Rexy For Ruislip

Integrity. Honesty. Fairness.

Did Your Vote Matter?

I gave a speech this week on Proportional Representation for Make Votes Matter, and it got me thinking about whether your vote mattered in the last election.  I suspect that the chances are that it didn’t no matter where you are, who you voted for and who won purely because of how the odds work.

So, here are just a few of the ways that your vote was wasted.

 

Your Candidate Didn’t Win

Under the current system, if you make the cardinal sin of voting for a candidate that doesn’t win, that vote is wasted by design.  Your candidate doesn’t get any political power as a result of coming second or third in the ballot, so a vote for a candidate that doesn’t win is essentially thrown in the bin.

This discourages you from voting for a candidate that you don’t think can outright win, thereby shoring up the de facto two-party system that we have been dealing with for centuries.

Your Candidate Won Comfortably

Congratulations! But did your vote matter?

Arguably this is the case that most people probably assume makes their vote matter, but I would argue that it’s not quite  that straightforward. 

Imagine a two-candidate race where the winner gets 80% of the votes and the loser gets 20%.  In this case, it is obvious that the  20% of votes for the loser were all wasted, but what about the 80%?  In this case, the winner actually only needed one more vote than 20%, which for all intents and purposes is the same as 20% for a large enough ballot.  once that total is achieved, all further votes for the winner are also wasted – a candidate doesn’t become more of a winner if they win by 80% or 0.8% of the electorate.  This means that in this example, three-quarters of the votes for the winner are also wasted, meaning that if you cast a vote for the eventual winner, you only had a one in four chance of it actually mattering.

Your Candidate Narrowly Won

In this case,  your vote likely had the most impact.  If the example above actually had the winner with 40% of the  vote and the  runner up with fewer votes but still rounding to 40%, that means that every vote for the eventual winner was important.  Conversely, all other votes were essentially ignored by the system, so even in this example of a very narrow margin of victory 60% of the electorate’s votes would be ignored by design.

A Real Example

Looking at the 2023 by election in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, the results were as follows:

At first glance, this might look like it was only worth voting for Steve Tuckwell, but this is essentially what the system is deigned to do – to make it feel like only voting for the winner matters.  But it is important to remember that this seat came very close indeed to flipping to Labour, which would have meant that votes for Steve Tuckwell were wasted and a proportion of votes for Danny Beales were the only ones that mattered, at least from the perspective of deciding an MP.

Even more importantly, this vote was almost as close as it is possible to get, and it still meant that only 44% of votes cast actually mattered. By design, at least 50% of the electorate is disenfranchised using the First Past The Post system, which is horrible for democracy.

What About Short Money?

Short Money is the consolidation prize for voting for a party where the candidate didn’t win in your area.  Assuming the party returns at least one MP nationally, Short Money is awarded to them in proportion to the number of votes they received in all elections across the country, and it is designed to help the MPs to pay for things like research that the government has access to as a matter of course.  In essence, it is designed to allow parties that don’t form a government to at least have a fighting chance at representing their constituents, even if the government shuts them out of all major decisions.

This means that  even a wasted vote for electing an MP is useful to the party that candidate stood for, as long as the party managed to win at least one seat in all 650 constituencies.

It’s not perfect, but it means that you can still vote for the party that you prefer even if they have no chance in your area.

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson
Uxbridge & South Ruislip

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