Electoral reform

Polling Station

(Credit: Gruntzooki, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Democratic Audit believes that only a proportional system or a preferential system with broadly proportional results can satisfy the basic rule that elections should first of all satisfy the basic requirement that elections should be genuinely representative of people’s votes; and that people should be given real choices when they come to vote. For this reason, we tend to be strongly critical of the outcomes of recent UK elections held under the ‘first-past-the-post’ system. However, we do not favour any one proportional or preferential system.

Read our assessment of the UK’s current system here: Is ‘first-past-the-post’ working? An audit of the UK’s electoral system.

Although debates about electoral reform since 2009 have centred on proposals to replace ‘first-past-the-post’ with the alternative vote (AV), there are numerous other options for electoral reform in the UK.  Many of these other electoral systems are already in use in the UK, as the table below illustrates.

Electoral systems currently in use in the UK

Electoral system Types of elections which use this system in the UK Examples of countries using this system for national elections
Single Transferable Vote (STV) Northern Ireland Assembly, European Parliament elections in Northern Ireland, Scottish local government elections Ireland, Malta, Australia (Senate)
Alternative Member System (AMS) – also known as Mixed Member System (MMS) and Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, London Assembly Germany, New Zealand, Mexico
Party List Proportional Representation (List PR) European Parliament elections in Great Britain Netherlands, Israel
Supplementary vote London Mayor
First-past-the-post House of Commons Canada, India, USA

The following papers provide further information and analysis of issues concerned with electoral reform and competing electoral systems:

David Beetham assesses the strengths and weaknesses of first-past-the-post and the various alternative systems for elections to Parliament, according to democratic criteria & contains a simple democratic check-list.
How Should We Vote?
Helena Catt, chief executive of the Electoral Commission in New Zealand, analyses how the Mixed-Member System for parliamentary elections there has bedded down and is effect on New Zealand’s politics
New Zealand’s Experience with MMP (AMS)
For half a century Germany has voted in elections to the German Parliament using a purer version of the Additional Member System now in use in Scotland and Wales. Robert Johns reviews its contribution to German politics and considers how it might translate to the UK.
AMS in Germany – and in Britain?

Further reading

Stuart Wilks-Heeg and Stephen Crone,  Is ‘first-past-the-post’ working? An audit of the UK’s electoral system, Democratic Audit Referendum Briefing No.1, 4 May 2011.

Stuart Wilks-Heeg, ‘A tale of two electorates: why some voters are more equal than others’, Democratic Audit General Election Briefing No.2, 5 May 2010.

Stuart Wilks-Heeg, ‘Gove’s last-ditch defence of first-past-the-post’, OurKingdom, 5 May 2010.

Stuart Wilks-Heeg, ‘Debunking the latest myths in favour of first-past-the-post’, Left Foot Forward, 10 May 2010.