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United Kingdom: Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill

(Nov. 9, 2010) The United Kingdom's coalition government is following up on its election campaign pledge and has introduced a Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill. If enacted, this bill will reform the voting system and reduce the number of constituencies across the UK from 650 to 600.

Prior to any reform of the voting system, a referendum would be required, and this bill makes provisions for a referendum on May 5, 2011. The choice on the referendum would be whether to change the voting system from “first past the post” to the alternative vote system. Currently, under the first-past-the-post system, each voter is able select one candidate, and the one with the majority of the votes in each constituency wins the seat. The alternative vote system allows voters to choose more than one candidate, in order of preference, and requires the winning candidate to have 50% of the vote. If there is no single candidate who obtains 50% of the vote, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated and the votes given to that person are reallocated according to the voters' preferences as indicated on the first ballot. This elimination process continues until a candidate obtains 50% of the vote.

The political implications of this reform are wide ranging, the most significant being that reducing the number of constituencies would substantially revise the political map across the UK, particularly affecting Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, where some of the smaller constituencies are located. (HM Government, The Coalition: Our Programme for Government, 2010, & Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, 2010-11, HC Bill 63,
(both last visited Sept. 27, 2010); David Bowers & Joshua Boswell, Bill Briefing: Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, EPOLITX.COM (Sept. 3, 2010),