An obvious starting point for designing a future electoral system for the National Assembly should be the current system. Could it be adjusted, and made to work for the future?
Perhaps, but only with some dif culty.
Implementation of the ‘reduce and equalize’ legislation, and the ensuing decline in
the number of Welsh Westminster constituencies to 29, would inevitably lead to some changes in how the National Assembly is elected. This is one instance in which no change really would not be an option. If Wales were to opt to maintain coterminosity
of Westminster and Assembly constituencies, and also to keep the same proportion
of constituency and list AMs as at present, then we would still see a large change: that change would be one of substantially reducing the size of the National Assembly – to 29 constituency AMs and 14 or 15 list members! The Assembly is already inadequately small at 60 members; one of 43/44 AMs would be disastrous.
To avoid that fate, while keeping the AMS electoral system, we would need to do one
of two things. The rst option is to abandon coterminosity. If that were done, then signi cant exibility is created. The current size of the Assembly could be maintained, with the 40/20 split between constituency and list members. Or constituency boundaries could be re-drawn to increase further the number of constituencies; the number of list members could also be increased to maintain the existing proportion of constituency and list AMs. Abandoning coterminosity is clearly possible – it has already been done in Scotland. But for reasons we discussed earlier, requiring two completely different sets of constituency boundaries is not ideal either for voters or for parties.
The second option would be to maintain the same constituency boundaries as for Westminster, but to elect two AMs for each constituency. (This would give a total of 58 constituency AMs; the number of list AMs might then be increased to 29). This could, in turn, be done in one of two ways: either splitting each constituency into two geographic halves; or by choosing constituency members via two member FPTP, as described above.
However, both of these options also come with some dif culties. Splitting Westminster constituencies in two requires yet a further set of boundaries to be drawn, a task which will create scope for additional boundary disputes, and which will have to be repeated every ve years once new Westminster boundaries are set. Electing two members
per constituency, as discussed earlier, undermines the whole point of having a single constituency representative. It would also require that voters in Assembly elections be given three votes in total: two for both of their Assembly constituency AMs, and a further one for the party list members. This would complicate further an electoral system that some voters already struggle to fully understand.
Furthermore, whichever of these two approaches was taken, there would be further potential problems. A minor one is that the ve-yearly boundary reviews can produce, and currently has produced, numbers of constituencies for Wales that do not translate very neatly into an AMS system with one-third list members. Allocating 29 list seats across ve regions would presumably mean that four regions would get six list members and one would have only ve.