UK electoral systems

A serise of cards detailing the various types of electoral systems, their description, where it's used and it's positives and/or negaitives. These cards include:

  • First Pass The Post (FPTP / FPP)
  • Alternative Vote (AV)
  • Alternative/Additional Vote Plus (AV+)
  • Supplimentary Vote (SV)
  • Single Transferable Vote (STV)
  • Additional Member System (AMS)
  • List Systems
  • Regional Lists
  • Plurality / Majority systems

Election provides Party's legitimacy (debateable) to govern aswell as a mandate to implement their manifesto and form a government.

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First Past The Post (FPTP / FPP)

  • Requires a simple majority of the vote.
  • Plurality system (don't need 50% of votes but need more than any other candidate).
  • Generally forms a one party government.
  • Introduces constituency politics which disperses government power and makes democracy more pure.
  • Used in the British General Election system.


  • Legitimacy is questionable as minority votes are discredited.
  • The number of minority and majority votes can be close.
  • Can lead to a coalition in the event of a hung parliament.
  • Votes cast and seats gained are unproportionate
  • Despite being a plurality system, it doesn't refelect pluralism as it doesn't refect the minority.
  • Smaller parties are unrepresented.
  • Typically a Two (Three Four) party system.
  • Encorages tactical voting.
  • Wasted minority votes due to Gerrymandering (constituancies being deliberatly made up of areas that vote typically for a party in order to better that parties chances in the election.)
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Alternative Vote (AV)


  • Voters rank candidates in order of preferance.
  • In the event that one candidate fails to achieve a sufficient majority, the candidate with the fewest number of first-preferance ranks is eleminated.
  • The votes are redistributed and the process is repeated until one candidate acheives the required majority.

AV and the UK:

  • Used in Labour & Liberal Democrat leader elections, for House of Lord by-elections, and by members of parliament to elect the chairmen of select committees and the Speaker of the House of Lords
  • As part of the Coalition agreement, a referendum was held in 2011 asking the public if they'd like to change FPTP for AV. The answer was no with 67.9% to 32.1%.

Pros: - No need for tactical voting. Reduces the number of safe seats.

Cons: - Unpropotional seats gained to votes cast. Coalitions made more likely.

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Alternative/Additional Vote Plus (AV+)

  • An Additional Member System which comprises of an 'AV part' and a 'Plus part' (which operates on a reigional list system).
  • AV part - Voters rank the candidates in order of preference to represent the country and gain Parliamentary power.
  • Plus part - An additional column where Voters vote a canditate/party to represent them on a reigional level.


  • Reduces tactical voting.
  • Ranking increases voter choice and political involvement.
  • Parties would have an incentive to campaign across the country instead of limiting campaigns to constituencies.
  • The final result will be fairer, with parties having a share of MPs based on their support among the electorate, rather than on electoral arithmetic and geography.


  • Likely to form Coalitions.
  • 'Two types of MP' which could confuse voters.
  • This system is not in practice any where in the world!
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Supplementary Vote (SV)

  • Voters are aloud 2 choices, a first and second in order of preference, but do not have to use both choices.
  • If a majority isn't found with the first votes, then all except the top two candidates will be illiminated and votes distributed to find a winner.
  • Used for electing mayors in England, including the Mayor of London, and in elections for Police and Crime Commissioners.


  • Simple to understand.
  • Multiple choice.
  • Sencourages conciliatory campaigning, as gaining second-preference votes is important.


