To what extent does the Single
Transferable Vote (STV)
encourage greater participation
and representation than First
Past The Post (FPTP)?
15 marks
The Single Transferable Vote (STV)
may encourage greater representation
than First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) as it
produces a proportional result but it is a
more complicated system so it may
actually reduce participation. Local
council elections in Scotland changed
from being run under FTPT to STV in
STV encourages greater representation as it produces a proportional
result. As STV is a pure form of proportional representation (% of votes
= % of seats) the composition of the assembly will closely reflect the
voting preferences of the electorate. For example, all across Scotland
in 2007, Scottish Green Party candidates and Independents were
elected in local council elections.
Whereas, FPTP produces a disproportionate result. The percentage of
seats won is not in proportion to the percentage of votes cast for a
party. For example, in Midlothian in 2003 Labour won 15 of the 18
seats with just 43.3% of the votes while the SNP and Conservatives
won no seats despite taking 24.4% and 11.0% of the votes
This shows STV represents the views of the people better due to its
proportionality unlike FPTP which exaggerates the lead of the largest
party and punishes smaller parties.
STV may encourage greater participation because voters
have more candidates to choose from. Constituencies are
bigger so parties are allowed to field as many candidates as
there are seats. This means parties may put forward
candidates with differing views and from more diverse
backgrounds. For example, the Liberal Democrats put forward
2 candidates for Ward 8 – Mid Formartine – in Aberdeenshire
in 2007.
Whereas, with FPTP voters are faced with little choice when it
comes to candidates. As there is only one winner local parties
tend to select the person most likely to win the constituency.
This is often a white, middle-aged, middle-class man.
This shows more people are likely to participate in voting in an
STV election because there is a greater choice of candidate to
fully represent their views unlike the limited choice under
It could be argued FPTP is more representative due to
usually one single party taking control of the local council. If
one party is in overall charge it is easier to get policies
passed which are in line with the wishes of the electorate.
For example, in 2003 Labour controlled 13 local authorities.
In comparison, STV leads to coalitions. Parties must join
forces in coalitions or partnerships with other parties to get
their policies through. The result being compromise policies
no-one voted for. For example, the only mainland councils
with one party or group in control are Glasgow and North
This shows FTPT offers better representation through
decisive government in single party controlled authorities
compared to coalitions no-one voted for under STV.
FPTP is a simple voting system which encourages greater
participation. FPTP is a familiar system and easy. Fewer ballot
papers are spoiled. For example, voters simply put a ‘X’ next to
the candidate of their choice.
Whereas, STV is a more complicated electoral system. Voters
have to list candidates in order of preference. It increases the
number of incorrect ballot papers. For example, in 2003 there
were only 14,579 rejected ballot papers under FPTP but 38,351
were rejected in 2007 under STV.
This shows more people’s votes are counted under FPTP
because fewer ballot papers are spoiled compared to the higher
number of votes not counted under STV because it is more
complicated to fill out the ballot paper.
STV definitely encourages greater representation and
participation than FPTP. While FPTP allows for decisive
government as a result of single party control, this does not
really reflect the wishes of the people. Under FPTP the lead
of the largest party is exaggerated and smaller parties lose
out. At least with STV more votes count and the people are
represented by the candidates and parties they voted for.
This real choice also encourages participation.