Analysis: Millions of votes go to waste as parties need ‘wildly’ different number of votes per MP

Posted on the 13th December 2019

45% of voters unrepresented, as millions of votes wasted under winner-takes-all system. The ERS say voters have been ‘disenfranchised on a mass scale’. 

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, for immediate release, 13th December

New Electoral Reform Society analysis has revealed the ‘absurdity’ of Westminster’s voting system, with parties needing wildly different levels of support to secure each MP. 

With 649 seats declared, the ERS have analysed the number of votes needed per MP elected.

It took:

  • 864,743 to elect the lone Green MP
  • 642,303 votes for zero Brexit Party MPs
  • 334,122 to elect each Liberal Democrat
  • 50,817 to elect each Labour MP
  • 38,300 votes to elect each Conservative MP
  • 38,316 to elect each Plaid Cymru MP
  • 25,882 to elect each SNP MP

The disparity is 45.3% of votes going unrepresented, i.e. meaning the number of voters in each area who did not vote for the winning MP. Across the country, it means millions of votes for parties go to waste – with some parties’ support much more spread out than others.

Under proportional systems like the Single Transferable Vote, these unrepresented votes would be redistributed to voters’ other choices instead.

Willie Sullivan, Senior Director of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“When it takes nearly 900,000 votes to elect one party’s MP, and just 26,000 for another, you know the system is not just struggling – it’s bankrupt.

“Millions of voters have gone totally unrepresented, with worryingly warped results in many areas. The Conservatives have won a majority on a minority of the vote, with an increase in seat share high above their increase in vote share. The SNP have also been highly over-represented, while Liberal Democrat voters have been short changed. Thankfully both these parties support a fair, proportional voting system.

“People will not tolerate being systematically ignored. This has to be the last election under Westminster’s warped voting system

“The Conservatives must recognise they were helped by the Brexit Party standing down in their existing seats, while Labour must recognise that tactical voting under Westminster’s voting system did not save them. It is time for real reform to end the mass disenfranchisement we see under First Past the Post.”

The ERS have launched a petition to introduce proportional representation

Full graphics and figures available here for journalists’ use:

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