Section 7 - Electoral systems
What you will learn
-

What is an electoral system
The nature of the UK electoral system
The...
Usually the party who wins the most seats has more than half of the seats and can form a
strong government. This is becaus...
Arguments for and against FPTP
There are many arguments for and against FPTP.
Arguments for FPTP

Arguments against FPTP

...
Scottish Electoral System
The voting systems used in Scotland to elect MSPs and local councillors are different from
that ...
Overall, the Additional Member System creates eight Members of the Scottish Parliament
(MSPs) to represent every person in...
Case Study: Glasgow Anniesland 2011 election
The constituency vote was to elect the person who would represent the constit...
The impact of AMS
A fairer result
There is no doubt that AMS increases proportionality by reducing the gaps between share ...
Party

Seats

+/-

Votes

%

+/-%

SNP

53

+32

902,915

45.4

+12.5

Labour

15

-20

630,461

31.7

-0.5

Conservative
...
Arguments for and against AMS
There are many arguments for and against the Additional Member System.

Arguments for AMS

A...
Activities
1. Describe the AMS electoral system.
2. Under AMS, each voter typically gets two votes. Describe the differenc...
The main features of STV
Representatives are chosen from multi-member constituencies
In a five-member local government con...
was clear was that the Liberal Democrats did badly – they lost 95 seats and suffered the
humiliation of an Independent can...
Arguments for and against STV
There are many arguments for and against STV.
Arguments for STV

Arguments against STV

STV ...
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  1. 1. Section 7 - Electoral systems What you will learn - What is an electoral system The nature of the UK electoral system The electoral systems used in Scottish elections Advantages and disadvantages of electoral systems What is an electoral system? An electoral system is the method by which you count the votes and decide how many representatives each party wins. Different electoral systems can result in very different election outcomes. For example if you used a different system you may even end with a completely different government. In order to understand the Scottish electoral systems, we must first look at the UK electoral system used to elect MPs. First Past The Post The electoral system used in the UK to elect MPs is known as First Past The Post (FPTP) How does FPTP work? Under First Past The Post (FPTP) voting takes place in single-member constituencies of which there are 650 in the UK. Although constituencies vary widely in area, the average number of voters in each constituency is approximately 68,175. In each constituency, voters put a cross in a box next to their favoured candidate and the candidate with the most votes in the constituency wins a seat in the House of Commons. Only a simple majority is needed to win the seat. The party that wins the most seats in the House of Commons forms a government. Elections to the UK Parliament Paisley and Renfrewshire South Vote for one candidate only (X) Douglas Alexander (Labour Party) Andy Doig (Scottish National Party) Gordon McCaskill (Conservative Party) Ashay Ghai (Liberal Democrat) Paul Mack (Independent) Example FPTP ballot paper for Paisley and Renfrewshire South 1
  2. 2. Usually the party who wins the most seats has more than half of the seats and can form a strong government. This is because the party has more seats than all the other parties put together. We call this an overall majority. Sometimes, however, the votes can be spread in such a way that no one party has more than half of the seats. This is called a ‘hung parliament’. In these circumstances either one party will form a ‘minority government’ or two parties may join together to form a ‘coalition government’ as is the case with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats just now when the Conservative party failed to win more half of the seats in the House of Commons to form a strong government. Constituency A Labour 21,200 votes Conservative 21,199 votes Liberal Democrat 8,656 votes SNP 3,821 votes 2010 UK General election results B Constituency B Labour 30,000 votes Conservative 10,226 votes Liberal Democrat 4,333 votes SNP 3,266 votes Full UK Scoreboard Seats Votes % Conservative 307 10,726,214 36.1 Labour 258 8,609,527 29 Liberal Democrat 57 6,836,824 23 Democratic Unionist 8 168,216 0.6 SNP 6 491,386 1.7 Sinn Fein 5 171,942 0.6 Plaid Cymru 3 165,394 0.6 Green 1 285,616 1 UK Independence 0 919,546 3.1 Party Party 2
  3. 3. Arguments for and against FPTP There are many arguments for and against FPTP. Arguments for FPTP Arguments against FPTP It's simple to understand and thus doesn't cost much to administer and doesn't alienate people who can't count. Representatives can get elected on tiny amounts of public support as it does not matter by how much they win, only that they get more votes than other candidates. It encourages tactical voting, as voters vote not for the candidate they most prefer, but against the candidate they most dislike. FPTP in effect wastes huge numbers of votes, as votes cast in a constituency for losing candidates, or for the winning candidate above the level they need to win that seat, count for nothing. FPTP severely restricts voter choice. Parties are coalitions of many different viewpoints. If the preferred-party candidate in your constituency has views with which you don't agree, you don't have a means of saying so at the ballot box. It doesn't take very long to count all the votes and work out who's won, meaning results can be declared a handful of hours after polls close. It can discourage extremist parties as it is very hard for them to be elected, even if they do achieve a sizeable number of votes. It tends to produce a two-party system which in turn tends to produce single-party governments, which don't have to rely on support from other parties to pass legislation. Usually one party gains a clear majority It is very unfair on smaller parties as the therefore a strong government is formed results do not always reflect closely the that can get things done. number of votes a party received. Activities 1. Describe how the First Past the Post voting system operates. 2. Draw 2 spider diagrams showing the arguments for and against FPTP. 3. What parties do you think benefit most from FPTP? 4. Which parties do you think find FPTP very unfair? Exam Style Question Explain in detail, the arguments for and against FPTP. (Nat.4 – 4 Marks) (Nat.5 - 8Marks) 3
  4. 4. Scottish Electoral System The voting systems used in Scotland to elect MSPs and local councillors are different from that used to elect MPs. The voting system used for Scottish Parliament elections is called the Additional Members System (AMS) and for local councils it is called the Single Transferable Vote (STV). Both are forms of Proportional Representation (PR). In PR systems there is a greater link between votes received and votes won. Additional Member System (AMS) AMS is a hybrid voting system used to elect the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly since 1999, as well as the London Assembly. How does AMS work? AMS combines elements of First Past the Post where voters mark an X next to the candidate they want to represent them in their constituency, and proportional representation, where voters select from a list of candidates for each party who represent a larger regional constituency. This helps to overcome the disproportionally often associated with First Past The Post elections. Under AMS, each voter typically gets two votes – one for a candidate and one for a party. The first vote is to elect 73 constituency MSPs in the local constituency elections using FPTP. The second vote is to elect the 56 regional MSPs, in a multi-member constituency, choosing between parties. Elections of the Scottish Parliament You have two votes Constituency members Vote once only Regional members (X) (X) A candidate A party B party B candidate C party C candidate D party D candidate E party E candidate F party 4 Vote once only
  5. 5. Overall, the Additional Member System creates eight Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) to represent every person in Scotland: one constituency MSP and seven regional MSPs. The eight regions of Scotland MSPs. Each region elects 7. Fact file – Additional Member System Constituency Regional This vote is for a Constituency This vote is for Regional representatives representative. Scotland is divided up into 73 electoral areas, Scotland is divided into 8 electoral areas known as constituencies. known as regions. The electorate is given the choice of Each Party has a list of prospective different people, most of whom belong to a candidates. political party, to vote for to be their constituency representative. The person with the most votes in each A particular mathematical formula is used constituency wins and becomes the MSP for to allocate additional members from the that constituency. various parties, based on the number of votes each party receives. They are First Past the Post winners. This system is used so that the percentage of votes a party receives in the Election is about the same as the percentage of seats they win in the Scottish Parliament. 5
  6. 6. Case Study: Glasgow Anniesland 2011 election The constituency vote was to elect the person who would represent the constituency of Glasgow Anniesland. The results in that election were as follows. Candidate name Party Votes Cast Bill Butler Scottish Labour 10,322 Bill Kidd Scottish National Party 10,329 Marc Livingston Communist party of Britain 256 Paul McGarry Scottish Liberal Democrats 1,000 Matthew Taylor Smith Scottish Conservative 2,011 Bill Kidd (SNP) won more votes than any other candidate (FPTP) in the constituency and therefore was elected as the constituency MSP for Glasgow Anniesland. The regional vote was for a political party and was counted from all the votes in the region of Glasgow using a mathematical formula that means the total number of seats a party receives in the election more accurately reflects the percentage of votes the party has received. Each party provides a list of individuals numbered 1-7 before the election and if a party receives 3 MSPs through the regional vote then numbers 1-3 on the list will be elected as MSPs. Party No. of seats won Regional MSP’.s Labour 3 Hanzala Malik Drew Smith Anne McTaggart Green 1 Patrick Harvie Conservative 1 Ruth Davidson Scottish National Party 2 Humza Yousaf Bob Doras Region of Glasgow - Regional vote result Following the 2011 election result, the constituents of Anniesland are represented by the Bill Kidd (constituency MSP) and, Hanzala Malik; Drew Smith; Anne McTaggart; Patrick Harvie; Ruth Davidson; Humza Yousaf and Bob Doras. (Regional MSPs) 6
  7. 7. The impact of AMS A fairer result There is no doubt that AMS increases proportionality by reducing the gaps between share of votes and share of seats. In sharp contrast, in the 2010 general election, the First Past The Post system awarded Labour almost 70% of Scottish seats in the House of Commons with only 42% of the vote. Coalition government or minority party government In 1999 and 2003 Labour formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. In the 2007 election the SNP overtook Labour as the strongest party in the Scottish Parliament, but only by a single seat. The SNP formed a minority government and had to depend on other parties supporting their policies for the respective bills to be passed in Parliament. Small parties encouraged and sometimes rewarded In 2003 the Greens and the Scottish Social Party (SSP) won 13 out of 56 seats in the second ballot. The presence of Green and SSP MSPs in the Scottish Parliament would not have been achieved under First Past The Post. However, in the 2007 and 2011 elections only the Greens, with two MSPs, represented the small parties. Greater voter choice There has been a large increase in the number of parties and individual candidates competing for seats in the second ballot. More than 20 parties participated in the 2011 elections. The impact of AMS in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election The 2011 election was a triumph for the SNP who achieved a landslide victory that gave them an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament and an end to either coalition or minority government. Labour, who had maintained their dominance in the 2010 General election, suffered a collapse in their support and number of MSPs. Labour lost 9 seats while the SNP gained 22. Party SNP +/- Lab +/- Cons +/- Lib +/- 0ther +/ -11 3 - Dems Total 69 +22 37 -9 15 -2 5 Scottish Parliament election results, May 2011 However, the biggest losers were the Liberal Democrats. Scottish voters were unhappy that the Liberal Democrats had joined up with the Conservatives to form a coalition government after the 2010 general election. The Liberal Democrats were punished and lost 11 of their 16 seats. 7
  8. 8. Party Seats +/- Votes % +/-% SNP 53 +32 902,915 45.4 +12.5 Labour 15 -20 630,461 31.7 -0.5 Conservative 3 -3 276,652 13.9 -2.7 Liberal 2 -9 157,714 7.9 -8.2 0 0 21,480 1.1 -1.1 Democrat Other Scottish Parliament election May 2011, constituency results Party Seats +/- Votes % +/-% SNP 16 -9 876,421 44.0 +13 Labour 22 -13 523,559 26.3 -2.9 Conservative 12 -2 245,967 12.4 -1.6 Liberal 3 -3 103,472 5.2 -6.1 -1 241,632 12.1 -2.5 Democrat Labour Scottish Parliament election May 2011, regional list results Political party Constituency Regional Total MSPs % of % of MSPs MSPs votes seats Conservative 3 12 15 13.15 11.6 Green 0 2 2 2.2 1.6 Labour 15 22 37 29 28.7 Liberal Democrats 2 3 5 6.55 3.9 Scottish National 53 16 69 44.7 53.5 Party Scottish Parliamentary Election results 2011 The last shows that the percentage of votes is closely related to the percentage of seats each party received. This is because of the formula that is used to ensure that the number of seats for parties in the Scottish Parliament is roughly proportional to the number of votes they won. A party that has a clear lead in the constituency election will do less well in the regional list election. For example, Table 7.15 shows that the SNP won 53 constituency seats but only 16 regional seats. The table also shows that the SNP won a majority of seats in the Parliament. This is the first time a single party has held a majority. 8
  9. 9. Arguments for and against AMS There are many arguments for and against the Additional Member System. Arguments for AMS Arguments against AMS It is fairer because it produces a close correlation between shares of votes and shares of seats. In the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, the Conservatives won about 13% of the votes and about 12% of the seats. It gives minor parties more parliamentary representation. In the 2003 election, the Scottish Socialist Party, the Green Party, the Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party and the Independents were all represented. It can create a government in which a minority party can implement its policies. The Liberal Democrats finished fourth in the 2003 Scottish election, yet formed a government with Labour. It reduces the number of wasted votes and so encourages greater turnout. Each voter has a directly accountable single constituency representative. Every voter has at least one effective vote. 9 It can lead to an unstable and weak government. The minority SNP weak government of 2007-2007 found it difficult to implement its policies. It failed for example to implement its policy of minimum pricing of alcohol in November 2010. It creates conflict between the constituency MSP and the seven list MSPs. There is clear rivalry between the two classes of MSPs. MSPs elected via the regional lists have been seen as having 'got in via the backdoor' or as 'assisted place' or 'second class' members. It can be complicated with people getting confused over exactly what they are supposed to do with their two votes. Many representatives are accountable to the party leadership rather than the voters.
  10. 10. Activities 1. Describe the AMS electoral system. 2. Under AMS, each voter typically gets two votes. Describe the differences between these votes. 3. How many MSPs is each constituent in Scotland represented by? 4. How is the regional vote calculated? How are regional MSPs chosen? 4. Describe the impact of AMS in Scotland? 5. Why was the 2011 election was a triumph for the SNP? Exam Style Question Explain in detail, the arguments for and against AMS. (Nat.4 – 4 Marks) (Nat.5 - 8Marks) The Single Transferable Vote (STV) This PR system was used in the Scottish local government elections for the first time in May 2007. It is also used in Northern Ireland for elections to both the Northern Ireland Assembly and the European Parliament. How does STV work? The Single Transferable Vote (STV) is a form of proportional representation which uses preferential voting in multi-member constituencies. Candidates don't need a majority of votes to be elected, just a known 'quota', or share of the votes, determined by the size of the electorate and the number of positions to be filled. Each voter gets one vote, which can transfer from their first-preference to their secondpreference, so if a voters preferred candidate has no chance of being elected or has enough votes already, their vote is transferred to another candidate. STV thus ensures that very few votes are wasted, unlike other systems, especially First Past the Post, where only a small number of votes actually contribute to the result. 10
  11. 11. The main features of STV Representatives are chosen from multi-member constituencies In a five-member local government constituency (ward), voters rank their preferences among the total number of candidates standing, using the numbers 1 to 5. Often the number of candidates will be in double figures. Electors can vote for as many or as few candidates as they like. A complicated quote system is used to calculate the minimum number of votes required to win one of the seats to be filled. Local council elections Rank candidates in order of preference ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’ etc Candidate Number Candidate A 5 Candidate B 3 Candidate C 1 Candidate D 4 Candidate E 2 Example STV ballot paper The impact of STV in Scotland The Local Government Elections 2007 and 2012 The introduction of the STV system in 2007 to replace FPTP has led to a fairer distribution of seats among the parties but it has also led to far fewer councils being controlled by one party. This results in a significant number of councils having coalition administrations. Labour dominance of local government has ended: in 2003, Labour had 509 councillors and overall control of 13 councils; SNP had 181 councillors and overall control of one council. In contrast, in the 2007 elections using STV, SNP gained the most councillors having 363 but control of no council, and Labour dropped to 348 councillors and control of two councils. It was decided that elections for the Scottish Parliament and local councils would not take place at the same time. For this reason, council elections were delayed until 2012. Both the SNP and Labour claimed they were the winners in the 2012 council elections. The SNP could argue they had the most seats and the largest increase in councillors. Labour could argue they controlled the most councils, including Glasgow, which the SNP had hoped to win. What 11
  12. 12. was clear was that the Liberal Democrats did badly – they lost 95 seats and suffered the humiliation of an Independent candidate dressed as a penguin receiving more votes than the Liberal Democrat candidate in Edinburgh’s Pentland Hills ward – they came fourth behind ‘the penguin’ Professor Pongoo, a climate activist. Party Number of councillors Net gain/loss compared with 2003 elections Scottish National Party 363 +182 Scottish Labour 348 -161 Scottish Liberal Democrats 166 -9 Scottish Conservative 143 +20 Scottish Green 8 +8 2007 local council election results Party Number of councillors Net gain/loss compared with 2007 elections Scottish National Party 425 +62 Scottish Labour 394 +46 Scottish Liberal Democrats 71 -95 Scottish Conservative 115 -28 Scottish Green 14 +6 2012 local council election results Party 2003 (FPTP) 2007 (STV) 2012 (STV) Labour 13 2 4 SNP 1 0 2 Independents 6 3 4 Total councils 20 5 10 Councils controlled by Labour, SNP, Independents 12
  13. 13. Arguments for and against STV There are many arguments for and against STV. Arguments for STV Arguments against STV STV gives voters more choice than any The process of counting the results takes longer under STV, meaning that results cannot usually be declared on the same night as the vote took place. other system. This in turn puts most power in the hands of the voters, rather than the party heads, who under other systems can more easily determine who is elected. Fewer votes are 'wasted' (i.e. cast for losing candidates or unnecessarily cast for the winner) under STV. This means that In large multi-member constituencies, ballot papers can get rather big and confusing. most voters can identity a representative that they personally helped to elect. Such a link in turn increases a representative's accountability Under STV, as opposed to hybrid systems such as AMS, all MPs are elected on the same basis, thus lessening the chances of there being animosity between them. A voting system that allows voters to rank candidates is prone to so-called 'Donkey voting', where voters vote for candidates in the order they appear on the ballot. Activities 1. Describe the main features of STV. 2. Outline the impact of the introduction of STV on the Scottish local council elections of 2007. Exam Style Question Explain in detail, the arguments for and against STV. (Nat.4 – 4 Marks) (Nat.5 - 8Marks) 13

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