first past the post

England let down by elections as Scotland leads the way

9th May 2012
9 May 2012
single transferable vote
first past the post


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- A tale of 6 cities and 2 very different elections

Initial analysis of last Thursday’s elections is showing a widening gulf between local democracy in England and Scotland. 
In its initial analysis of election results, focusing on six English and Scottish cities, the Electoral Reform Society has shown English voters are drawing the ‘short straw’ in their elections, with less choice and less chance of affecting the result.
Scotland abandoned First Past the Post for local government elections in 2007 and adopted the Single Transferrable Vote form of Proportional Representation. This has brought competitive elections into all the local ‘One Party States’ that once blighted Scottish politics.
Willie Sullivan, Director of the Electoral Reform Society Scotland said:
In last Thursday’s election voters across Britain went to the polls. But for voters in Scotland and England this was a tale of two Elections - and England drew the short straw.

"Scottish voters got more choice at the polls and more chance of deciding who speaks in their name in their town halls. And while most Scots got a councillor they backed for their trouble, most of the English just threw their votes away.

"Glasgow has transformed itself from rotten borough to a multi-party democracy. Scotland now has a local democracy we can all be proud of, and getting rid of First Past the Post made that possible. With the Single Transferable Vote people have got a real say on who runs their local authorities. Voters in England should settle for nothing less.”  

A tale of 6 Cities
Voter Choice
























Voters getting who they voted for (%)






Women’s representation (%)







Voting system






Estimated National Turnout

Scotland 42%

England 32%

Local Democracy Scotland can be proud of

1st May 2012
1 May 2012
single transferable vote
first past the post
uncontested seat


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Local Democracy Scotland can be proud of   As the UK heads to the polls, the Electoral Reform Society Scotland has welcomed the fact that there is not a single uncontested seat in Scottish local authorities.   

Wales alone boasts over 95 uncontested seats – with 140, 000 voters denied a say.  

In the last set of Scottish Local elections run under First Past the Post in 2003 Scotland had 61 uncontested seats. Following the shift to the Single Transferable Vote in 2007 that figure hit zero.  

Willie Sullivan, Director of Electoral Reform Society Scotland said: 

In hundreds of wards across the UK voters will not get the chance to have their say this Thursday. These elections were a done deal without a single vote being cast.  But once again Scotland has left the plague of uncontested seats behind.   

“We know that the First Past the Post system used in England and Wales and here in Scotland for Westminster elections gives us seats so safe that it’s not even worth anyone else standing.  If you’re lucky you might get a paper candidate faxed in from central office.  

“Now Scotland has a local democracy we can all be proud of. With the Single Transferable Vote people will get a real say on who runs their local authorities this week. But while we live in a fairly elected multi-party democracy we should remember our fellow voters in England and Wales, and encourage them to settle for nothing less.”  

For comment or analysis during the 2012 Scottish local election contact Willie Sullivan on 07940 523842

Vote change will 'damage democracy and devolution'

22nd November 2011
22 Nov 2011
first past the post
welsh assembly


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New figures released by the Electoral Reform Society Wales (ERS) show the extent to which Welsh Labour would disproportionately benefit if First Past The Post was exclusively adopted for future Assembly elections.

The figures are contained in a report² produced by the Society in conjunction with the Aberystwyth Institute of Welsh Politics and Prof. Roger Scully. The report details what the results in the 2011 Assembly election could have looked like under different voting systems.

The issue of electoral reform for the National Assembly is back on the agenda after the Secretary of State for Wales indicated she may change how AMs are elected.

The UK Government is likely to propose a reduction in the number of constituency AMs from 40 to 30, in line with the reduction in numbers of Welsh MPs³. To compensate, more AMs would be elected using the regional list system – 30, instead of the current 20.

Responding to this proposal, Welsh Labour has stated that it would prefer all AMs be elected by First Past The Post – two from each of the 30 constituencies with a system known as Two Member First Past The Post.

However, as ERS research reveals, Two Member First Past The Post would deny thousands of Welsh voters a voice in the National Assembly and disproportionately benefit Labour.

