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The "Supplementary Vote" system used for PCC elections

April 11, 2016 8:07 AM

Supplementary Vote

Regular elections in England use the "first past the post" system, in which you cast a single vote for your preferred candidate, and the candidate who receives the highest number of valid votes is the one who wins the election. The PCC elections run on a different system, called the "Supplementary Vote" system.

In the Supplementary Vote system, you are invited to indicate which candidate is your first choice, and which is your second choice. The ballot paper will therefore have two columns -- you indicate your first-preference choice in the first column, and your second-preference in the second column.

It is important that you specify a first-preference choice, as otherwise your vote will not be counted. The second-preference choice is optional, but it potentially gives you a greater say in the outcome of the election if your first choice of candidate is not one of the top two after the initial first-preference votes are counted.

When the votes are counted, the process goes like this:

  1. The votes are sorted by candidate, based on the first-preference votes, and these are counted first. If one candidate wins more than 50% of the first-preference vote, then that candidate wins.
  2. If there is no clear majority winner after counting the first-preference votes, then the top two candidates are kept in the running, and the other candidates are eliminated.
  3. The ballot papers for the eliminated candidates are re-examined. If the ballot papers indicate a second-preference vote for one of the remaining two candidates, then those second-preference votes are added to that remaining candidate's first-preference votes.
  4. Of the two remaining candidates, the winner is the one who receives the highest number of votes, taking into account the votes that they receive as a first preference and *also* those that they receive as a second preference in those cases when a voter's first-preference was actually for a candidate who was not one of the first two after the initial count.

What does this mean for your individual vote?

  • If your first choice of candidate is one of the top two after the initial round of counting, then your first-preference vote is effectively just the same as the single vote that you would have in a regular election. No account is taken of your second-preference vote, because you have already cast your vote for one of the two remaining contenders.
  • If your first choice of candidate isn't one of the top two after the initial round of voting, but you have also indicated a second choice who is one of those two people, then your second-preference vote will be counted instead of your first-preference vote. Although your favourite candidate can't win, this in effect means that you have the chance to vote for one of the two people who could win.
  • If neither your first nor your second choice of candidate is among the top two, then the position is much the same as if you had cast a single vote for a non-winning candidate in a regular election, and neither of your preference votes will carry any weight in the second round of counting.