Voting systems differ across the globe


As there are a number of different systems of governments around the world, there are also a number of different voting systems to meet the needs of each country’s government. Some voting, or electoral, systems are in greater use than others.

Despite more than one system in common usage, people tend to be more familiar with the one used in their country.

The voting system in use in the U.S. is known as a first-past-the-post system (FPTP). It is also used in Canada, parliamentary and local government elections in the United Kingdom, Jamaica and India, to name a few.

In basic terms, the election is won by the candidate with more votes than any other candidate. FPTP is a common electoral system. It can be used for both single and multiple member elections. However, it does not come without its criticisms.

This particular system tends to promote two-party competition. FPTP can also promote tactical voting, which is when voters back the candidate they normally would not to keep a certain result from happening.

It can also lead to a reduction in the number of popular political parties. This can cause the majority of legislative seats to be held by one particular party.

Another electoral system that has its faults as well as its positives is known as the two-round system, also known as runoff voting.

A few countries where this system is used are Brazil, France, Chile, Portugal and Finland, namely to elect presidents. Voters cast one ballot for their chosen candidate, and one winner is selected.

However, if no candidate receives the absolute majority of votes, then all but the two candidates receiving the most votes are eliminated. This leads to a second round in voting, where the final victor is chosen through a second casting of ballots by voters.

The intention of runoff voting is to ensure that the winning candidate will have the support of the absolute majority. The absolute majority simply requires the backing of more than half of a voting body in order to choose a winner.

While well-intentioned, this system also has a few downfalls. The two-round system is vulnerable to a specific type of tactical voting known as “push over.”

Voters will purposely back the weaker candidate in order to ensure the survival of their chosen candidate in the next round of voting.

One of the strongest criticisms for this particular system, though, is the cost.

Sending out two separate ballots for the purpose of choosing a winner in one election can be very expensive for the country hosting it.

While FPTP is the more common electoral system of the two, both it and runoff voting are known enough to have their respective supporters and critics. Essentially, when one looks at the electoral systems used by countries around the globe, the time-worn phrase, “to each his own” certainly comes to mind.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Slate.