Belfast Telegraph

General Election 2019

General Election: Current voting system warped, claims reform group

The campaign group wants to replace the first-past-the-post voting system with proportional representation
The campaign group wants to replace the first-past-the-post voting system with proportional representation

By Our Political Staff

South Down MP Chris Hazzard was returned in Thursday's election with the lowest vote share of any UK constituency.

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The Sinn Fein MP, who retained the seat he won from the SDLP in 2017, took just 32.4% of the 49,762 votes cast.

Paul Girvan, who held his South Antrim seat for the DUP, had the third lowest vote share (35.3%). The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) analysed the share of the vote needed to win each of the UK's 650 seats.

The campaign group wants to replace the first-past-the-post voting system with proportional representation. It said more than 14.5m voters are effectively 'unrepresented', with 45% of voters not voting for the candidate who became their local MP. A large majority of seats were won on a minority of the vote, it added.

The Conservatives' vote share rose only slightly (1.3 percentage points), while their share of seats rose 7.4 points (to 56%).

Labour's vote fell by 7.9 points while their share of seats fell by slightly more (9.2 points).

The Liberal Democrats won 11.5% of the vote but just 1.7% of seats. Its vote share rose significantly but had a net loss of one seat.

The SNP have 7.4% of seats on 3.9% of the vote.

The ERS listed the 10 seats where the MP was elected with the lowest share of the vote.

This was topped by South Down, followed by Sheffield Hallam, Nick Clegg's former seat, won by Labour with 34.7% of the vote. South Antrim was third, with Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath, Gordon Brown's one-time seat, won by the SNP with 35.3% of votes cast. The Conservatives won Ynys Mon in Wales with 35.5% of the vote, the fifth lowest.

Darren Hughes, ERS chief executive, said too many seats had been won by under 50% of the vote share. "When millions of voters are totally unrepresented, something has gone badly wrong," he added. "These warped results are hard-wired into Westminster's winner-takes-all voting system. It's a stark reality that the majority of people did not vote for their MP. Westminster's electoral system is not just bust, it is bankrupt."

However, supporters of the current system argue that it means one representative is elected for each constituency, and this usually means there will be a strong constituency-MP relationship.

In 2011 the UK voted overwhelmingly to reject changing the way MPs are elected. They voted against a move to an Alternative Vote system, where voters rank candidates in order of preference, by 68% to 32%.

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