Mayoral elections use the Supplementary Vote system – so you get two votes instead of one. Here’s what to consider when casting your ballot in May.
Everybody knows that many of the voting systems in this country are unfair, and unfit for purpose.In the General Election in 2019, the Conservative Party won an 80-seat majority (56% of the seats in the House of Commons) but only 43.6% of the vote share. It’s been this way for over a hundred years – the Representation of the People Act 1918 gave the vote to men over 21 and (some) women over 30, but also introduced the ‘First Past the Post’ (FPTP) system we use today.
This system places no value on votes that aren’t for the winner – it doesn’t matter if you win your ward or constituency by ten votes or ten thousand, you’re still the winner, and everyone who voted for anyone else isn’t counted. The effect of this is that on polling day voters almost always look at the two candidates that they think are most likely to win, and then vote for the one they dislike less. This is known as Duverger’s Law, after the French political scientist who first observed and documented it.
FPTP isn’t applied uniformly across the UK – Wales and Scotland both use variants of Proportional Representation for Senedd and the Scottish Parliament – and here in England, for Mayoral elections we use the Supplementary Vote (SV). Under this system, the candidate with the most votes still wins – it’s not a proportional system – but voters have two votes to cast and understanding the way the votes are counted is really important:
What this means is – you can make your favourite candidate your first choice. If they get to the runoff that’s great, but if not, you can still use your second vote tactically, in the way you might choose to if you only had one vote. It’s a massive difference because it means we candidates have to consider all the voters in the Combined Authority, not just those we think are already in our camp. It should make for better debate, and it will definitely make for a more interesting count!
To be clear, SV is not as good as a genuinely proportional voting system like STV or AMS; but it’s definitely an improvement on FPTP and it’s good that it’s used here in the West Midlands Mayoral election.