The EU Voting System how it works

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EU elections voting system

In EnglandScotland and Wales the voting system for the European elections is the d’Hondt system of proportional representation – regional closed list. In Northern Ireland the system is Single Transferable Vote.

Since 1999 voters in Britain have elected MEPs under a proportional representation system. The European Parliamentary Elections Act of that year introduced a regional list system with seats allocated to parties in proportion to their share of the vote.

In the last elections, in 2014, all MEPs in the European Parliament were elected under some form of proportional representation. Differences exist between Member States for example in the methods used (eg. Droop quota, d’Hondt system, Single Transferable Vote) or in the constituency unit (regional or national).

Proportional Representation – regional closed list

This means that political parties put forward names of candidates in rank order, the number of candidates being no more than the number of seats allowed for each region.

The ballot paper lists the parties’ names (and their candidates under the party name), and any independent candidates. Put a cross next to the party or independent candidate that you wish to vote for.

How are the seats allocated in European elections in the England, Scotland and Wales?

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Illustrative example

If there are five parties contesting five seats in one region and the votes are cast as follows:

A Party: 100 votes
B Party: 80 votes
C Party: 40 votes
D Party: 20 votes
F Party: 10 votes

Seat 1: A Party has the most votes so it gets the first seat.

The seat goes to the candidate at the top of A Party’s list.

(Independent candidates are treated as a list with only one candidate)

Seat 2: the number of votes for A Party is now divided by two (the number of seats the party has plus one).

A Party: 50 votes
B Party: 80 votes
C Party: 40 Votes
D Party: 20 votes
E Party: 10 votes

B Party now has the most votes so it gets the second seat.

The seat goes to the candidate at the top of B Party’s list.

Seat 3: the number of votes for B Party is now divided by two (the number of seats the party has plus one).

A Party: 50 votes
B Party: 40 votes
C Party: 40 votes
D Party: 20 votes
E Party: 10 votes

A Party still has the highest number of votes, despite being halved, so it gets the third seat.

The seat goes to the second candidate on A Party’s list.

Seat 4: the original number of votes for A Party is divided by three (the number of seats the party has plus one).

A Party: 33 votes
B Party: 40 votes
C Party: 40 votes
D Party: 20 votes
E Party: 10 votes

As B Party and C Party have the highest number of votes, they will get the fourth and fifth seats.

B Party’s seat goes to the second candidate on its list.

C Party’s seat goes to the first candidate on its list.

Final result

A Party: 2 seats
B Party: 2 seats
C Party: 1 seat
D Party: 0 seats
E Party: 0 seats

How many candidates does my region have?

The UK’s MEPs represent different regions of the country. Again this is according to proportional representation with the regions with more people getting more MEPs.

East Midlands Region – 5 MEPs
Eastern Region – 7 MEPs
London Region – 8 MEPs
North East Region – 3 MEPs
North West Region – 8 MEPs
Northern Ireland – 3 MEPs
Scotland – 6 MEPs
South East Region – 10 MEPs
South West Region – 6 MEPs
Wales – 4 MEPs
West Midlands Region – 7 MEPs
Yorkshire and the Humber – 6 MEPs

Single Transferable Vote (STV)

How are the seats allocated in Northern Ireland?

In Northern Ireland the system is Single Transferable Vote.

The ballot paper lists the name of each candidate and their party name. Rank the candidates in order of preference, a 1 next to your first choice, a 2 next to your second, and so on, ranking as many as you wish.

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