- FPTP, the voting system used in the UK to decide the results of the 659 seats in the House of Commons (and, for those Americans amongst us, how 48 of the 50 Electoral College votes for presidency and all the seats in Congress are filled).
- FPTP does what it says on the tin. The winner of the race is the first to pass the winning post. So, in the UK, the party with the overall majority of parliamentary votes is the winning party and forms the government, even if collectively those who voted against that party is a higher number.
- Generally, it lends itself to:
- Stable, single-party governments
- Discouragement of narrow, ideological and extremist parties.
- Discouragement of coalitions
- Close link between elected members of the legislature and their constituents (as MPs represent geographical areas).
- However, reasons for potentially changing from this system include:
- That it’s possible to win constituencies with well below 50% of the popular vote
- The relationship between votes won and seats gained in the legislature is often poor
- A significant number of votes are wasted
- FPTP produces unrepresentative legislatures in regards to women and ethnic minorities.
So what’s our alternative? That would be the appropriately entitled ‘Alternative Vote’ system, in which we (the voters) rank our candidates in order of preference. Initially, only the first preference votes are counted, but if nobody gets a majority with 50% or more, the second votes are counted and added (although the lowest scoring candidate at this point is eliminated) – just like in Student Union Elections. This continues until one party has 50% of the vote. The Conservatives are against a change from FPTP; the Liberal Democrats are in favour of it, and have been campaigning for a remodelling of the UK’s voting system for some time now, though the Alternative Voting System isn’t their preferred setup.So which way will I vote? God knows. In opening the can of worms that is the debate between voting systems, I came to realise, as historian Will Durant once said, that ‘education is a progressive discovery of our ignorance.’ The intricacies of a debate over a system that is so much a part of our country’s history and sense of tradition have left me feeling pretty ignorant indeed (I blame the numbers). But, as a former Politics student and a firm appreciator of the feminist movement, I will be ploughing on through that handy textbook known as Wikipedia until I have an education and an opinion worth voting for. Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am.For a summary on the Referendum and information that’ll help you cast the right vote, visit:•The BBC’s Q&A on the Alternative Vote Referendum: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11243595•The Electoral Commission’s page on the Referendum: http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/elections/upcoming-elections-and-referendums/uk/referendums Alexandra Davey