Vote No to 'First' Past The Post (FPTP)

An ineffective electoral system whenever there is more than two candidates, with a highly misleading name.

With the voting system known as First Past The Post (FPTP), there is in fact no finishing post that a candidate has to get past, they just need to get more votes than each of the others. So, if there were 99 candidates, one of them could win by getting just 1% of the votes - does that seem like a good idea?! A better explanation/name would simply be farthest past the post, referring to the starting post of the 'race' (that in fact an election is nothing like - a race is about speed [distance over time], whereas an election has no element of passing time involved).

Essentially, with First Past The Post, the winner does not have to be first past the (finishing) post. This is simply not acceptable for a democratic voting system.

To further explain how bad the system is, I strongly suggest you watch this:

So to summarise, Farthest Past The (Starting) Post (its correct name):

- allows minority rule - with six or more candidates (often the case in our constituencies), the winner could win with just a 17% share of votes (or far less if there were more candidates than six). Most people would agree that is not fair to have people running the country with that large of a lack of support/confidence. With AV winners must have over 50% support.

- pushes towards a two party system, so makes it very hard for newcomers - voters won't bother voting for a new/small party because they feel their vote will be wasted/have no effect and instead vote for one of the two majors. With AV they can still vote for a minority/new party as their first preference, then have lower preferences for major parties if they are concerned about wasted votes.

- forces people to vote tactically to show their disapproval in candidates, so voting for one major to 'keep out' another major - doesn't happen with AV because they can vote for exactly who they want, in order of preference, and simply not give any support to those that they do not support at all (so far example, vote for their minority choice first then just the others that they don't disapprove of)

- suffers from the spoiler effect (votes being split between multiple similar candidates, allowing a dissimilar candidate to win - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spoiler_effect) - doesn't matter with AV as the votes will eventually be grouped together if the dissimilar candidate does not get 50% support

- significantly (i.e. much more than AV) suffers from the wasted vote effect (voters disaffected by the process because they feel their votes are wasted and don't bother voting at all - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wasted_vote_effect) - with AV if you give preferences to all candidates, your vote is never wasted, so have a much bigger incentive to vote at all. An AV voter would only ever feel their vote is wasted if they have no preference at all to the candidate that wins, which is more a problem of the constituency system (only getting to vote for a single seat).

And now some facts about the voting systems used by national democracies - here's a list of all the countries that have moved to democratisation since the USA in 1789, and which electoral system they use for national legislature:

Country Year of first move to democratisation Electoral system currently used for national legislature
USA 1789 Farthest Past The Post (FPTP)
Switzerland 1798 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Denmark 1849 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
New Zealand 1893 Mixed member proportional (MMP)
Australia 1901 Alternative vote (AV)
Sweden 1907 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Iceland 1915 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
United Kingdom 1918 Farthest Past The Post (FPTP)
Canada 1931 Farthest Past The Post (FPTP)
WORLD WAR II
Italy 1948 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Israel 1948 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Germany 1949 Mixed member proportional (MMP)
Mexico 1949 Mixed member proportional (MMP)
Turkey 1950 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
France 1951 Two-round system (TRS)
Japan 1952 Parallel voting/mixed member majoritarian (MMM)
India 1952 Farthest Past The Post (FPTP)
Venezuela 1958 Mixed member proportional (MMP)
Portugal 1974 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Greece 1974 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Colombia 1974 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Spain 1975 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Peru 1980 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Argentina 1983 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Bolivia 1983 Mixed member proportional (MMP)
Brazil 1985 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Guatemala 1985 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Philippines 1986 Parallel voting/mixed member majoritarian (MMM)
Republic of Korea 1987 Parallel voting/mixed member majoritarian (MMM)
FALL OF COMMUNISM
Chile 1989 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Czech Republic 1989 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Namibia 1989 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Panama 1989 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Poland 1990 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Mongolia 1990 Plurality at large voting/block voting (BV)
Romania 1990 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Hungary 1990 Mixed member proportional (MMP)
Zambia 1991 Farthest Past The Post (FPTP)
Nepal 1991 Farthest Past The Post (FPTP)
Armenia 1991 Parallel voting/mixed member majoritarian (MMM)
Republic of The Congo (Brazzaville) 1992 Two-round system (TRS)
Albania 1992 Mixed member proportional (MMP)
Mali 1992 Two-round system (TRS)
Angola 1992 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Ghana 1992 Farthest Past The Post (FPTP)
Madagascar 1992 Farthest Past The Post (FPTP)
Taiwan 1992 Parallel voting/mixed member majoritarian (MMM)
Cambodia 1993 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Kenya 1993 Farthest Past The Post (FPTP)
Niger 1993 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Central African Republic 1993 Two-round system (TRS)
Gabon 1993 Two-round system (TRS)
Malawi 1994 Farthest Past The Post (FPTP)
South Africa 1994 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Ethiopia 1995 Farthest Past The Post (FPTP)
United Republic of Tanzania 1995 Farthest Past The Post (FPTP)
Russian Federation 1996 Parallel voting or mixed member majoritarian (MMM)
Uganda 1996 Farthest Past The Post (FPTP)
Nigeria 1999 Farthest Past The Post (FPTP)
Senegal 2000 Parallel voting or mixed member majoritarian (MMM)
Yugoslavia/Serbia 2000 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Indonesia 1999 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
East Timor 2002 Parallel voting or mixed member majoritarian (MMM)
USA/UK INVASION OF IRAQ
Ukraine 2004 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Georgia 2004 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Afghanistan 2004 Single non-transferable vote (SNTV)
Kyrgyzstan 2005 Two-round system (TRS)
Iraq 2005 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Occupied Palestine Territory 2005 Parallel voting or mixed member majoritarian (MMM)
Lebanon 2005 Plurality at large voting/block voting (BV)
Burundi 2005 Party-list proportional representation (List PR)
Liberia 2005 Farthest Past The Post (FPTP)
Congo Zaire 2005 Two-round system (TRS)
Haiti 2006 Two-round system (TRS)
Mauritania 2007 Two-round system (TRS)
Togo 2007 Two-round system (TRS)
Kingdom of Bhutan 2008 Farthest Past The Post (FPTP)
Pakistan 2008 Parallel voting or mixed member majoritarian (MMM)
Maldives 2008 Farthest Past The Post (FPTP)
Guinea 2010 Parallel voting or mixed member majoritarian (MMM)

So we can see that overall, modern democracies most commonly choose List PR over FPTP and the other systems.

So just to set the record straight on which democracies currently use what, here are the grand totals, as best I can gather:

Electoral system Countries that moved to democracies currently using system for national legislature Total democracies currently using system for national legislature Democracies previously used system for national legislature
Farthest Past The Post (FPTP) 17 53 ?
Party-list proportional representation (List PR) 31 46 3
Two-round system (TRS) (a form of AV) 10 35 ?
Parallel voting or mixed member majoritarian (MMM) 11 17 5
Plurality at large voting/block voting (BV) 2 15 3
Mixed member proportional (MMP) 7 8 ?
Single non-transferable vote (SNTV) 1 3 4
Alternative vote (AV) 1 3 0

Data mashed up by hand from http://www.idea.int/esd/world.cfm and http://www.scaruffi.com/politics/democrat.html

To me it seems obvious from these numbers that FPTP is on its way out around the world, albeit slowly, and us Brits would be wise (if we want to maintain our position on the world stage) to follow this progression too.

So come May 5th this year, if you're a registered UK voter, make sure to vote Yes to AV on the ballot, because more importantly in effect, you'll be voting No to FPTP, and No to FPTP ice cream:

Type: politics, UK election

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