  • Promotes mainstream party voting leading to wasted and tactical votes.
  • Doesn't guarrenty the winning candidate has 50% of the vote despite being a majority system.
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Single Transferable Vote (STV)

  • Electorate rank cadidates in order of preferance. Candidates must reach a quota. If quota not reached then the candidate with the fewest votes is elliminated and their votes distributed as according to the electorate's 2nd choice. When quota is reached, and more candidates need to be ellected, then the excess of the successful candidate's votes will be distributed in accordance to 2nd choice. The process continues intill the right no. of candidates is elected.
  • Used in Scottish local elections. Assembly, European and local government elections in Northern Ireland. The Church of England. Many UK Student Unions. Private organisations. 
  • Pros: Said to be the fairest electoral system as it reduces tactial voting & few wasted votes.
  • Parliament is more proporationate, minorities are well represented & the Gov. is arranged in a coalition (if you think coalitions are good systems).
  • This system gives voters the most choices/power & removes safe seats in Parliament.
  • Cons: Ballot papers are large & confusing which can lead to 'Donkey Voting' (ranking candidates on the order they appear on the paper) and the counting process is lengthy.
  • Large constituencies can be made (in areas such as the scottish Highlands)
  • The electorate would have to meet all of the potential party leaders as the leader does not have a safe seat. The party can not ellect it's own representatives which is simpler.
  • Coalition governments tend to be formed (if you think that's a bad thing).
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Additional Members System (AMS / MMP)

  • Also known as Mixed Member Proportional
  • A Hybrid system combining FPTP and a Proporational Representation.The electorate gets 2 votes, 1 for a constituant MP & 1 for a party to represent the country.
  • The constituancy MP is selected via FPTP. The Additional Members are selected by the Parties in order of preferance to represent their Parties that were voted for by the electorate.
  • Used in the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Greater London Assembly.  
  • Pros: This system is broadly proportionate which 'fixes' the main issues with FPTP.
  • Each voter has a directly accountable single constituancy representative.
  • Each voter has at least one effective vote.
  • Allows the electorate to vote for a constituancy candidate without going against their Party.
  • Prevent Gerrymandering and minority rule while allowing political diversity (coalitions)
  • Cons: Additional Members are elected by the Parties meaning that voters have no say over them.
  • Having two different types of representative creates animosity between them.
  • Coalition governments formed.
  • People can become easily confused, not knowing exactly what to do with two votes.
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List systems

  • Also known as Party List-PR
  • Parties present lists of candidates and seats are awarded according to their party’s share of the vote. This is usually done using an electoral formula or a quota which prevents too many small parties from winning seats. 

Open Lists: The electorate choose individual candidates from the list provided by each party and individual candidates are elected according to the popular vote. AV, AV+, SV

Closed Lists: The electorate vote for the party & therefore the list as a whole. Candidates are elected in the order they appear on the list; as decided by the party, until all the seats have been filled. AMS

Semi-open Lists: This gives the electorate some influence over who is elected, but most of the candidates will be elected in list order. STV

These systems are: AV, AV+, SV, STV, AMS

Used in: [See seperate entries] UK (excluding Norther Ireland) European Parliament elections.

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Regional List Systems

  • Can be used on a larger scale as a National List System
  • Closed List system.
  • A system which uses Proportional representaion.
  • No constituancies.
  • The electorate vote for a Party.
  • The Party creates a list where they rank their prefered candidates.
  • The prefered Candidates are sent to Parliament to represent their Party. The more votes for that party, the more of it's MP's will be sent to Parliament to represent the vote proportionally.
  • The system means that every vote counts
  • The electorate have no say in the representative as this is left to the Party's leadership.
  • Voters are left without a constituency representative. 

These systems are: AMS

Used in: [See seperate entry] UK (excluding Northern Ireland) European Parliament elections.

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Plurality / Majority Systems

Plurality Systems: (FPTP)

  • An electoral process where the candidate who gains more votes than any other candidate is elected. Plurality systems are the most common method of selecting candidates for elections.
  • Plurality systems are easily understood by voters, provides a quick decision, and is more convenient and less costly to operate than other methods. The main argument against it is that it may result in the election of a candidate who has received only a minority of the votes cast

Majority Systems: (AV, AV+, SV, STV, AMS)

  • An electoral process where the candidate who gains more votes than all other candidates is elected. The candidate mucg take 50% + to become elected.
  • Majority systems tend to be more complex, more costly and requires more time to count the votes. However, these systems are far more proportionate, wasting less votes and repressenting minorities better.

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