Steve Brooks, Wales Director of the Electoral Reform Society said:

Our research shows that Labour would have won nearly 70% of the seats in the National Assembly, had the last election been fought using Two Member First Past the Post. This is despite the fact that Labour secured around 40% of the vote.

“While this may be good news for aspiring Labour candidates, its bad news for Welsh voters. Two Member First Past The Post would rob thousands of voters of a choice and voice.

Over half of Welsh voters chose the Tories, Plaid Cymru or the Liberal Democrats in May this year, yet under Two Member First Past The Post, those parties would be left with less than a third of the seats in the Assembly. That would be damaging for democracy and damaging for devolution.”

The research from the Electoral Reform Society Wales also reveals how the different parties would fare if Wales used the Single Transferable Vote, the system used to choose MPs in Ireland.[4]

Professor Roger Scully, Director of the Institute of Welsh Politics, stated:

The Assembly voting system has already been discussed in detail by the independent Richard Commission. The Commissioners, chosen on a cross-party basis and looking at the evidence, came to the decision that 80-member STV was the most suitable voting system for a Welsh Assembly with legislative powers”.

Steve Brooks added:

Had the recommendations been implemented Labour would have secured 40 of the 80 seats. Voters would have had more of choice over who represents them locally, and who governs them nationally”.

Commenting on the row between the UK and Welsh governments on Assembly voting reform, Steve Brooks said:

A proportional system is part of the devolution package and it’s been endorsed in two referendums. How we choose our politicians is fundamental to how our democracy works. Any change to the voting system should be carefully considered, above day-to-day party politics. There needs to be a genuine cross-party dialogue with the people of Wales”.


Download the full report here: Welsh Election Report (English language version) or here: Welsh Election Report (Welsh language version)

For more information or for interview requests you can contact:

Stephen Brooks, 07525619622

Owain ap Gareth, 07771661802

ERS London Media Office 020 7202 8601

Summary of Findings

The report examines the outcomes of 30 constituencies with two Assembly Members (AMs) elected in each under First Past the Post (FPTP), the Single Transferable Vote (STV) and the Additional Member System (AMS): See graphs and tables of the projected election results.

Notes to Editors

1. The Electoral Reform Society Wales aims to build a better democracy by ensuring that the electoral processes of Westminster & Wales are fair and accountable. Find out more at
2. The report, written by elections experts, academic Prof. Roger Scully and ERS Wales’ researcher Dr Owain ap Gareth, the report compares projections of what the results could have looked like under different voting systems and questions the impact of the proposed Boundary Changes. The report strongly recommends that any proposed change to the voting system would also need to take into account whether it is necessary or desirable to link the National Assembly for Wales constituencies to Westminster constituencies.
3. The boundary changes instigated by the UK Government propose to cut the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 30.

LTE - First past the post bad for democracy

28th September 2011
28 Sep 2011
first past the post
single transferable vote
excessive majorities


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SIR – It was disappointing to read Peter Hain’s comments resurrecting his idea that the Assembly should be exclusively elected by the first-past-the-post system (“Hain pushes for first-past-the-post voting for Assembly”, September 27).

Writing for WalesOnline during the AV referendum campaign, Hain stated that “as a democrat I cannot wish away the fact that first-past-the-post is no longer fit for purpose”.

What the Shadow Secretary of State must surely recognise is that his latter day conversion to first-past-the-post would not only be bad for Welsh democracy, but ultimately bad for Labour.

Under Hain’s plan, Labour, which secured just over two out of every five votes in this year’s Assembly election, would be rewarded with over two-thirds of the seats: a thumping supermajority giving the party a significant amount of power, and reducing the size of the opposition parties to a rump at the very time when new law-making powers calls for better scrutiny.
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Labour members should look again at Hain’s proposals as it runs contrary to Carwyn Jones’ aspiration that Labour should be a party for the whole of Wales.

2011 saw some spectacular results for Labour – but outside of South Wales the party still has much work to do.

Without the current Regional List system, Labour would have no representation and a weakened campaigning base across huge swathes of the country; areas with parliamentary seats once held by Labour and which the party must win back if it is to topple the Tories in 2015.


Director, Electoral Reform Society (Wales)
Published Western Mail