Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland vote figures are 'proof first-past-post unfair'

By Adrian Rutherford

Nearly two-thirds of votes cast in the general election in Northern Ireland went to losing candidates - leading to claims that our electoral system is "broken".

A total of 582,539 ballot papers didn't go to winners - 66% of the overall vote.

Across the UK, 22 million votes were cast which failed to elect an MP, an analysis by the Electoral Reform Society, a political pressure group, found.

It is campaigning to replace the 'first past the post' voting system with one of proportional representation, where parties gain seats in proportion to the number of votes cast for them.

Darren Hughes, the chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, claimed the current voting system was undemocratic and in need of urgent reform.

"It is a scandal that nearly 600,000 people's voices in Northern Ireland were ignored in June's general election," he said.

"That's 66% of people's votes being thrown on the electoral scrapheap, under Westminster's broken first past the post voting system.

"Voters across Northern Ireland are being let down by the out-of-date and undemocratic way we cast our ballots for the Commons. Political diversity in Northern Ireland is being undermined by a winner-takes-all system.

"When you compare the Westminster result to the recent Assembly election - which saw eight parties plus independents secure representation - first past the post is creating a skewed picture.

"There is a better way of electing our representatives.

"Voters in Northern Ireland deserve real reform and for a fair and proportional voting system for choosing MPs."

The Electoral Reform Society has called for a more proportional voting system so that people's other party preferences are taken into account if their first choice candidate doesn't win outright.

The society claims it would drastically reducing both the 'wasted vote' phenomenon and tactical voting.

The report notes: "Over one-third of voters in Northern Ireland voted for parties other than the two largest ones in June - and yet all but one of the seats went to the big two.

"Comparing these results to Assembly elections in Northern Ireland it is clear that multi-party politics is being forced into a two-party competition under first past the post."

Mr Hughes added: "The vast majority of votes are going to waste, with millions still stuck in the electoral black hole of winner-takes-all.

"A diverse and shifting public is having to work around a broken two-party system.

"The result is volatile voting, and random results.

"There are a wide range of systems where votes are not thrown on the electoral scrapheap.

"We need to move towards a means of electing our MPs where all voices are heard and where people don't feel forced to hold their nose at the ballot box."

He added that "2017 was the third strike for first past the post. It's out".

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