by Gary J
Fri Aug 27th, 2010 at 08:41:41 AM EST
The coalition government has published the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, to give effect to the relevant parts of the coalition agreement. The text of the bill is on the Parliamentary website, but it is difficult to follow as it mostly makes detailed amendments to earlier legislation.
Continued below the fold.
Part 1 of the bill provides for a referendum to be held on 5th May 2011. The question is "do you want the United Kingdom to adopt the "alternative vote" system instead of the current "first past the post" system for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons.
If there are more yes votes than no, in the referendum, a draft Order in Council is to be laid before Parliament to introduce the alternative vote system.
Briefly the system proposed is for voters to mark a 1 on the ballot paper for the first preference votes and 2, 3 etc for the second and susubsequent preferences ~(if the voter chooses to give additional preferences. This is an optional preference system, rather than the Australian House of Representative system which requires a preference for each candidate for the ballot to be valid.
The counting system is simple (although opponents will no doubt continue to allege that it is so complex as to be incomprehsible to the average British elector).
The first preferences are first counted. If one candidate wins more first preference votes than all the other candidates combined then they are elected and the count ends.
If there is no winner on first preferences, then the lowest ranked candidate is eliminated. Those of the eliminated candidatews supporters who have indicated a next preference then have the ballots re-allocated. If there is then a candidate with more votes than all the other combined, he or she is elected. If not the process continues until some continuing candidate holds more votes than all the other continuing candidates combined.
Part 2 of the bill deals with more equal constituencies. The number of members of Parliament are to be reduced from 650 to 600. For the first time seats are to be allocated between the four different parts of the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) according to a fixed formula.
Every constituency, apart from special cases, is to have a registered electorate (NOT population) varying between 95% and 105% of the UK wide average. The two smallest existing seats (Orkney & Shetland and Na h-Eileanar an Iar) are preserved and exempted from the calculation of average seat size used for the remaining 598 seats. There is also a possible exception for large constituencies as the maximum area is fixed at 13,000 square kilometres and a seat of more than 12,000 square kilometres may have a smaller than 95% average electorate.
The allocation of seats between the 4 parts of the UK is done by essentialy a largest average formula. There are slightly better mathematical formulas than the one chosen (like the method the United States uses to allocate House seats) but it is a considerable improvement on previous arbitrary seat totals.
The first round of seat allocations and boundary changes are due to be completed before 1st October 2013 and then at five year intervals thereafter. Combined with five year fixed Parliaments there should be a reallocation before each future general election.