Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Voting systems and debates

There are two general approaches to voting systems: simple majority and proportional representation. The BBC provides an interactive guide to various voting systems (only one is a simple majority system: first past the post); use this to note definitions of FPTP and the other PR systems, and where in the UK they are used.
Click here to visit the site
You can also find superior, more detailed definitions at or at

This table can be found here, with more detailed breakdowns of voting systems and more international examples of where they're each used

You'll be asked to find arguments for or against FPTP and STV (as an example of PR): use these links - FPTP, STV.

This is another very useful site for comparing arguments for/against FPTP.

There are serious issues with voter turnout in the UK; see and for data on this. The posts Voter Turnout: Uk Democracy in Crisis and Would e-voting Encourage the Young to Vote? also deal with this.
Is our voting system (at least partially) to blame?
The UK uses a variety of voting systems for the various national, European, local and devolved regional elections, a mixture of the crude first-past-the-post (FPTP) and the more complex but (many would argue) fairer proportional representation (PR).

Voter turnout has been in long-term decline, leading to some question how recent governments, both Labour and Tory/Coalition, can possibly claim to be 'representative' or democratic.
In your exam you could be asked to discuss the arguments for/against different systems, the reasons why people do/don't or should/should not vote, or simply show some knowledge of how different voting systems are used for different elections across the UK.

First up, a video which explains how STV works:

This one explains 'FPTP', using Ontario in Canada as an example

This one sets out arguments against FPTP

Another video explaining FPTP, though the creator fails to distinguish correctly between England and the UK...

This video compares AV (alternative vote) and FPTP, and argues that neither are fair

The BBC also produced a nice summary of the arguments over the 2011 referendum on changing to an AV voting system:

Less graphic and more challenging, but also useful, is the guide, which includes some history and arguments for/against the competing systems:
The History Learning Site also has a detailed guide on PR:

We're going to conduct a sample election, counting using both the FPTP system and a simple PR system (no. of votes x 100 divided by number of people in the class).

You can use the links below, as well as your own searches, to help you come up with arguments for/against PR; one issue one vote; electronic voting; postal voting; convenient voting locations; Sunday voting:

PR - see links above.
One issue one vote: see and Also consider though: should we have more referenda rather than leaving it to our political 'representatives' to decide how our country runs?

Voting electronically: see, or

Postal voting: see; or

Sunday voting proved a major issue in the 2012 US election: see and

You could also consider compulsory voting: see, or

You could also look up the Electoral Reform Society's website, or look for articles on the referendum on UK voting reform.

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