One question I’ve been pondering ever since I was first introduced into the world of politics is that of ‘what is the best type of voting system’. Although it’s a difficult one to fully confirm with confidence what makes a successful voting system, I believe I’ll be able to determine this via inserting my own criteria to work around. In order to determine what makes a good voting system, I’ll be looking at the different types of voting systems within the UK (for simplicity), what should the age requirements be for young people to vote and should voting be mandatory or not.
First of all, I believe it necessary to address what would be the best type of voting system to have via the way people vote. Out of personal preference, I would have to say that the First Past the Post (FPTF) voting system within the England and Wales general elections is very good. This is due to the fact that it’s a simple plurality system. For me, these systems speed and simplicity are its main strengths. It doesn’t take long to count up the results of this as voters cast a single vote by placing a cross next to the name of their preferred candidate. Furthermore, the ability of this system to produce strong and stable governments is also a major strength whilst it is able to produce a strong link between MPs and their constituents. However, there are notable disadvantages of the system. For example, there is a lack of proportionality and there is limited vote or choice. MPs also allowed to be elected with less than 50% of the vote which gives votes unequal value and can lead to under representation.
Some other systems used throughout the UK also could be seen to be decent voting systems. AMS is used in the Welsh assembly and is a hybrid mixed system, combining elements of FPTP and proportional representation. This is due to the fact that voters have two votes with one being for a constituency rep, which is elected via FPTP and the seconds it’s for a party list and uses multi member regional constituencies. The main reason why this can be seen to be a decent voting system is that there is a strong link between the voter and the constituency, and also there is a proportional element that gives votes more weight. The problem of this though is that I feel it creates two different types of members (some with constituency responsibility and some without) and also smaller parties have less representation than under a fully-proportional system due to the FPTP element.
Finally, another voting system that can be considered to be decent is STV. This is a form of proportional representation as voters make a choice with a 123 preference. The votes are calculated using a complex counting process that takes into account voters’ second preference. If the candidate reaches the quota on the first round of counting, they are elected and the second preferences are redistributed. The advantage of this is that there is a close correlation between voters and seats whilst being a high voter choice. Within Northern Ireland, it has created a power-sharing government that has solved a lot of problems that the country faced prior to this system being in place. However, it is not fully proportional and in multi-member constituencies, the link between members and the votes may be lost. Also, power-sharing governments also cause new types of problems.
So in my mind, the best voting system by which votes are physically taken is First Past the Post, however, there are still two more crucial criteria by which people are still conflicted. One of these criteria is that of ‘what’s the age limit of voting?’. This stems from the question of should the vote be extended to 16?
One good argument that would support extending the vote to 16 would be that of future policies and legislation affecting the younger generation more than the elderly. This question was seen at the Brexit 2016 referendum where young 16 to 17-year-olds were not given the vote to decide the future of Britain’s EU relations. Within the Scottish independence referendum 2014, 16 to 17-year-olds were given the vote. This allows for a more genuine answer to the question of remain or stays with Scotland’s UK relations. however, it would be expected of me as a 17-year-old to support the extension of the vote to 16 but I have to say I’m not a full supporter. I do believe that within a good voting system, on some policy aspects and referendums the voting age should be limited to 16 and over. Unfortunately, I do believe it is also a case of maturity which can be very hard to come by with 16 to 17-year-olds and giving them the power to vote on such dense issues, may not be the best for a good voting system
Also, another question that I’ve been thinking about is that on certain issues, should there be a voting cap.? This is a question I pondered due to the Brexit referendum. Where elderly people were allowed to vote on a situation that wouldn’t affect them entirely in the long run. For me I partially agree with this, however, I have to say it is entirely undemocratic and I wouldn’t implement it into my ideal voting system due to this reason.
Finally, the second piece of criteria that can be seen as crucial to looking at a good voting system is that of mandatory voting. This is because living where I live right now (The United Kingdom), we have a situation where voting is not mandatory. This can lead to the more active and inspired political motives to come out but can also lead to low turnout. On the other hand, a situation with mandatory voting can lead to a negative outlook upon the voting process. Also, it may lead to a lack of care when people go to vote, making half-hearted decisions and not thinking about who they are really voting for. For me, I have to say that the mandatory voting system isn’t ideal as you want people to want to go out and vote willingly, making decisions based on what they truly believe and not just what they think they have to do.
That in sum is briefly what I think the ideal voting system would look like. It will include the first past the post voting structure, with an 18 and above voting age limit and also non-mandatory voting.