Proportional representation: Use the power of your vote

Voting slip putting a cross in a box

Have you lost faith in your local politician? Are you disillusioned with the electoral system? If you don’t bother to vote or deliberately spoil your vote, you could be helping to re-elect the people you have lost faith in!

Every unused vote lowers the quota, making it easier for a bad candidate to get elected and deprives a good candidate of a vote.

Every valid vote increases the quota, making it that little bit harder to win a seat.

The Quota
All the valid votes cast in a constituency are counted and a formula is used to calculate the minimum number of votes that will elect a candidate for each available seat, but not one more.

The first count
On the first count, only the number one preferences are effective, so all the votes are sorted by the number one preference and the votes for each candidate are counted. If a candidate gets enough votes to reach the quota he is elected.

After the first count
All the votes of an elected candidate are re-sorted by the number two preference. Votes above the quota that have no second preference go into a parcel labelled ‘non effective votes’ because they cannot go to any other candidate, but as valid votes they have been effective in one way, they have increased the quota.

The second preferences now becomes effective. A special formula is used to calculate how many of these second preference votes for each of the remaining candidate can be given to them and still leave the elected candidate with a quota, which has to be removed from the count. These new votes are added to the votes the candidates already have from the first count. A candidate reaching the quota with these added votes is elected and his or her surplus is then divided up using a similar process, but only the added votes are re-sorted. This continues until all the seats are filled.

There will always be more candidates than seats. You can, if you wish, put a number (but nothing else) beside every name on the ballot paper using the pencil provided.

You normally do this in the order you would prefer to see them elected. Most canvassers encourage you to do just that, because there is a chance that your vote could be transferred to their candidate at some stage in the count.

By marking your ballot paper properly you can make sure your vote can only transfer to certain candidates and can not transfer to others.

So, how do you mark your ballot paper to use the full power of your vote?

If you stop numbering the names on the ballot paper when you run out of good candidates you can prevent your vote going to bad candidates.

This is the only way you can vote against a candidate.

To summarise
1) By voting, you increase the quota, making it harder to get elected.
2) By marking your paper in the proper way you can make sure your vote only goes to a good candidate.
3) By not giving any preference to a bad candidate you deprive him of your vote.


By Alex O’Hanlon