Voting: How will it work?

By Carwyn Williams

The Welsh elections will be held this year on May 5th, to elect 60 Assembly Members (AMs) to the National Assembly of Wales to make decisions and laws on devolved areas. These areas include all or most aspects of health, education and local government in Wales, so its pretty important.

These 60 members are elected using a form of proportional representation, to try and get the percentage of votes to be similar to the percentage of seats, to make it fair. Westminster uses only the first-past-the-post system, which led to the most unfair election ever last year.

In the Welsh elections, there are two stages and two votes. 40 Assembly Members are elected using the first-past-the-post voting system, just like last year. Areas are divided into constituencies, and whoever gets the most votes in the constituency wins that seat.

The problem with this is that if there are a lot of candidates, someone can win with a small percentage of the electorate (registered voters) voting for them. Last year, only a quarter of the electorate voted Conservative, but they got over half the seats.

To combat this, 20 Assembly Members are elected differently with your second vote. The constituencies in Wales are split into five regions; north Wales, mid and west Wales, south Wales west, south Wales central and south Wales east. Each region elects four members.

For this, you vote for a party and not a person. Every party has a list of people that would be elected if the party is successful. The number of regional members elected from each region depends on the number of votes on the regional ballot and the number of members elected from the constituencies in that region.

The more constituencies a party wins, the more votes it would need on the regional ballot to get a regional seat. If the party does not win any constituencies in a region, it needs fewer votes on the regional list to win one. This is to make sure no one party can dominate unless they get a very high percentage of the vote.

To get technical, the electoral commission sums it up well: “regional seats are awarded using a quota system. The quota is the total number of regional votes received by a party or independent candidate divided by the number of constituency seats already gained in that region +1.

So, for a party with no constituency seats the number of votes received is divided by one. If the party has secured one constituency seat in that region then its number of votes is divided by two, if it has two seats in that region it is divided by three, and so on.”

So, you will get two ballots in the welsh elections, one for the constituency, and one for the region, get voting!