing to win a variable number of seats in multi-member constituencies. They rank their preferences in order, and again are both influencing the choice of constituency member as well as the composition of the government. Assembly elections use STV in 18 constitiuencies to elect 6 MLAs in each whilst in the European Council Elections NI is treated as a single constituency to elect 3 MEPs to the European Parliament. 


  • more political views are represented.
  • produces parallel communal elections of nationalist and unionist contests.
  • can be confusing for electors with the result of a higher level of spoiled votes.
  • in theory, there are no 'wasted votes' because even electoral minorities may get represented if they are large enough to secure a seat in a multi-member constituency.
  • it benefits smaller parties giving them a better chance of election. 
  • voters are given considerable control over the way their vote is used.
  • in effect it produes a 'weak' government  in that coalitions are the usual result, as opposed to FPTP which produces a 'strong' government.
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