Welsh assembly elections: How Voting Works

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By Rhydian Morris

So you’re registered to vote, you have been researching parties and you’re now ready to vote for the party or candidate you most agree with. You might want to think a few minutes before deciding, as Welsh assembly elections do differ significantly from the First Past the Post system used for the Westminster general election.

As a voter for the Welsh Assembly you are given two opportunities to vote, once for a member of your local constituency, and once towards a party candidate on the regional list seat. The way you vote can have a drastic effect on how many seats each party has in the assembly and who wins the constituency or list seat.

For the constituency vote you are granted, it is simple, you vote for the candidate or party you prefer and that candidate if they achieve a majority of votes wins the seat. The complications arise based on your regional vote. The Welsh assembly elections are a partial proportional system, meant to achieve a sort of balance between constituency voting and a proportional democratic system that reflects the demographics of the country.

It can be very difficult to decide who to vote for at a regional level, as who wins the regional list seats, are affected by which party wins the constituency seats in that region. An example would be that if labour won every constituency seat in a region (something that is projected to happen in many areas) then they are very unlikely to win a regional list seat in that area. The constituency seats labour has gained are factored in to their regional vote when deciding which parties get a list seat.

In many ways it is advantageous as a labour voter in a heavy labour constituency region to vote for another party similar to labour in order to prevent a party diametrically opposed to your views from gaining a list seat. This is a tactic many smaller parties in the assembly have been using lately, and you might have already been exposed to this campaigning already.

If this seemed confusing then a more straightforward explanation can be found at http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/how-do-i-vote/what-are-the-different-voting-systems. Of which, I have pasted the relevant section below:

“There are 40 constituencies, each represented by one AM. In each constituency the candidate with the most votes is elected; they do not need to get more than half of the votes cast. If there is a tie then a candidate is selected by the drawing of lots (i.e. a method of selection by chance such as tossing a coin or picking a name out of a hat).There are also five regions, each electing four regional AMs. There are 20 regional seats in total, which are awarded using a quota system. The quota is the total number of regional votes received by a party or independent candidate divided by the number of constituency seats already gained in that region +1.

So, for a party with no constituency seats the number of votes received is divided by one. If the party has secured one constituency seat in that region then its number of votes is divided by two, if it has two seats in that region it is divided by three, and so on.

This means that the more constituency seats a political party has won, the harder it is to gain any additional seats through the regional list system, so the overall allocation of seats is more proportional to the number of votes received.

The regional seats each political party win are filled by the candidates in the order they appear on the regional ballot paper – this order is decided by the political party. An independent candidate is treated as though he or she were a party with only one name on its list.”

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