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Q&A: VOTING SYSTEMS

Q. HOW DOES THE FIRST-PAST-THE-POST SYSTEM WORK?

A. The candidate who gets the most votes in their constituency is elected as MP. If one party has an overall majority of MPs – more than the others put together – it forms the government.

Q. WHY DO THE LIB DEMS WANT TO SCRAP FPTP?

A. They say it is unfair. In this general election, they got 23 per cent of votes but nine per cent of seats. They want proportional representation via the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system.

Q. HOW DOES THE STV SYSTEM WORK?

A. Instead of marking X against one candidate, a voter ranks them in order (1 for first choice, 2 for second, etc). If a voter’s number one choice reaches or exceeds a certain number of votes, “the quota”, they are elected. Then, the winner’s second preferences are allocated to the remaining candidates. If no candidate in the second round meets the quota, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated. Then, their second preference votes are transferred to those still in the running. The transfers and eliminations go on until the number of candidates meeting the threshold is the same as the number of seats available.

Q. LABOUR WANTS AN ALTERNATIVE VOTE SYSTEM. WHAT’S THAT?

A. Under AV, voters rank candidates in order of preference and anyone getting over 50 per cent of votes is automatically elected. If that doesn’t happen, the candidate with the least votes is knocked out, and their second preferences are divvied up among the remaining candidates until a winner emerges.

Q. WILL THE LIB DEMS ACCEPT THIS?

A. It’s better than what the Tories are offering, which is equal-sized constituencies, fixed-term parliaments and fewer MPs. This is what the Tories describe as “political reform”. They are implacably opposed to the kind of voting reform the Lib Dems want, which could usher in decades of Lib-Lab coalitions and keep them out of power indefinitely.