How General Election Voting Works


As you may recall from the US Elections in November last year, the way voting works isn’t always the simplest of procedures. Luckily, understanding the system for the Snap Election on June 8th is much simpler.

How does voting work?

In British elections, the system is known as the First Past the Post (or FPTP for short). Quite simply, the candidate with the most votes in a constituency wins and becomes the MP. Votes for any of the other candidates are completely written off.

For example, in the June 2015 General Election, in the Southampton Test constituency the Labour party candidate won 41.3% of the votes, with the Conservative winning 32.5% and the other parties the remaining percentages. Even though the other parties had 59.7% of the votes, Labour had the most votes for a single party and so won the seat. In Romsey & Southampton North, however, 54.3% of the votes went to the Conservative party and so they already had a majority of the votes.

The winning candidate then goes towards the number of seats the party has and if a party achieves 50% of seats, they are elected. If not, then there a variety of outcomes such as another election, a coalition government or even a hung parliament.

Does anyone else use it?

The FPTP system is the second most popular voting system in the world. It is most notably used in the chambers of US Congress, electing the MPs to the House of Commons. Lower houses in India and Canada along with other places that were once British colonies also adopt the FPTP voting system.

What are FPTP’s Advantages?

It’s a simple system so it’s very easy to count votes and declare winners overnight. Voters are able to express their view on which party they want in government and most of the time, it produces a single-party government.

Disadvantages of the System?

As shown in the 2015 General Election, MPs can be elected with less than 50% of the votes. There is also often discussion of tactical voting, wherein a candidate that is disliked is voted against by whichever candidate would usually come in second. For smaller parties like the Green Party and UKIP, they have many votes spread across the country, rather than in particular constituencies so are unlikely to win many seats.

Is First Past the Post the best system?

The Alternative Vote (AV) is where the voter is able to rank candidates in order of preference. Candidates are elected once they have more than 50% of the votes. The way in which the ranking works is similar to that used in Union Elections. Votes for the lowest candidate are redistributed amongst second preferences and so on until there is a majority for one candidate. Counting up an AV vote is much more complicated than that of FPTP and in 2011, UK voters rejected switching to it.

That being said, if smaller parties achieve a large percentage of the overall votes but only get a few seats, there may be more cause for debate in the next parliament about the systems.

So remember, when June 8th comes around, ‘X’ marks the box of the candidate/party you want. It’s really that simple.


Online Manager 2016-17. Physics with Astronomy Student.

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