Supplementary Vote

Delve into the intriguing world of voting systems with our comprehensive guide to the Supplementary Vote. Understand its deep-seated implications on political landscapes, discover its history, and uncover its global footprint. Learn how the system operates, examine real-world examples, and explore comparisons to other voting methods. The article also critically analyses the pros and cons of the Supplementary Vote, ensuring a balanced and unbiased viewpoint. Seamlessly navigate this complex journey, paved for the curious minds hungry for knowledge.

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Table of contents

    Understanding the Supplementary Vote

    In the world of politics, voting systems can seem complex and abstract. However, understanding them can help you become a more informed and active citizen. One voting system that's frequently used in political elections, particularly in the UK for electing mayors or police commissioners, is the Supplementary Vote (SV).

    Supplementary Vote Meaning: A Comprehensive Explanation

    The Supplementary Vote (SV) is a voting system wherein voters rank their top two candidates instead of just voting for one. It's designed to ensure that the winning candidate has a more substantial share of the overall vote and reduces the chances of a candidate winning due to vote splitting amongst similar candidates.

    In SV, the requirement needed to win the vote isn't always 50%. If no candidate receives over 50% of the first preference votes, all but the top two candidates are eliminated. The second preference votes of the eliminated candidates for the top two are then added to their total, and the candidate with the most votes wins. In a situation where there are only two candidates, the SV system works exactly like the First Past The Post system.

    The Mechanics: How Does Supplementary Vote Work?

    • In the first instance, voters mark their first and second preferences on the ballot.

    • If a candidate receives over 50% of the first preference votes, that candidate wins.

    • If no candidate receives over 50%, all candidates apart from the top two are eliminated.

    • Second preference votes of the eliminated candidates are added to the totals of the top two candidates.

    • The candidate with the highest combined total of first and second preference votes is declared the winner.

    Illustrative Supplementary Vote Examples: A Visual Guide

    Ballot Paper: First round Candidate A: 35% Candidate B: 30% Candidate C: 20% Candidate D: 15%
    Ballot Paper: Second round (top two) Candidate A: 35% + 10% = 45% Candidate B: 30% + 25% = 55%

    Let's take a practical example. In an imaginary election, Candidate A gets 35% of the votes in the first round, Candidate B gets 30%, Candidate C gets 20%, and Candidate D gets 15%. Since no one got 50%, candidates C and D would be eliminated, and their second preference votes would be added to A and B. Let's say 10% of those votes went to A and 25% went to B. The final result would be 45% for A and 55% for B. So, Candidate B, who didn't get the most votes initially, ends up winning the election through Supplementary Vote.

    History and Global Perspective of Supplementary Vote

    When diving into the concept of Supplementary Vote (SV), you will find that it has a rich global history, and it's employed in different regions worldwide. Recognising the origins and understanding the international application of SV can provide a comprehensive understanding of its significance in shaping democracies.

    Looking Back: The History of Supplementary Vote

    The Supplementary Vote is a relatively modern voting system. Its concept was initially suggested as a reform to the existing First Past The Post voting method. It was theorised to provide a fairer reflection of voters' choice, seeking majority support for elected candidates while retaining the simplicity of a single-member system.

    In the United Kingdom, it was formally introduced into the political system in the mid-1990s. This was a time of substantial changes in electoral procedures following the Jenkins Commission on the voting system. The Commission recommended SV as a compromise between achieving broader voter representation and maintaining constituency representation. It was then seen as a more digestible change for the public, compared to more drastic changes in the voting system proposed earlier. The SV system was first used in 1998, specifically for the London Mayoral Elections.

    While the primary aim of SV remains offering a more democratic and fair representation of the electorate, its reception and successful implementation have varied. Critics argue that, although it's a step towards proportional representation, there are still scenarios where the candidate with the most first-choice votes can lose. Supporters, on the other hand, suggest that this is precisely its strength – reminding us that in a truly democratic process, 'winning' is not just about the count of first-choice votes but also about considering secondary preferences.

    Comparative Global View: Countries Using Supplementary Vote

    Around the world, the adoption of the Supplementary Vote system varies. However, it's worth noting that it is utilised in some form in a variety of countries.

    The United Kingdom

    As mentioned earlier, the UK readily adopted the SV system for mayoral elections and Police and Crime Commissioner elections. This adoption was driven by the need to ensure a fairer representation of public opinion than what was provided by the existing majority system.

