POL S 348X Chapter 7: Chapter 7 NOTES

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February 6th, 2017
Political Science
Politics UK
Bill Jones and Philip Norton
Part 3; The Representative Process
Chapter 7:
Elections and Voting
The month of the election dominates news coverage and media
Not limited to election of Parliament Members
Votes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for developed legislatures, local elections
across country for councils and mayors, and also elections to European Parliament
General elections at least once every five years enable individuals to pass judgement on the
performance of the incumbent government and vote either to keep it in office or replace it.
This system of free, competitive elections distinguishes the political system as
democratic
Elections lead to policy representation accordingly
Electoral Systems
Until recently most public elections in the UK were conducted under the single member, simple
plurality system (SMSP)
Each electoral district (constituency) has a single representative
o he or she wins by a simple plurality
First-past-the-post system
For a candidate to win he or she needs only to get more votes
than any other candidate
o Not always representative of the majority of those who
voted
Recent years have seen the development of assorted other electoral systems
Bolster support for devolution in Scotland and Wales
Ensuring representation for the communities of Northern Ireland
The maintenance of the Liberal Democrats in a governing coalition with Labour in
Scotland
Hegemony of FPTP has dissolved into a system accessible to anyone party interest
Single member, simple plurality (FPTP)
House of Commons
Some English/Welsh local authorities
Multi-member, simple plurality
Some English/Welsh local authorities
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Additional member system (Mixed member proportional)
Voters have two votes, one used to choose a constituency representative (FPTP),
another to cast for a part list (Within regions in Scotland and Wales)
o List votes top up the elected in constituencies so that distribution of
representatives across parties is broadly proportional to share of list votes
received
o Generally, prevents single party majority in Scottish Parliament
SNP managed in 2011, winning 69 of 129 seats
Scottish Parliament
Welsh Assembly
London Assembly
Single transferable vote
Requires multi-member electoral districts. Voters list their choices in order of
preference. To be elected, a candidate needs to reach a specified quota of votes.
Northern Ireland Assembly
All Scottish councils
Regional party (closed) lists
The regions elect a number of members. The parties put forward a list of candidates and
voters vote for one list or another. (list as a whole) First party gets the first seat and
following parties divide votes by two for seats.
o System produces broadly proportional results within regions
European Parliament
Supplementary vote
o Allows voters to indicate first and second choice among candidates. If no candidate has
a majority then votes are divided between top two candidates.
Mayors in England
Alternative vote system
o Based on single member constituencies. Rather than plumping for one candidate, voters
indicate an order of preference. A candidate obtaining more than 50% of first
preferences is elected. Otherwise, the last-place candidate drops out and his voters are
re-allocated among the rest based on second preference.
o Subject of nationwide referendum in May 2011
Debate over the effects of different electoral systems and various good and bad points of each
2011 public debate on a referendum on method of election House of Commons
o FPTP vs alternative vote (AV) method.
o Electorate voted 68 percent in favor of maintaining FPTP
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