What are the different voting systems?

There are many voting systems in place in the UK to elect representatives democratically.


First-past-the-post is used to elect MPs to the House of Commons and for parish, borough and county council elections.

Under first-past-the-post, the UK or local authority is divided into numerous voting areas, i.e. constituencies or wards. At a general or local election, voters put a cross (X) next to their preferred candidate on a ballot paper.

Ballot papers are then counted and the candidate that has received the most votes is elected to represent the constituency or ward.

Supplementary vote (SV)

The supplementary vote system is used to elect the Police and Crime Commissioner in Gloucestershire.

Under SV, voters are limited to a first and second preference choice. A voter marks a cross in one column for their first preference candidate and another cross in a second column for their second preference (if they wish to do so).

The ballot papers are counted and if a candidate received more than 50 per cent of the first preference votes on the first count, then they are elected.

If no candidate reaches the 50 per cent threshold, the two candidates with the highest number of votes are retained and the other candidates are eliminated. The second preferences on the ballot papers of the eliminated candidates are counted and any cast for the two remaining candidates are transferred. The candidate with the most votes at the end of this process is elected.

Proportional representation (closed party list)

The proportional representation (closed party list) system is used to elect members of the European Parliament.

A voter marks a cross on the ballot paper next to the party’s name they wish to support. Once the ballot papers have been counted, each party gets the number of seats proportionate to the number of votes it has received in each constituency.

Multi-member constituencies are required for the closed party list which means constituencies are normally larger but elect several representatives rather than just one.

As voters choose parties rather than candidates, it is for the parties to determine the order in which candidates appear on the list and are then elected.