The Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Act 2011 provided for a UK-wide referendum to be held on 5 May 2011 on changing the voting system for electing MPs to the House of Commons.
The following question was on the referendum ballot paper:
"At present, the UK uses the 'first past the post' system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the 'alternative vote' system be used instead?"
The result of the referendum was:
- Yes: 32 per cent
- No: 68 per cent
The first past the post system continues to be used to elect MPs to the House of Commons.
What are the two voting systems in the referendum question?
First past the post
Under first past the post, a voter puts a cross (X) next to their preferred candidate on a ballot paper. Ballot papers are then counted and the candidate that has received the most votes is elected.
Under the Alternative Vote, a voter ranks candidates in order of preference by marking 1, 2, 3, and so on, next to the names of candidates on a ballot paper. A voter can rank as many or as few candidates as they like or just vote for one candidate.
Ballot papers are then counted by using the first preference votes (i.e. those with a number 1 marked next to their name). If a candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the first preference votes then they are elected.
If no candidate reaches this 50 per cent threshold, then the candidate with the fewest first preference votes is eliminated. Their second preference votes are then reallocated to the remaining candidates. If after this stage one candidate has more votes than the other remaining candidates put together, that candidate is elected.
If not, the process of elimination and reallocation of preference votes is repeated until one candidate has more votes than the other remaining candidates put together, and is then elected.
The Electoral Commission published their report on the May 2011 referendum in October 2011.
Find out how the House of Commons, devolved assemblies and mayors in the UK are elected using different voting systems.
Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Act 2011