What are the strengths and weaknesses of different voting systems?

Voters now vote in a range of different elections in the UK.

Prior to 1998 there were a very limited number of electoral systems in the operation in the UK. Elections were, in almost all cases, operated using First Past the Post. However, in 1998 New Labour created new devolved institutions across the UK which implemented different voting systems for their elections. As such, First Past the Post is now joined by other systems across the UK. These systems include: the Single Transferable Vote, the Additional Member System and the Supplementary Vote system. So, how do these systems work and what are their strengths and weaknesses?

What are the different types of voting system?

There are broadly three different types of voting system that are used in the UK:

Plurality – A voting system which emphasizes the importance of a candidate simply winning the most votes to win a seat.

Proportional – A proportional voting system is one that places an emphasis on clearly linking the number of seats awarded to a party to the number of votes cast.

Hybrid – A hybrid voting system is one that combines elements of other voting systems to find a balance between them.

Majoritarian – A voting system that places an emphasis on a candidate winning a majority of votes in order to win their seat.

What is First Past the Post and how does it work?

First Past the Post is the informal term for Single-Member Plurality system. In essence, in can best be described a ‘winner takes all’ system.

Where is the system used?

This system is used for General Elections across the the whole of the UK and for Local Elections in England and Wales. However, under the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act, since 2021 councils in Wales have the option of using the Single Transferable Vote rather than FPTP if they wish to.

How are vote cast?

Under First Past the Post there is a single ballot paper with a list of candidates. Each voter selects a single candidate they wish to vote for. They usually do this by placing a cross next to the candidate they wish to vote for.

Fun Fact: Under Electoral Commission rules counters of the ballots will accept any vote that clearly indicates a preference for a certain candidate:

Ballot papers that are not marked with an ‘X’ in the box next to a candidate are given to the Assistant Returning , or a deputy, to adjudicate – these are called ‘doubtful’ ballot papers. As long as the intention of the voter is clearly apparent, the vote can be accepted as valid and be counted.

Electoral Commission

This means if a voter put a grumpy face next to every candidate and a smiley face next to one, that vote would likely be counted. In a more amusing case from the 2019 European Elections a voter decided to write ‘w*nk’ next to every candidate apart from the Green Party candidate for whom they wrote ‘not w*nk’. The ballot paper was therefore counted!

How are votes counted?

Each constituency has their ballots counted individually. At the end of the counting process the candidate with the most number of votes is declared as the winning candidate in that constituency.

Fun Fact: As a result of the number of votes cast it is unlikely that a vote in a constituency will be tied. Whilst it has never happened in a General Election it has happened in Local Elections. In this instance the first step will be to do a recount. If the result is still a tie then the returning officer will draw lots, toss a coin, or use another random method to decide upon the winner.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of First Past the Post?

Strengths

  1. It normally produces stables governments

First Past the Post tends to create clear winners who can quickly form a majority government. For example, the average government majority since 1945 has been 57.5 seats. This brings stability and predictability to the political system following a government and there is usually a very quick changeover of power. Governments formed under FPTP are likely to survive for the duration of a Parliament.

(C) Institute of Government

2. It has a clear constituency-representative link

First Past the Post has clear constituencies with one single MP to represent each of them. This means that there is one individual who is clearly accountable to their constituents. Voters may therefore choose, based on their record, whether or not they wish to support that MP at the next General Election. These constituencies are of manageable size, with the average constituency in England being 72,000.

3. It allows for a swift and clear transfer of power and is a simple system to use

Normally the result of a General Election is clear by the very next morning. In fact, in most cases, it is realistically known as Big Ben strikes 10pm and the Exit Polls are announced. Regardless, there is usually not a series of complex negotiations to form a coalition, as often happens under proportional systems. As an example of this clear and quick handover of power on the 2nd May 1997 John Major left Downing Street at 11.25 and Tony Blair arrived as the new Prime Minister at 13.00.

In addition, FPTP is an extremely simple system to use. All voters need to do is select their favoured candidate from a list. The simplicity of the system can inspire confidence in it. The relatively small number of invalid ballots is evidence of this. In 2019 only 0.37% of votes were invalid.

4. It limits the influence of extremist parties

The BNP under Nick Griffin could not win enough concentrated support to win seats under FPTP.

First Past the Post requires a party to win concentrated support. This has the effect of limiting the ability of extremist parties from getting into Parliament. The best example of this occurred in 2010 when the British National Party won 2.0% of the national vote. However, their best constituency result was to finish in third place in Barking. Around the same time, in the European Elections in 2009, which use the proportional D’Hondt system, the BNP won two seats. Therefore, it is clear that FPTP does an effective job at limiting extremist parties.

