Wednesday, 5 January 2011

First Past the Post: A Few Facts and Figures


The turnout in General Elections in the UK is lower than in most other established democracies. Most of the EU states with a lower turnout in their last election were post-communist countries in eastern and central Europe. Whilst turnout in 2010 rose slightly to 65.1%, the previous two elections had a turnout of around 60%, no other election since 1918 has had a turnout below 70%.

Votes per MP

Under the current FPTP system, the number of votes cast for a party per MP varies widely. Votes for the Conservatives and Labour translate efficiently into seats, where as votes for the Lib Dems and Greens are far less efficient.

During the 2010 election, the parties received the following amount of votes per MP:

Conservative Party - 34,995
Labour Party - 33,345
Liberal Democrats - 119,795
Green Party - 285,616

Seat share projections

The Electoral Reform Society has looked into how the 2010 election might have turned out had it been run under alternative voting methods. Whilst modeling of this nature requires a lot of assumptions, it nevertheless provides an interesting picture of how results might have been.

FPTP - Conservatives 307, Labour 258, Lib Dems 57
AV - Conservatives 282, Labour 264, Lib Dems 74
STV - Conservatives 254, Labour 195, Lib Dems 166

Yes to AV: Say Yes to Fairer Votes

The referendum on the voting system represents a fantastic opportunity to improve the way we hold elections and do politics in Britain.

The AV voting system offers us many positive changes
- Under AV, MPs would need a real mandate. This would require candidates to work harder to win and keep support.
- Under the AV system, the constituency link of FPTP is maintained and arguably strengthened as MPs need to appeal to the majority of voters.
- AV limits tactical voting, as supporters can vote for their preferred party in the knowledge their vote can still help to decide the winner.
- The AV system also limits the chances of divisive or extremist candidates, as they are very unlikely to gain the majority support necessary.
- AV encourages candidates to campaign positively as they are required to appeal to supporters of other parties.

AV is already used in various elections
- It is used by both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats to elect their leaders.
- It is used by MPs to elect the Speaker, Select Committee Chairs and other officials.
- It is used by various unions and professional bodies.
- It is used in private elections, such as for Chancellor of Oxford University.

Voting using AV
Opponents of the AV system try to make it seem like a confusing method of voting. The reality is different. Instead of placing a 'X' on the ballot paper, voters will instead use numbers to rank the candidates in order of preference. You put a '1' by your favourite candidate, a '2' by your second favourite, and so on. There is no obligation to rank all the available candidates. Voters can rank as many candidates as they like. In fact, you can back just one candidate if you like.

How AV works
First of all, 'first preferences' are counted. If a candidate has 50% of the votes, they win. If not, the last placed candidate is eliminated and their supporters second preferences are transferred to the others. This process continues until one of the candidates gains 50% of the vote.

For more information on the YES! to Fairer Votes campaign, visit: