In today’s world, where democracy is the determinant of the political systems, voting processes are paramount political tools. There are various electoral systems used in the United Kingdom. Each of the electoral systems has various advantages, disadvantages, strengths and weaknesses. The different electoral systems have unique features that distinguish them from other systems. They vary from one another depending on criteria of determining the winner and the definition of majority under the system. The first electoral system used in the United Kingdom is referred to as first past the post (FPTP) (Quinn, 22). According to this system, the area is divided into considerably small voting centers. For instance, a county can be broken down into a manageable number of voting centers. At the centers, commonly referred to as polling stations, the electorate make their decision through casting of the votes using ballot boxes which are fast being replaced by biometric voting machines in many regions of the United Kingdom.
In the use of ballot boxes, the voter is required to put a cross against the preferred candidate. The person that wins by a simple majority emerges as the winner. The major strength of this system is that it is easy to comprehend and does not undergo numerous time consuming procedures. For instance, a simple majority means that an individual can emerge the winner by beating the opponent by a single vote. This system can be understood by the most ignorant layman. The second strength is that it is transparent and time saving. Unlike other systems where the winner must have a specified percentage of the total votes casted, this one is not technical at all. The primary weakness of the system is that its winning criterion is not appropriate. For instance, a simple majority is not representative enough. Where the winner beats the first runners up by a 51: 49 percentage ratio, such a legislator will not be adequately representative of the people.
The second electoral system is the Alternative Vote (AV). This method is applied in the House of Commons to select the majority seats select committees. It is as well used in the election of the Lord speaker. The voters rank the aspirants in order of preference. Such that the last ranked members are eliminated in sequence until one of the remaining candidates scores more than 50%. The major strength of this system is that it is adequately representative of the majority’s interests. Another constructive feature of this scheme is that it gives the voter a number of options. The only weakness of this scheme is that it is quite involving and hectic. The process of eliminating the aspirants and compiling the percentages is quite involving and requires a lot of time.
The third voting system is the single transferrable vote (STV). This is the system is used in selecting the assistant speaker in the House of Commons. It is comparable to the Alternative Vote (AV) but is used to determine the eligibility of the voters to vie for the seats. It requires the contestant to gain a certain percentage, the surplus of which is allocated to other voters. The key advantage or potency of this technique is that it is only the popular candidates that get into the race. The major weakness is that it can be hectic and time consuming, and, just like the alternative vote system, it might be technical. The aspirant that gets the surplus votes receives undeserved votes.
The current Westminster system of determining politics is a single member system. The system that concentrates political power on the executive and the House of Commons has been criticized variously by political scientists as ignoring the aspect of inclusiveness and diversity. The major advantage of this present system is that it encourages the voter-member contact. Otherwise, the system is full of faults. The major advantage of introducing reforms is that the government power will be subject to a number of checks and balances since there will be adequate involvement and the opposition will definitely have a say in the public policy decisions. The new systems brought by the reforms will possibly bring about the aspect of social diversity and regional proportionality.
The current system has been variously criticized as ignoring the interests of those regions affiliated to the opposition parties (Threlfall 528). The reforms will possibly boost the plurality of the public voice. This is to say that the legislative agencies will be in a position to come up with decisions that reflect the interests of the general public. The key disadvantage is that the vital aspect of voter- member contact will be lost and the aspect of accountability will not be easily achieved.
The key advantages of using the new electoral systems in the politics of the UK are more than the disadvantages. Arguably, the smaller, formerly segregated parties are the greatest beneficiaries of the systems. The smaller parties were underrepresented in the former systems. With the coming of the new system, the Liberal Democrats Party managed to gain eight more seats to get ten seats up from the two seats they had in the previous elections. Consequently, the Liberal Democrats managed to get a substantial share of the power of Scotland. In a nut shell the new system was more favorable to the small parties and this encouraged equal regional representation. This way even the regions formerly left out because of being affiliated to the minority parties, have their interests represented in the House of Commons.
Quinn, Ben. UK election 101: How might Britain change its 200-year-old voting system? Christian Science Monitor, 21.2, p. 22-26. 2010. Print
Threlfall, Monica. The Purpose of Electoral Reform for Westminster. Political Quarterly, 81.4, p522-536. 2010. Print