    New Zealand

    Across the globe, New Zealand also uses the Supplementary Vote. However, it's known there as the 'Contingent Vote'. Here, it's mainly used for mayoral elections across many of its territorial authorities and districts.

    Sri Lanka

    In Sri Lanka, a modified version of the Supplementary Vote known as the 'Contingent Vote' is used. This is applied in Presidential elections, providing a broader and more nuanced representation of voter preference.

    United States

    While not as prevalent, elements of SV can be found in the United States, mainly in jurisdictions that utilise the 'contingent vote', a similar system.

    For prime example, let's head over to the southern United States, precisely Alabama. They use a variant of the Supplementary Vote system for certain judicial vacancies. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes during the election, a runoff voting round is held between the top two candidates, mirroring the mechanics of the SV system.

    Supplementary Vote Versus Alternative Methods

    It's common in politics to have different models and mechanisms to achieve fair representation. Beyond the Supplementary Vote (SV) system, there are numerous alternative methods. To further understand SV, it helps to compare it to these alternative methodologies, particularly the Alternative Vote (AV) system. Moreover, understanding criticisms of the SV system can provide a more well-rounded perspective.

    Polar Opposites: Alternative Vote vs Supplementary Vote

    The Alternative Vote, also known as Instant-Runoff Voting (IRV) or preferential voting, is another system that allows voters to rank candidates in their order of preference. The most significant difference between AV and SV is that AV allows voters to rank all the candidates, not merely their top two preferences.

    Criteria Alternative Vote Supplementary Vote
    Number of Votes Voters can rank all candidates Voters can only rank top two
    Winner Selection Counting continues until one candidate has 50% Counting stops after two rounds, regardless of final percentages
    Proportional Representation Can give a more balanced result Sometimes results can be less proportional

    Imagine we have an election with five candidates: X, Y, Z, U, V. Using the SV system, you can only indicate your two top preferences, while with AV, you can rank all five in your order of preference. Suppose the first round of results are as follows: X with 40%, Y with 35%, Z with 15%, and U and V with 5% each. In SV, we continue to the second round with only X and Y, while in AV, Z's, U's and V's votes are redistributed according to second and potentially third, fourth preferences until a candidate achieves over 50%.

    Differing Viewpoints: Criticisms of Supplementary Vote System

    No voting system is perfect, and the Supplementary Vote is certainly no exception to this. Although it brings some clear advantages to the table, there are legitimate criticisms of this system. These counterpoints are necessary to consider for a balanced view.

    • The SV system can sometimes favour broadly acceptable candidates rather than those with strong first preference support. In essence, a candidate who converts a lot of second preference votes can beat a candidate with more first preference votes.

    • In comparison to other voting systems that allow ranking of all preferences (like AV), SV might seem less holistic in capturing voter intent. Restricting the choice to only two can limit the nuanced expression of voter preference.

    • The second choice vote isn’t always counted. In the scenario where a candidate achieves over 50% from first-choice votes alone, second-choice votes become irrelevant, potentially making voters perceive their second vote as 'wasted'.

    In 2012, a referendum on the use of the Alternative Vote in elections to the UK's House of Commons was held because of some of these criticisms. Nevertheless, the majority of its populace voted to maintain the First Past The Post voting system. This result illustrates the complexities involved in voting system reform and represents ongoing debates around the virtues and pitfalls of electoral systems like SV and AV.

    Analysing Supplementary Vote: Pros and Cons

    In any political discourse, it's important to analyse all aspects of a system. This includes its strengths and weaknesses. The Supplementary Vote (SV) system, like all voting models, has its unique set of pros and cons. Grasping these can provide a holistic understanding of its potential effects on electoral outcomes.

    A Balanced View: Advantages and Disadvantages of Supplementary Vote

    Supplementary Vote confers several advantages in elections, particularly concerning the representation of voters' preferences. However, it's not without its drawbacks. Any balanced analysis must consider both these positive and negative aspects.

    Pros of Supplementary Vote:
    • Majority Support: SV ensures that the elected candidate has a broader level of support than under the First Past The Post system. To win, a candidate must obtain a majority, considering the first and second preferences, increasing the likelihood that the elected candidate has wider acceptance.

    • Representation of Preferences: With two preferences allowed, voters have more freedom to express their choices without the fear of wasting their vote. This can encourage voter participation and lead to greater satisfaction with the electoral process.

    • Avoids vote splitting: In FPTP, similar-minded candidates can split the vote, leading to an undesired result for their shared electorate. Because SV considers second preferences, it can reduce this factor, leading to a result more in line with voter intention.

