Saturday, May 08, 2010

How our voting system works

There's lots of talk about voting reform at the moment, so I thought I'd take a quick look at some of the numbers at the General Election just gone.

One interesting set of statistics is how many votes it took each party to gain each seat. When we divide the total national vote by the total national seats each party got you get a very interesting chart.

Democratic Unionist Party 21,027
Labour 33,350
Sinn Fein 34,388
Conservative 34,989
Social Democratic & Labour Party 36,990
Alliance Party 42,762
Plaid Cymru 55,131
Scottish National Party 81,898
Liberal Democrat 119,788
Green 285,616

The majority of MPs are elected from parties who all take a very similar number of votes for each elected MP. The average number of votes it takes to elect an MP is 42,554.

That means each Scottish Nation Party MP takes 2.46 times as many votes to get elected as each Labour MP. Every Lib Dem takes 3.59 as many votes to get elected and the Green Party needed a whopping 8.56 times as many votes to get their stars elected as each Labour timeserver.

That doesn't even include all those parties who didn't achieve any MPs at all, for example UKIP got almost a million votes but instead of finding themselves in the driving seat of government instead they find their electoral engines stalling and plummeting to Earth.

It takes more than a quarter of a million votes to return one Green MP,
but only 33,000 to return one for Labour.

If all the parties took as many votes as Labour to get an MP elected the DUP would have three less MPs but the Greens would have seven more, the SNP and Plaid eight and two more respectively, the Tories fifteen more and the Lib Dems would find themselves with an extra 147 MPs knocking around the House.

Perish the thought.

Mind you, if we put it the other way round if it took Labour as many votes to get their MPs elected as the Greens they'd have just thirty. It's funny how the Tories and Labour have never got round to changing the system isn't it?

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