Weaknesses

  1. It can produce an elective dictatorship

It can be argued that First Past the Post creates an elective dictatorship whereby the Government can do as it pleases with very limited scrutiny. This is because in the UK there is a fusion of powers and the executive almost always also control to legislature. Governments with significant majorities it recent times include Blair in 1997 (179), 2001 (166) and Boris Johnson with 80 in 2019.

2. It penalizes popular minority parties who lack concentrated support

Over time First Past the Post leads to an inevitable two-party system. Therefore, popular third parties lose out. A very good example of this occurred in 2015. UKIP won 3.8 million votes in this election, 12.6% of the total. However, despite this, they won just a single seat in Parliament. In this election UKIP finished second in 190 seats! This was because whilst they had national support, they did not get enough support on a constituency level. Further, in 2005, the Liberal Democrats won just 13.2% less votes than Labour but won 45.3% less seats – again because their levels of concentrated support were not as high as that of Labour.

3. It produces a significant number of ‘wasted votes

Under First Past the Post many seats are ‘safe seats’. This means they are almost certain not to change hands at a General Election. In 2017, for example, just 70/650 changed hands (10.7%). In 2019 the figure was slightly higher at 79/650 (12.1%). These wasted results can encourage apathy in the electorate. It also creates ‘electoral deserts’ – areas of the country where there is no real competition (like the East of England). This undermines democracy and means representatives in these seats do not need to work as hard to win their votes.

4. It produces governments without a clear mandate

Governments can win a majority of seats without a clear majority of the vote. This is because FPTP creates a ‘winners bonus’ that accentuates the number of seats awarded to the winning party. This can mean a majority government can be formed with a relatively low share of the vote. This was the case in 2005 when Labour own a majority of 66 seats with a vote share of just 35.2%. In 1997 Tony Blair’s New Labour won a landslide victory of 179 seats. However, even in this election they only received 44% of the votes.

5. It encourages tactical voting

Under FPTP there are a number of Safe Seats across the country. However, there are also a number of seats where realistically only two parties have a chance of winning. This leads to people within those seats voting tactically to try to vote for the least worst option. The necessary of being being forced to vote tactically arguably undermines the purity of the vote.

Case Study into First Past the Post – the 2019 General Election

Turnout: 67.3%

Winning Party Vote Percentage: 43.6%

Winning Party Seats Percentage: 56.2%

Second Largest Party Vote Percentage: 32.2%

Second Largest Party Seat Percentage: 31.1%

Key Facts:

  • As is normal under FPTP, the winning party got a ‘Winner’s Bonus’. The Conservative Party won 12.6% more seats that their vote share.
  • Minor Parties, as is normal under FPTP, were punished for their lack of concentrated support. The Greens won 2.6% but only won one national seat. On average in the 2019 General Election it took 38,264 votes to elect a Conservative, 50,718 to elect a Labour MP and 865,707 to elect a Green MP.
  • The Lib Dems won 11.6% of the national vote compared to 2.9% for the SNP. However, the SNP won 48 (7.4%) seats and the Lib Dems won 11 (1.7%). This is because Lib Dem support is spread across the UK but SNP support is obviously concentrated in Scotland.
  • The number of invalid votes was 0.37%.
  • Of the 8 parties that won over 0.5% of the national vote, 87.5% won seats in Parliament.

What is the Single Transferable Vote and how does it work?

The Single Transferable Vote is a proportional system. The system was designed at the end of the 19th century and was first used in Australia.

Where is the system used?

This system is most prominently used in elections for the Northern Irish Assembly. However, it is also used for local elections held in Scotland and Northern Ireland and, since 2021, for local elections in Wales if councils choose that this system is preferential to First Past the Post.

How are vote cast?

Under the Single Transferable Vote there is one ballot paper. However, on this ballot paper a voter can place multiple votes in a preferential order. Voters can indicate as many votes in a preferential order as they like.

How are votes counted?

When the votes are collected the first thing that happens is the total number are counted. This is essential as it goes into creating the quota that dictates the results. The quota that is used is in the UK is the Droop Quota and is formulated as such:

The first stage of the count is to consider all the first preference votes. If any candidate reaches the quota after the first preference votes are counted they are given a seat. If no candidate reaches the quota in any round of voting, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated. Anyone who voted for the least popular candidate who has been removed then gets their other preferential votes redistributed. This process then continues until the quota has been met enough times to fill all of the seats. Importantly, because the equation starts of with the total number of valid votes, it will always be possible to fill each seat.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Single Transferable Vote?

