Over half a million Northern Ireland votes ‘wasted’ in June election

Posted on the 24th August 2017

New analysis shows 66% of votes in NI didn’t count towards General Election result.

Nearly 600,000 votes in Northern Ireland failed to count towards the election result in June, according to new analysis from the Electoral Reform Society.

582,539 votes in the Northern Ireland didn’t go towards electing the winner – 66% of the overall vote. Across the UK, 22m voters failed to elect an MP.

The research also shows that 15% of voters switched parties in Northern Ireland from 2015 to 2017 – a historically high level of ‘voter volatility’.

The findings build on the ERS’ new report on June’s vote: ‘The 2017 General Election: Volatile Voting – Random Results’.

The ERS are arguing that First Past the Post makes many voters – who in Northern Irelandare used to voting for a wide range of parties – to opt for one of two party camps. In both England and Northern Ireland multi-party politics is being forced into a two-party shape.

The Society are also arguing that the election result did not reflect how people actually voted:

Meanwhile, parties’ seat changes were out of kilter with how their votes changed:

The ERS are calling for a more proportional voting system so that people’s other party preferences are taken into account if their first choice candidate doesn’t win outright – drastically reducing both the ‘wasted vote’ phenomenon and tactical voting.

Darren Hughes, newly-appointed Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

It is a scandal that nearly 600,000 people’s voices in Northern Ireland were ignored in June’s General Election.

“That’s 66% of people’s votes being thrown on the electoral scrapheap, under Westminster’s broken First Past the Post voting system.

“Voters across Northern Ireland are being let down by the out-of-date and undemocratic way we cast our ballots for the Commons.

“Political diversity in Northern Ireland is being undermined by a winner-takes-all system. When you compare the Westminster result to the recent Assembly election – which saw eight parties plus independents secure representation – First Past the Post is creating a skewed picture.

“There is a better way of electing our representatives. Voters in Northern Ireland deserve real reform, and for a fair and proportional voting system for choosing MPs.

The report notes:

“Over a third of voters in Northern Ireland voted for parties other than the two largest ones in June – and yet all but one of the seats went to the big two.

“Comparing these results to Assembly elections in Northern Ireland it is clear that multi-party politics is being forced into a two-party competition under First Past the Post.”

Darren Hughes added:

“The vast majority of votes are going to waste, with millions still stuck in the electoral black hole of winner-takes-all. A diverse and shifting public having to work around a broken two-party system. The result is volatile voting, and random results.

“There are a wide range of systems where votes are not thrown on the electoral scrapheap. We need to move towards a means of electing our MPs where all voices are heard and where people don’t feel forced to hold their nose at the ballot box.

“2017 was the third strike for First Past the Post. It’s out.”

For more information or to arrange and interview with a spokesperson, contactmediaoffice@electoral-reform.org.uk or 020 3714 4079


Read the full report here: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/2017-UK-General-Election-Report.pdf

Read the ERS’ 2015 General Election report here: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/2015-UK-General-Election.pdf

To receive print copies, email charley.jarrett@electoral-reform.org.uk

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