First Post The Past Electoral System

Topics: Voting system, Elections, Plurality voting system Pages: 7 (2375 words) Published: April 28, 2014
The Script

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First Past The Post (FPTP), also known as Simple majority voting or Plurality voting . It is used in the UK to elect MPs to the House of Commons and also used in Canada, the USA and some other countries.

It is worth noting that in a General Election under FPTP, no one votes directly for a Party, a Prime Minister or a Government. You can only cast a vote for an individual candidate to be elected as an MP. Voting directly for the party is a feature of PR systems such as MMP/AMS, List PR and DPR Voting.

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How does First Past The Post work?

Under First Past The Post (FPTP) voting takes place in single-member constituencies. Voters put a cross in a box next to their favoured candidate and the candidate with the most votes in the constituency wins. All other votes count for nothing. In a ‘normal’ British national election or by-election (i.e. excluding the newer formats that have been used in recent regional elections for devolution), those who wish to fight an election register to do so. When the election takes place, for example a by-election for a constituency MP for Westminster, the person who wins the highest number of votes within that constituency, wins that election. FPTP is as clear and as brutal as that. Only in the very rarest of cases has a re-count been ordered due to the closeness of that specific result, but in the vast majority of cases, FPTP allows for a clear winner.

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Example: by-election for the constituency. The three main candidates are from the three most prominent national parties. The result is as follows:

Candidate A (Labour): 22,000 votes
Candidate B (Tory): 17,000 votes
Candidate C (Lib Dems): 13,000 votes

In this example, the clear winner is candidate A with a majority over Candidate B of 5,000. FPTP is a cheap and simple way to hold an election, as each voter only has to place one cross on the ballot paper. Counting of the ballot papers is usually fast and the result of a British general election is usually known the very next day after polling. Ballot papers are usually simple (though they can drift towards being confusing if the number of candidates is large) and the voter only needs to put one clear mark on their paper, which should be easily counted thus removing the prospect of confusion The speed of the process usually allows for a new government to take over power swiftly or if the incumbent government wins the general election, allows for a swift return for the continuation of government without too many disruptions to the political life of the nation.

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FPTP has created within Great Britain a political system that is essentially stable as two parties just dominate politics. The chaos of the political systems of Italy and Israel is avoided using FPTP. Minority governments have occurred in the UK using FPTP, but the life span of those governments was limited. In recent years, governments have been strong as a result of the clear mandate given to it using the FPTP system.

In a constituency, one MP is elected and therefore, the people of that constituency will know who to ask or pursue if they have a query etc. In a multi-member constituency, in which a number of parties are represented, this would not be as easy.

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Advantages of FPTP
First Past The Post, like other plurality/majority electoral systems, is defended primarily on the grounds of simplicity and its tendency to produce winners who are representatives beholden to defined geographic areas and governability. The most often cited advantages are that: It provides a clear-cut choice for voters between two main parties. The inbuilt disadvantages faced by third and fragmented minority parties under FPTP in many cases cause the party system to gravitate towards a party of the ‘left’ and a party of the ‘right’, alternating in power. Third parties often wither away and almost never reach a level of popular support above which their national vote...
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