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Voting and the UK Voting System

By: Joanne Walker BA (hons) - Updated: 8 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Election Voting Vote Uk System Majority

All countries, and indeed organisations, have different voting systems. Some use a system of proportional representation while others use an even more complicated system known as single transferable voting. There are also several other, more complicated methods of counting votes.

But voting and the UK voting system is relatively straightforward thankfully and operates on a majority vote system. This is to say; whoever polls the most votes wins the election. It is straightforward and means that the most popular person always wins.


The clear advantage is, as detailed above, that when it comes to voting and the UK voting system, the most popular person or party will always win. This is in clear contrast to the system used in the USA where it does not always follow that the person who picks up the most votes wins the election.

There, there is a complicated system in place whereby each state elects delegates who then elect the president. States have varying numbers of delegates meaning that it can happen that someone who has polled more ‘actual’ votes from the public cannot win – as many democrats say was the case with the Al Gore/George Bush election. But in elections in the UK, if a person or party gets the most votes, then they win the election.

Overall Majority

For a political party in the UK to form a Government they need an overall majority. This means that the ruling party needs to have more members of Parliament or more councillors than all the other parties put together. If the winning party does not have an overall majority then there will be a hung Parliament or a hung council.

What usually happens on these occasions is that the majority party will team up with a smaller party to form a coalition. In doing a deal such as this, they keep out the main opposition and still manage to hold control of the authority.

Local and National

In the UK, there is not too much difference between the way local and national Governments are elected. The major difference is that in national elections, all members of Parliament are elected at the same time. In local elections, it can range from one third of councillors to the whole council.

This depends on the type of council and what year it is. Typically if they are not all elected at the same time, they will have one third of the council up for election each year, with the fourth year off. This is usually when a general election will be held although they only have to be held every five years.

It is difficult to consider why another other voting system would be used apart from first past the post as is the case in the UK. But there are other systems and it id good to be aware of them because some institutions, including student unions do use them. But for people who want to know how their Government is elected, there can be no simpler way of voting someone in than the UK system.

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