Comparing rates of Electoral consent in UK and Irish elections

Electoral Reform Society 26th March 2020

While turnout was less than in the most recent UK general election of December 2019 (62.9% to 67.3%), comparing the distribution of votes at constituency level among those elected suggests that the Irish electorate – or at least those parts of it who turned out to vote – may have given greater ‘assent’ to their new parliamentarians than was the case in the UK.

When I speak about voters giving ‘assent’, I mean that voters have indicated that they will be satisfied by the election of a given candidate, through including that candidate in their voting choice on their ballot.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that the candidate was the voter’s preferred choice, or even that the voter agrees with or supports all aspects of the candidate’s policy platform; only that the voter has indicated that they would be content for that candidate to hold political office. This might also be termed ‘voter accordance’.

In the UK context, this is a meaningless distinction. The First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system only allows for assent to be granted to one candidate. There is no option for voters to, say, indicate assent to the election of any other candidate who shares their view on issues such as Brexit: they can only pick one candidate, and that candidate is either elected or not elected.

Consequently, in the single-seat UK constituencies, a single successful candidate provides 100% of the representation with the assent of potentially far less than 100% of the voters. Indeed, as successful candidates need only a plurality of votes (your nearest opponent’s vote share plus 1) to be elected, newly-minted representatives may have been denied the assent of a majority of their voting constituents, as recent ERS analysis on the UK general election showed.

The full article can be found on the ERS website

Related Posts