Voting systems

First Past the Post or the ‘Simple Majority system’ is currently used to elect representatives to the lower ‘House of Commons’.  The ballot is a list of the name of a candidate and the party he/she represents.  The voter marks his/her choice by putting an ‘X’ next to their choice.

The winner is decided by means of a simple ballot count.  The winner is the candidate with the most votes.

The Alternative Vote or the ‘Preferential Vote System’ is currently proposed as a replacement to First Past the Post.  The Ballot is exactly the same format as that of FPTP with the exception that instead of a single ‘X’, the voter indicates his preference on a sliding scale (1 being his first choice, 2 being his second and so on).

The winner is decided through a series of run-off counts.  This means that unless a candidate achieves the 50% threshold, in which case he/she will be declared the winner, a series of recounts occur after transfers of second and third preferences have been taken into account.

In order to do this, the person with the lowest amount of total votes is knocked out of the race and their second and third preferences are transferred.  This continues until a candidate achieves the 50% threshold.

The Additional Members System (AMS) or the ‘multi-member proportional system’.  The ballot is made up of two lists, one for a local constituency candidate and one for larger regional boundaries.

The system is a mix of FPTP and closed list systems.  At the constituency level, the voter puts the traditional ‘X’ next to the name of the candidate representing a party, almost identically to FPTP.  In the second list, the voter once again puts an ‘X’ to mark his/her preference however they are only voting for a party, not an individual.  The residue votes cast for this list of parties goes to the respective party headquarters who in turn appoint additional members according to the proportion of votes for the party.

The vote count is the same as FPTP with those that earn a simple majority declared the winner.  This system is currently used in Scotland and Wales.

The Single Transferable Vote is currently being discussed in relation to the possibility of the election of the House of Lords.

It is similar to the Alternative Vote ballot in terms of a list of candidates with parties where the voter ranks in order of preference.

The difference is there would be a lower voter threshold so would allow more elected representatives.

If your first candidate is not selected then, like AV, your second etc votes all carry to your choices.

List Systems come in two different forms, Open and Closed.

Closed List Systems are in use in European Parliament elections.

The ballot is made up of a list of names of candidates appointed by the party.  The voter simply puts an ‘X’ above the party he/she wants to win.  They do not get to choose the candidates the party puts forward unless they are members of the party themselves.  The voter just votes for the party.

Open List Systems differ from closed lists only in that, theoretically, at least votes are cast for individual candidates rather than parties.  There is usually a threshold attached to insure a proportional result however various countries use this differently.  For instance, in Turkey, there is a high threshold to exclude minor parties, whereas in Israel, the threshold is low so as to include all minor parties.