The Additional Member System gives voters more choice and better representation than does First Past the Post. Discuss. The AMS and FPTP are voting systems in use for the Scottish Parliament and House of Commons elections respectively. It can be argued that AMS gives voters more choice and better representation than FPTP, and in order to assess the validity of this argument 3 key indicators must be analysed: constituency links; proportionality and representation of smaller parties. Proportionality is a key factor in assessing the fairness of a voting system, if a parties number of votes is not equal or close to their number of seats in parliament then the voters’ are being misrepresented. AMS is a PR system, which results in a party’s percentage of votes being more in line with the number of seats they win in parliament. The list MSPs ‘top up’ the constituency MSPs to make the overall result within a region approximately in line with the wishes of the electorate. In the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary elections Labour received 3 ‘top up’ MSPs to better reflect its level of support across the North East region as it received 44,000 in the 2nd vote. This shows that AMS allows for good representation in Parliament for voters. However, FPTP does not allow this same proportionality in Parliament, and in turn less representation of the electorate’s views as a whole. FPTP produces a disproportionate result.
The two main parties have concentrated support in certain areas so win constituencies and seats. Smaller parties such as the Green Party and UKIP, with less concentrated support than Labour and the Conservatives, lose out under FPTP. For example, in 2005 Labour received 36% of the vote but 55% of the seats. The Lib Dems only received 10% of the seats with 22% of the vote. This shows AMS is more responsive to the will of the people as the composition of parliament will more closely represent the wishes of the electorate as it has an element of proportionality unlike FPTP. Smaller parties generally care more about niche issues when compared to the broad ideals of the larger parties. This is very important in representing voters in parliament who feel passionately about a select few issues and are more inclined to vote Green, for example, than Labour. The second vote in AMS allows for greater representation of smaller parties through both being a proportional system and reducing the amount of “tactical voting”. If a voter wants to vote Green in FPTP, they are much less likely to do so as there is a low chance of them winning the seat, so the voter is more inclined to tactically vote – vote against the party they dislike the most rather than the party they like best. In AMS this issue does not exist, as a majority is not needed to win seats in the second ballot. Thus AMS is good at representing smaller parties and the niche ideas they represent. However, this is not the case for FPTP. If one party doesn’t have the same popularity as Labour, Conservatives and to a lesser extent the Lib Dems then the chance of them winning seats in Parliament is greatly reduced, this in turn increases the likelihood of their supporters voting a different party which reduces the chance of winning a seat even more etc.
This can be seen in the 2010 General Election, where the UK Independence Party got nearly one million votes and 0 seats in parliament due to their smaller support. Thus AMS is better at representing smaller and parties and the views of their supporters and also gives voters more choice as there is no need for tactical voting in the second ballot. In order for a voters views to be accurately represented in parliament, they must be able to contact their elected MP/MSP and raise the issue with them, who in turn raise that issue at parliament. FPTP offers a clear, elected MP that is responsible for their constituency, and can be held accountable if the constituent’s issues are not heard. For example, Sandra Osborne is the MP for the Ayrshire constituency, and is known as the sole representative of the constituents. If anyone wants their views represented in the House of Commons, they can contact Sandra directly and raise their issue with her.
This clear link between a voter and an MP increases representation for voters, as their views can be raised in parliament. However, AMS doesn’t provide this clear link between a voter and an MSP, as the constituencies are: too large; contain multiple MSPs and are divided between constituency MSPs and regional MSPs. Because of there being 2 different types of MSPs – one elected and one not- there may be animosity between representatives that are supposed to be working together. There have been cases of constituency MSPs referring to list MSPs as “a lower breed” of politician. If there is conflict between MSPs that are supposed to be working together, are they able to fully represent a voters views? This divide may also create confusion for voters, as they may not know who to contact with their issues. There is also the problem of what are, essentially, unelected MSPs. List MSPs are decided by the party, not by the voter. AMS also doesn’t allow for by-elections, resulting in more unelected MSPs. In 2007, only a few weeks after the election, Stefan Tymkewyz –a constituency MSP- was replaced by Shirley Somerville who was not elected.
A voters views cannot be accurately represented in parliament if their representatives were not chosen by them. This shows that in terms of constituency links, FPTP is more representative of the electorate than AMS. In conclusion, it is clear that AMS provides better representation and choice than FPTP because it is a more proportional system, however it does have its shortcomings in comparison to FPTP, namely that there are a huge number of unelected MSPs in parliament through both the list system and the lack of by-elections.