The government has announced measures to implement the first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system for council and ‘metro’ mayoral elections across England, as well as Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) across England and Wales.
At the moment, these elections use the supplementary voting system, which allows voters to have a ‘second vote’ and if no candidate wins 50% of the overall total, the top two candidates go into a run-off, with people’s second votes taken into account.
In this May’s London Mayoral elections, the supplementary voting system saw 347,722 votes wasted, which the government said reflected voter confusion and described it as a ‘complex system’.
FPTP is the world’s most widely used electoral system and the government said this change will further strengthen the accountability of elected mayors and PCCs to their electorate, making it easier for voters to express a clear choice.
They also said that the person chosen to represent a local area should be the one who directly receives the most votes.
Commenting, Minister for the Constitution, Chloe Smith said:
“Britain’s long-standing national electoral system of first-past-the-post ensures clearer accountability and allows voters to kick out the politicians who don’t deliver.
“First-past-the-post is fair and simple, the person with the most votes wins.”
Minister for Local Government, Luke Hall added:
“Elected mayors can provide strong leadership and must be held to account at the ballot box.
“The supplementary vote is an anomaly which confuses the public and is out of step with other elections in England, both local and national.
“Moving to first-past-the-post will make it easier for voters to express a clear choice.”
Although supported by the government, the changes are not welcomed unanimously, with the Electoral Reform Society opposing the move.
Commenting on Twitter, they said:
“This is a regressive move that would likely see significant positions handed to people without the support of a majority of the voters, undermining the legitimacy of those elected.”
The government will be bringing forward amendments to the Elections Bill to deliver these changes.
PSE’s Chris Cromar’s feature on electoral reform: Should England introduce PR for local elections like Scotland? Can be read here.