General Election – Understanding The Voting System

Though there are many people who fully understand how the voting system works there are still a lot of people who do not understand and in some cases, people have chosen not to use their vote due to their lack of knowledge on the subject. This isn’t something that we are taught about in school and it is not something that is explained to us as we grow up yet it is important to know!

I just wanted to explain how the election works for those who are unsure as I know there are many people who have voted but are unsure how the ballots are counted and how ‘seats’ are earned.

So, the UK is divided up into 650 areas which are known as constituencies. There are 650 seats in the House of Commons.
Each area has a member of parliament (MP) who represents them. When a general election takes place, each constituency has their own tailored ballot papers and the people within that area are voting for the person that they want as their Local MP. Multiple MP’s will compete in the election and most of them will belong to one of the political parties.

For example, in my area, I had the option to vote for Rosie Cooper a member of the labour party to be our local MP.

Technically speaking, the general election is 650 smaller elections that take place on the same day.
All the ballots are added up in each individual area and one person from that area will win a seat in the House of Commons. Then, in order to determine which political party will gain overall power to run the country, the seats are all tallied up too.

In order for a political party to win overall power, they would need a majority outcome. This means that they would need to have over half of the seats (326 or more). For example: if 326 different areas vote for an MP who is part of the Labour party, then labour would have received 326 seats, giving them more seats than the rest of the parties put together, resulting in a majority win. The Queen then invites the party leader to form the new government.

However, it is not always that straight forward.

If there is no clear winner, meaning no political party has more seats than all other parties put together, then it becomes known as a ‘hung-government’. If this occurs, they would have two options.

  1. The bigger political parties can join up together to combine their seats so that they have 326 or more in total and form a coalition government. This would mean that both parties would run the country together.
  2. If the political party with the most seats chooses not to join with another party to make up their seats, then they can try to rule as a minority government. This allows them to work on reaching agreements with the other parties and support them in parliament or they can try and gain support from other MP’s for what they want to do as they go along. However, if they are unable to receive such support, they risk being defeated by the House of Commons.

If neither of these options works out, there will be a second election.

By law, a general election must take place every five years, although the government can choose to call an election sooner if they wish to do so. This then becomes known as a ‘Snap Election’.

But what about manifestos? What are they and why are they important?

A manifesto is a public document written by the leader of the political party, stating what new policies they would aim to put into place if they were to be in power. Not only new policies but changes that they aim to make to existing policies too.

These are important as they are the political parties campaigns in encouraging people to vote for them. By sharing their plans for the country and what they will aim to achieve if they are voted into power, it allows the public to know what exactly it is that they are voting for.

It is important to remember that the policies are the most important thing that you are voting for. You may hate the political party leader, but the policies that they aim to put into place and the changes that they promise to make are much more important. They could be promising some incredible changes and improvements to our country… so just because you do not like them as a person does not mean that you should cast your vote elsewhere. Be sure to read each of the political parties manifestos before making a decision. You can find articles that narrow down and explain the main points of each manifesto without having to read through all of the large documents individually.

I hope this helps give people that little bit of extra knowledge in regards to general elections and that they will be more inclined to vote when the next one comes around. Check out my next blog post about my thoughts on the latest election.

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