    Cons of Supplementary Vote:
    • Limited Preferences: SV only allows voters to express their first and second preferences, which in some views, is a restrictive system. It doesn't capture the full spectrum of voter preferences, particularly in crowded fields with multiple candidates.

    • Complex System: Compared to the simplicity of FPTP, SV can be slightly more complicated for voters to understand. The need to express second preference might confuse some voters or dissuade them from participating.

    • Partial Wasted Votes: While SV aims to remove 'wasted votes', it doesn't completely eliminate them. If a voter's first-choice candidate is eliminated, only then is their second preference considered. Hence, there is still a chance the second preference won't be counted.

    While discussing the pros and cons of SV, it's vital to remember the fundamental purpose of a voting system, namely to accurately represent voters' preferences. How well a system manages to capture these preferences and translate them into political representation can vary significantly among systems. Highlighted here are the key advantages and disadvantages of SV, but as in any political system, the reality is often more complex and can vary depending on specific contexts and factors such as the number of candidates and voter behaviour.

    Imagine a town mayoral election where Candidates A, B, C, and D are running. You're a voter whose first preference is for Candidate A, but you also quite like Candidate B. In a FPTP system, you'd have to choose one, potentially feeling like you're wasting your vote if your preferred candidate doesn't stand a chance. In SV, you can express both these preferences. However, if Candidates C and D go to the second round, neither of your choices is considered, leaving you feeling underrepresented despite the second preference option.

    Supplementary Vote - Key takeaways

    • Supplementary Vote (SV) is a political voting system wherein voters rank their top two candidates. This system is designed to reduce vote splitting and ensure the winning candidate has a substantial share of the vote.
    • The Supplementary Vote mechanism involves voters marking their first and second preferences. Top two candidates are adjourned if no candidate receives over 50% of the first preference votes, and the second preference votes are tallied. The candidate with the highest combined vote count wins.
    • The SV system has a history of being a reform to the existing First Past The Post voting method. It is used in political elections in the UK, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, and in some parts of the United States.
    • When comparing the Supplementary Vote (SV) to the Alternative Vote (AV) system, AV allows voters to rank all candidates, not just their top two. Whereas, in the SV system, counting of the votes stops after two rounds, irrespective of the final percentages.
    • Advantages of Supplementary Vote include ensuring the elected candidate has a broader level of support and allowing voters to express their choices. However, it is also criticised for being complex, potentially discouraging voter participation and limiting the expression of the full spectrum of voter preferences.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Supplementary Vote
    What is the procedure for casting a Supplementary Vote in UK elections?
    In UK elections using the Supplementary Vote system, voters are entitled to make a first and second choice for a candidate. They mark an 'X' next to their first choice and a different 'X' for their second. If no candidate gets over 50% of the first-choice votes, all but the top two candidates are eliminated. Second-choice votes from eliminated candidates are then added to the totals for the remaining two, and the candidate with the most votes then wins.
    What are the advantages and disadvantages of the Supplementary Vote system in UK politics?
    Advantages of the Supplementary Vote system include providing voters with more choice and ensuring the winning candidate has broad support. Disadvantages are it might still not reflect the full range of voters' preferences and it can be more complex to understand.
    How does the Supplementary Vote system affect the outcome of elections in the UK?
    The Supplementary Vote system can influence UK elections by ensuring a candidate achieves a majority vote. If no candidate gets over 50% in the first round, second preferences from eliminated candidates are redistributed. This can change the result, often favouring moderate candidates with broad appeal.
    How does the Supplementary Vote differ from other voting systems used in the UK?
    The Supplementary Vote system allows voters to mark a first and second choice on their ballot. If no candidate gets over 50% of first-choice votes, all but top two are eliminated and second-choice votes are added to their total. This differs from the traditional First Past the Post system used in the UK where voters only select one candidate.
    Can you explain the history and implementation of the Supplementary Vote system in UK politics?
    The Supplementary Vote (SV) system was introduced in the UK with the Greater London Authority Act 1999. It's primarily used for Mayoral elections, Police and Crime Commissioners, and a few other local elections. The system is a form of preferential voting where voters express a first and second choice.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    In September 2021, the UK government proposed to replace Supplementary Vote with?

    Which electoral system is similar to the Supplementary Vote?

    The Supplementary Vote was used in electing Police and Crime Commissioners for the first time in which year?


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