Strengths

  1. All votes matter

There are very few wasted votes as multiple votes are cast in order of preference and votes not used to help a candidate reach the quota are redistributed. This means that all votes will be counted in some way. As a result, this also means that there is no requirement for tactical voting because people know that their vote will always have an impact in the election. This can help to reduce the apathy that voters in safe seats might experience under First Past the Post.

2. It produces proportionate results

The system produces very proportional results. The number of seats for each party is broadly similar to the number of votes that are cast for them in the election. This increases the legitimacy of the election result because it can be said that the make-up of the elected body is similar to what the electorate actually wanted.

3. No Safe Seats

There are no safe seats under STV. This means that candidates running for office cannot take the voters for granted. They must also try to ensure they appeal to a broad coalition of voters as their chances of being elected may depend on votes beyond those that they would normally expect to receive. This can help to encourage positive campaigning and lead to less political attacks during a campaign.

4. Voters have a choice of representatives

The Multi-Member constituencies being elected proportionally means that most voters will likely have at least one representative that they believe represents their political views. This means that more voters are likely to be satisfied with the outcome of the election.

5. Voters have a range of choice

Under STV voters place a vote for both a candidate and a party. This keeps the choice in the hands of the voter.

Weaknesses

  1. It can lead to weaker governments

STV normally leads to coalition government. Whilst this might also have advantages, it can lead to weaker governments that are unlikely to remain politically stable. This can be seen in Northern Ireland where the Executive has collapsed several times, for example between 2002 and 2007 and between 2017 and 2020. (In Northern Ireland the system is designed so that there is always a power-sharing development).

Important – Coalition is not always a bad thing! Coalition necessitates compromise on issues that can result in better policies being made. In European states coalition is, and always has been, a routine part of how government operates. However, coalition, largely as a result of the voting system, is quite alien to British political culture.

2. Physical Size of Constituencies

The Scottish Highlands is by far the biggest electoral region in the UK.

STV leads to geographical constituencies that are large in size. This can make representing them difficult for the politicians elected to do so. For example, the Scottish Highlands constituency is 9,906 square miles!

3. A more complex voting system

STV is more complex than other voting systems and this can be a downside of the system. For example, there is a issue known as Donkey Voting. This is where a voter simply ranks candidates by the order they appear on the a ballot paper. In big constituencies the ballot papers can become very cumbersome.

4. Less engagement with voters

Under STV it is common that voters only come into contact with candidates at election time with candidates often ‘parachuted’ in by parties to contest the elections. This differs from FPTP, for example, where the sole MP of a constituency is a focal point in politics throughout the year.

5. A Slower Count

The counting of votes under STV takes longer than under FPTP. However, this is often an exaggerated point. The full results of the election will usually be known with 48 hours and this should not be a decisive argument against STV.

Case Study into STV – Northern Ireland Assembly 2022

Turnout: 63.6%

Winning Party Vote Percentage: 29.0%

Winning Party Seats Percentage: 30%

Second Largest Party Vote Percentage: 21.3%

Second Largest Party Seat Percentage: 27.7%

Key Facts:

  • Only five electoral regions saw a majority of a certain party elected, all Sinn Fein (Belfast West, Newry and Armagh, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, West Tyrone and Mid Ulster).
  • One seat, North Antrim, saw five different parties elected.
  • In only two seats did a party receive more than 50% of first preference votes, both Sinn Fein (Belfast West, Mid Ulster).
  • The number of invalid votes was 1.27%.
  • Of the 9 parties that won over 0.5% of first preference votes, seven got seats in Parliament (78%).

What is the Additional Member System and how does it work?

The Additional Member System is formally called the Mixed-Member Proportional Representation. It is a hybrid system which utilises both First Past the Post and the Party List within the same election. The country is split into small constituencies which are each represented by a single representative. However, there are also bigger regions that are represented by multiple representatives. These are filled using the Closed Party List system.

Where is the system used?

The Additional Member System is used for elections to both the Welsh Parliament and Scottish Parliament and elections to the London Assembly. There are different splits to the proportion of seats assigned under the constituency vote and the regional vote:

Scotland – 73 Constituency MSPs (57%) and 56 regional MSPs (43%).

