Make Votes Matter is the national movement for Proportional Representation

Proportional Representation

A voting system in which the share of seats a party wins matches the share of votes it receives

We campaign for the UK to adopt a form of Proportional Representation for general elections

Proportional Representation is any voting system in which the share of seats a party wins matches the share of votes it receives. There are many different systems of Proportional Representation, but they all aim to make sure seats match votes. 
The UK currently uses the primitive First Past the Post voting system – which causes severe problems for voters, our politics and our society. From its definition alone, it’s easy to see how Proportional Representation solves the problems of First Past the Post.

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Proportional Representation (PR) could potentially revolutionize the UK’s political landscape by ensuring that each party’s share of seats in Parliament aligns more closely with the proportion of votes they receive nationwide. Under such a system, smaller parties would have a greater chance of representation, breaking the dominance of the two-party system.

Systems of Proportional Representation

Most democracies – and the vast majority of developed countries – use some form of Proportional Representation for their general elections. There are several families and countless formulations of proportional voting systems – each with their own features. No proportional voting system is as flawed as First Past the Post, and good systems of Proportional Representation – which have a strong constituency link, enhanced voter choice and accountable representation – are incomparably better.

Make Votes Matter does not have a preferred voting system. Our role is to build consensus between the parties, organisations and politicians of the
MVM Alliance about the criteria that define good voting systems, and coordinate an unstoppable drive to #ChangeTheVotingSystem. In July we launched the Good Systems Agreement – a historic consensus on what good voting systems look like and how to get there. We believe the final choice would ideally be made by a people-led, deliberative process such as a Citizens’ Assembly.

The systems below are some tried-and-tested forms of Proportional Representation which we believe could be appropriate for the UK.

Scottish and Welsh system -Additional Member System (AMS)

Studies have found that countries with proportional electoral systems have considerably lower income inequality than those with majoritarian systems like First Past the Post. Based on the evidence, political scientists have concluded there’s a causal relationship at work; countries with PR “tend to reduce income inequalities whereas majoritarian institutions have the opposite effect” and that when the degree of proportionality of a system increases, income inequality decreases. Analysis has found these effects to be highly significant, with PR accounting for 51% of the variance of income inequality among countries (Birchfield and Crepaz, 1998)
Countries with PR also tend to have a more equal distribution of public goods. A 2009 study by Carey and Hix found that countries using PR achieved higher scores on the United Nations Index of Human Development, described as “a reasonable overall indicator of government performance in the delivery of public goods and human welfare.”

For a more detailed discussion of the impact of voting systems on economic equality, see our joint reports with the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform: The Many, Not the Few (2017), and Peterloo 200 (2019).

Full Additional Member System explainer

Scandinavian system - Open or Flexible List PR

Different forms of Open or Flexible List PR are used for general elections in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
MPs are elected to multi-member constituencies – so each voter has a number of MPs to represent them.
Parties put forward lists of candidates for each constituency. Voters choose which party to support and are then able to vote for specific candidates standing for that party. This gives voters a choice of candidates within the party they want to vote for – something First Past the Post does not allow.

Full Open List explainer

Irish system - Single Transferable Vote (STV)

Forms of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) are used in the Republic of Ireland and Malta, in addition to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Scottish local elections, Tasmanian Parliament and Australian Senate.

MPs are elected to multi-member constituencies – so each voter has a number of MPs to represent them.

Rather than voting for party lists, voters rank candidates in order of preference and can include candidates from any party in their ranking, giving voters a great deal of choice. Candidates need a particular number of votes to be elected. Excess votes for winning candidates and votes for losing candidates are reallocated according to the voters’ preferences until all seats are filled.

Full Single Transferable Vote explainer