Voting Systems 1

LCER guide to Electoral Systems


First past the post (FPTP)

The popular name for the way we elect our MPs in the UK and local councillors in England and Wales. Whoever gets most votes in each constituency wins, even if that is far from a majority.  Used in USA (with electoral college), Canada, India.  New Zealand and South Africa rejected this system. The total of party votes over the country bears no mathematical relationship to the allocation of seats and projections of party seats under other systems need a health warning.  It works better where only two parties in contention for both government and constituency but the UK has now 12 parties who have had representation.  


Second Ballot (SB)

Is precisely the same as FPTP, in single-member constituencies, but if no candidate wins more than 50 per cent in the first round, then a second round is held one or two weeks later between the top two candidates in the first round.  Used in France. 


Supplementary Vote (SV)

Is a hybrid system based on SB but on one day not two. The ballot paper has two columns, the first preference and then another choice. The problem is that the second column is not a second choice and counts only when the voter chooses one of the two candidates who top the first count who are therefore in the second round.  All the first preferences and second column votes for the two candidates are added together and the one with most votes wins. This works with three parties in contention but not when there is an additional party or independent as happened when Ken Livingstone won in the first London mayoral elections.  The aim of the system is to maximise the support for the winning candidate.  This was the recommendation of the Plant Commission, adopted for elected mayors and police & crime commissioners.