Wales – 40 Constituency AMs (67%) and 20 regional AMs (33%).

London – 14 Constituency AMs (56%) and 11 regional AMS (44%)

How are vote cast?

A ballot paper for the Scottish Assembly.

Under the Additional Member System there are two votes cast on two separate ballot papers. The first ballot paper is the same as on FPTP – a list of candidates standing in a small geographical constituency. Voters vote once and select the candidate they wish to represent them. The second ballot paper has a list of parties with a number of potential candidates who will represent that party in a bigger multiple-member region. Voters select the party they wish to represent them.

How are votes counted?

The constituency votes are counted in a very straightforward way – the person who receives the most votes in each constituency receive the seat. However, the regional seats are more complicated to work out and, very importantly, they are calculated after the constituency seats.

The regional seats are calculated using a mathematical formula known as the D’Hondt formula. This was designed by a Belgium mathematician called Victor D’Hondt. The formula is as below:

V = Overall Vote, S = Number of Seats allocated so far

However, importantly, the number of constituency seats is added into the calculation. Effectively, this penalises parties who have done well under the FPTP section of the election with the aim being to increase the overall proportionality of the results.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Additional Member System?

Strengths

  1. It is broadly proportional

It is broadly proportional. There is some balance found between the need for constituency representation and the need for a fair distribution of seats based on the overall number of votes received by a party. Despite it’s broad proportionality, unlike STV, it is not unrealistic that a very popular party can form a majority government. This is shown in the SNP’s success in Scotland which included a majority of 9 seats after the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary Election. However, it does prevent a party from utterly dominating the system with a relatively low number of votes.

2. Every voter has at least one effective vote

Every voter has at least one effective vote; even if the constituency vote is wasted, the regional vote will count. It gives voters greater choice – they can select a minority party for the regional vote, without fearing it will be wasted. The fact that voters use this can be seen through split-ticket voting, where the totals in the constituency vote are different from the regional vote – showing voters are using their two votes differently.

Scottish Parliament Elections – 2021
Welsh Parliament Elections – 2021

This also means that voters can choose a candidate they prefer with one vote whilst still rewarding the party they prefer with the other vote.

3. They keep a constituency-representative link but still maintain proportionality

One of the often noted criticisms of more proportional systems like Closed Party List is that in order to achieve their proportionality they sacrifice the MP-constituency link. In the Hybrid system of AMS the First Past the Post constituency vote means that there is still an MP directly accountable for every constituency.

4. Minor Parties can become more influential and be rewarded for their votes

Whilst minor parties are very unlikely to win an election, it is not unrealistic to think they might be able to play a part in government due to the regional list system. For example, in Scotland the Greens are currently in a coalition with the SNP having won 8 regional list seats. In addition, in Wales, Plaid Cymru formed a Coalition with Labour between 2007 and 2011 after winning 15 seats.

Weaknesses

  1. Overhang Seats

AMS sometimes gives rise to ‘overhang’ seats, where a party wins more seats via the constituency vote than it is entitled to according to their list vote. This can distort the the proportionality of the overall result.

2. Too much power over selection is given to political parties

AMS gives enormous power to political parties who create the party lists from which MPs are chosen. This can mean that voter choice is reduced as, within their party of choice, they have no say over the candidate that they elect. It also means that MPs elected under the Party List system are ultimately more accountable to their party leaders than to voters.

3. Two classes of representative

AMS creates two classes of representative. Whilst the constituency MPs and List MPs have the same powers within Parliament, their roles are very different. This can lead to resentment within the chamber as only some representatives are directly accountable to constituents and have the large amount of casework associated with that.

Former Labour MSP Brian Wilson said:

” I regard the list MSPs as a breed, as an under-employed waste of space. They have no constituency, they have no role, and they are not elected by anyone”

4. It can be complicated

It can be complicated, with people getting confused over exactly what they’re supposed to do with their two votes. Having two votes can also lead to wasted regional votes if a party wins a big share of the constituency result. This regularly happens in the case of the SNP in Scotland. In 2019, there were nearly 1.1 million regional votes for the SNP which returned only 2 regional seats.

Case Study of the Additional Member System – 2021 Scottish Parliamentary Elections

Turnout: 63.5%

Winning Party Constituency Vote Percentage: 47.7%

Winning Party Regional Vote Percentage: 40.34%

Winning Party Seats Percentage: 49.6%

Second Largest Party Constituency Vote Percentage: 21.8%

Second Largest Party Regional Seat Percentage: 23.4%

Second Largest Party Seats Percentage: 24%

Key Facts:

  • The SNP won both the constituency vote and the regional vote by a significant margin. However, under the formula, they only received 2 regional seats after winning 62 constituency seats.
  • The election saw a record number of women elected to the Scottish Parliament. This was helped the the SNP policy to have all-female shortlists for to replace any male MSP who was retiring. Parties trying to ensure diversity is more possible under AMS than other systems.
  • Alba are a pro-independence party that were set by former SNP Leader and First Minister Alex Salmond. They chose not to run in the constituency seats because they did not want to risk taking votes on SNP and therefore damaging the vote for independence.

What is the Supplementary Vote and how does it work?

The Supplementary Vote is a majoritarian voting system. This system was first devised in the 1990s and is an alternative to systems that eliminate candidates in different rounds and through multiple elections.

Where is the system used?

The system is used in elections for most directly-elected mayors. For example, it is used for the election of the Mayor of London. Since 2012 it has also been used in the election `of Police and Crime Commissioners.

How are votes cast?

INSERT SV BALLOT PAPER

Under SV there is one ballot paper and voters cast two votes in order of preference.

How are votes counted?

The first stage of counting is simply to count all the first preference votes. If after counting these votes a candidate receives over 50% of all votes cast they win the election. If no candidate wins 50% then the top two candidates go through to a second round. If a voter voted for one of the second round candidates as their first preference their vote stays with that candidate. However, in addition, if any other voter who voted for one of the finalists as their second preference that will go towards the count.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Supplementary Vote?

Strengths

  1. The candidate that wins the election can claim to have received a clear mandate

Under SV the winning candidate can claim to have a clearer mandate than under FPTP. This is because in the second round over 50% of votes that are counted must got to the winning candidate.

Note: Importantly, this does not mean that the candidate has won 50% of all votes. This is a common mistake that is made. It means they have won the support of 50% of the votes that actually counted in the final round of voting.

2. The requirement to win more than 50% of counted votes encourages positive campaigning

As a result of candidates needing 50% of the vote they will likely need to win the support of more than simply their base. As a result of this, they will need to campaign positively and not risk pushing away potential voters. This can result in cleaner politics during SV campaigns than may happen, for example, under FPTP.

3. It makes it hard for extremist parties to win power

SV does an extremely good job of keeping extremist parties out of power. Whilst extremism will always have some support, the requirement of winning support from beyond their normal supporter base makes it virtually impossible for an extremist party to win power under SV.

4. Generally produces stable government

SV is marginally more proportional than FPTP. However, it is not proportional to the extent that it precludes stable government.

5. Strong constituency-representative link

Like FPTP, SV encourages a clear link between the representative and the constituency. There is one MP who is accountable for each constituency and constituents clearly know who represents them.

Weaknesses

  1. SV still has a significant number of wasted votes

SV still results in significant numbers of wasted votes. This is because only votes for the two parties that make it to the second round will be counted. This means that any vote for any second preference vote for any of the other parties is therefore in essence wasted. This demographic from the 2021 London Mayoral Election illustrates this:

(c) Electoral Reform Society

2. It creates a two-party system

There is a distinct bias towards the main two parties under SV. The fact that only two parties can progress to the second round of voting can create a self-fulfilling mindset that one of the votes should be for these two parties. This is noticeable comparing the London Mayoral Elections with the London Assembly Elections:

2021 London Mayoral Election: In the mayoral election 75.3% of voters placed one of their two votes for either the Labour candidate or the Conservative candidate.

2021 London Assembly Election: In the constituency vote 73.7% of voters placed their vote for Labour or the Conservatives and in the regional vote 68.81% placed their vote for Labour or the Conservatives.

3. Tactical Voting is still an issue

Despite being able to place two votes, tactical voting still plays a role under SV. The reason for this is that a second vote will only be counted if it is for one of the candidates that makes it through to the second round. For example, every London mayoral election has been won by either Labour or the Conservatives. Therefore, a voter may choose to ensure that one of these parties receives there second vote as that is the only way they are likely to influence the election. For example, if there is a voter whose two favourite parties are the the Greens and Lib Dems it may make more sense for them to put Labour as their second choice rather than one of these two parties.

4. Not all votes are equal

As second preference votes will only be counted if they are cast for one of the two candidates that reach the second round it cannot be said that all votes are equal under SV.

