Single Transferable Vote

Single Transferable Vote(STV)

  • Used for the Northern Ireland Assembly, local government in Northern Ireland and Scotland
  • Constituencies are multi-member
  • Candidates are ranked in order of preference
  • Candidates are elected if they receive a certain quota of votes, which is calculated as the total number of votes cast, divided by (number of seats available+1), then add 1
  • Counting takes place in several rounds, the bottom candidate dropping out each time and votes for that candidate being transferred to second/third preferences
  • This is a quota system

Example: 2017 Northern Ireland Assembly Election

Source: BBC News

Single Transferable Vote, figure 1

Single Transferable Vote: Advantages

  • Can be highly proportional
  • Creates competition for candidates from the same party, so they can be judged on their own strengths
  • Several representatives exist for people

Single Transferable Vote: Disadvantages

  • Degree of proportionality can vary
  • Single-party, strong government is very unlikely
  • Could be divisive by creating competition between candidates from the same party

Additional Member System(AMS)

  • This system is used for the Scottish and Welsh devolved governments
  • Electors have two votes: one for a representative (for a constituency), one for a party (for a region)
  • The winner for each constituency is the candidate with the most number of votes
  • For the regional votes, divide the number of votes they got by the (number of constituencies won+1)
  • Party with the highest number wins the seat
  • For the rest of the seats, repeat this action but add any additional seats won
  • This is a mixed system- partly pluralist (like FPTP) but partly proportional (where seats won reflects the percentage of votes in some way)

Example: 2011 Scottish Parliament Election

Source: BBC News

Single Transferable Vote, figure 1

Additional Member System: Advantages

  • Balances constituency representation against electoral fairness (proportionality)
  • Possibility of single-party, strong government remains
  • Allows for more voter choice- they could vote for two different parties

Additional Member System: Disadvantages

  • High levels of proportionality are unlikely
  • Creates confusion by having two classes of representative
  • Constituencies are larger, so representation may be less effective

Party List

  • Used in EU Parliament elections
  • Voters vote for a party, not a candidate
  • There are multimember constituencies
  • Parties are allocated seats in proportion to the votes cast
  • Seats are filled from the top of the party list downwards
  • Closed list used in EU Parliament elections)- parties decide on who appears on the list and in what order. Open list- voters have some choice

Example: 2014 European Parliament Election (UK)

Source: BBC News

Single Transferable Vote, figure 1

Party List: Advantages

  • It is the most purely proportional system
  • Electors identify with a whole region rather than just a constituency, so promotes unity
  • Minority ethnic groups and women are more likely to become representatives if placed highly on the list

Party List: Disadvantages

  • Small parties are more likely to do well, so leading to weak/unstable government
  • Extremist parties get a foothold in representation
  • Parties tend to decide who appears on the list and in what order, giving them too much influence
  • The constituency link is weakened

Alternative Vote(AV)

  • Used for local government by-elections in Scotland
  • Voters rank candidates in order of preference for a constituency
  • First preferences are counted- if a candidate gets over 50%, they are elected
  • If not, the bottom candidate drops out, and voters’ second choices are added on to the other candidates
  • This process is repeated until a candidate reaches 50%
  • This system was proposed for Westminster elections in a 2011 referendum but was rejected by the public vote

Alternative Vote: Advantages

  • Fewer wasted votes than in FPTP
  • Winning candidates must win 50% of support, ensuring a broader range of views are considered

Alternative Vote: Disadvantages

  • Outcome may be determined by the preferences of those who support extremist parties
  • Winning candidates may be simply the ‘least unpopular’, if they win due to second, third (or lower) preferences

Supplementary Vote(SV)

  • Used for London mayoral elections
  • Voters rank candidates in order of first and second choice
  • First preferences are counted- if a candidate gets over 50%, they are elected
  • If not, all candidates drop out except for the top two, then second choice votes are added on to see who wins
  • More proportional than FPTP, but not significantly. Known as a majority system

Supplementary Vote: Advantages

  • Easy to understand and use (perhaps easier than AV)
  • Fewer votes wasted than in FPTP
  • Encourages consensus campaigning, due to the focus on second preferences

Supplementary Vote: Disadvantages

  • Does not ensure that the winner is supported by over 50% of voters, unlike in AV (as both voter’s choices may be for candidates that drop out)
  • May encourage voters to support the main party candidate as their supplementary vote, rather than their preferred candidate