Case Study of the Supplementary Vote – 2021 London Mayoral Elections

First Preference Votes by borough

Key Facts:

  • Sadiq Khan won on both the first ballot and the second ballot.
  • A total of 347,222 second preference votes were not counted as they were not for the Labour or Conservative candidate.
  • 93,745 voters put the Green’s as their first choice but Labour as their second choice. 32,587 voters but Lib Dems first and Labour second but only 15,206 chose the Conservatives as their second choice.

What makes a good voting system?

In 1997 Labour Party grandee Roy Jenkins led a commission to investigate new potential voting systems in the UK. The report was published in 1998. The report indicated that there were four considerations that had to be considered when judging a voting system:

1. Broad proportionality

2. The need for stable government

3. An extension of voter choice

4. The maintenance of a link between MPs and geographical constituencies

In addition to these the political writer Andrew Heywood suggests that the following criteria should also be added:

  1. A multiparty system
  2. Votes are of equal worth

Therefore, the following criteria are useful for assessing whether a voting system is a good one:

1. Broad proportionality

2. The need for stable government

3. An extension of voter choice

4. The maintenance of a link between MPs and geographical constituencies

5. A multiparty system

6. Votes are of equal worth

How well do the systems meet the Jenkins/Heywood criteria?

Criteria/SystemBroad ProportionalityThe need for Stable GovernmentAn extension of voter choiceThe maintenance of a link between MPs and geographical constituenciesA multiparty systemVotes are of equal worth
First Past the PostPoorVery GoodPoorVery GoodPoorPoor
Single Transferable VoteVery GoodVery PoorVery GoodPoorVery GoodVery Good
Additional Member SystemGoodGoodGoodGoodGoodGood
Supplementary VoteGoodGoodPoorGoodPoorPoor

Why is there unlikely to be reform to First Past the Post for General Elections?

Any change to the voting system for General Elections could only happen with the consent of the two leading parties – the Conservatives and Labour. However, changing the voting system would be contrary to their own political self-interests, as they are the two parties that dominate under FPTP. It is notable that prior to the 1997 General Election Labour pledged a referendum on FPTP in their manifesto:

” We are committed to a referendum on the voting system for the House of Commons. An independent commission on voting systems will be appointed early to recommend a proportional alternative to the first-past-the-post system.”

However, Labour subsequently won a 179 seat majority and this referendum never took place. By the time of the 2005 General Election any pledge regarding reform of First Past the Post was dropped entirely:

” Labour remains committed to reviewing the experience of the new electoral systems – introduced for the devolved administrations, the European Parliament and the London Assembly. A referendum remains the right way to agree any change for Westminster.”

The biggest chance for reform of the system came when the Liberal Democrats joined the Conservatives in coalition in 2010. The Lib Dems ensured that a referendum on changing voting system was part of the Coalition Agreement in 2010. This referendum took place in May 2011 and resulted in a decisive vote in favour of keeping FPTP by 67.9% of the vote. During the referendum the Conservative Party were in favour of keeping FPTP but they were also joined by most Labour MPs. Such a decisive referendum result has led to the claim that this issue has been settled for a generation.

You can read about the 2011 AV Referendum here.

Article Summary

There is simply no right answer to the question of which is the best voting system. It entirely depends on what you are looking for in a voting system. In answering a question on this question it is essential that you are clear about what you believe makes a good voting system.

Key Terms

Plurality System – A voting system which emphasizes the importance of a candidate simply winning the most votes to win a seat.

Proportional System – A proportional voting system is one that places an emphasis on clearly linking the number of seats awarded to a party to the number of votes cast.

Hybrid System – A hybrid voting system is one that combines elements of other voting systems to find a balance between them.

Majoritarian System – A voting system that places an emphasis on a candidate winning a majority of votes in order to win their seat.

First Past the Post – The plurality voting system that is used for General Elections in the UK and local elections in England and most of Wales.

Supplementary Vote – A majoritarian voting system that is used for directly elected mayors, including choosing the Mayor of London.

Single Transferable Vote – A proportional voting system that is used in Northern Ireland Assembly Elections.

Additional Member System – A hybrid voting system that is used for elections to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Parliament and the London Assembly.

D’Hondt Formula – A mathematical formula often deployed to work out the results of a Closed Party List system.

Droop Quota – The a mathematical formula used to work out the distribution of seats under STV.

Safe Seats – A seat that is very unlikely to change hands in an election. These are very common under First Past the Post.

Winner’s Bonus – The situation under First Past the Post where the wining party receives a far higher proportion of seats than their proportion of the votes.

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