Saturday, April 02, 2016

London Decides 2016 - A Guide to Voting

In order to combat the usual rash of incomprehension amongst voters about voting 'procedure' in the London elections, due on 5th May, below is my brief guide to the Mayor and Assembly voting system.

This was first published on this blog on 9th April 2008 and then again on 3rd April 2012. We do like reuse and recycling here at Barkingside 21.

The closing date for registering to vote is Monday 18th April 2016. You can now register on-line.
For details and eligibility see this page on Redbridge-i.


We will get 3 voting papers.

1. To elect the Mayor of London: this ballot paper is Pink

This is done on a Supplementary Vote system where you have two votes, one for your first choice and one for your second choice. The first choice votes are counted and if any candidate has more than 50% of first choice votes cast, then they are declared the winner. If not, there is a run-off between the two candidates with the highest number of first choice votes. All the other candidates are eliminated and any second choice votes for the two remaining candidates from those eliminated candidates ballot papers are added to their totals. The candidate with the highest total wins, or if a tie, lots are drawn by the returning officer. Therefore votes can only be transferred to the top two candidates. Any other second choice votes will be wasted. For a second choice to count, voters need to predict which of the candidates will be the "top two" after the first choice votes have been counted.

2. To elect Constituency Assembly members: this ballot paper is Yellow.

This is done on a straightforward first-past-the-post system. The candidate with the most votes wins, irrespective of their percentage of total votes cast. There are 14 constituency seats; here we are Havering and Redbridge.

3. To elect London Wide Assembly members: this ballot paper is Orange.

This is the complicated bit. Otherwise known as the list section, there are 11 Assembly seats allocated via this vote. You have one vote which you may cast for a party or an individual. The parties put forward a list [in order of preference] of up to 11 candidates, but if there is only one candidate you would effectively be voting for an individual.
This is done on the "d’Hondt formula" [don’t ask] which takes into account the political make-up of the already decided Constituency Assembly Member seats above. It is used to proportionally allocate the remaining 11 seats to the parties or individuals according to their total London-wide vote. This is to ensure, as far as is possible, that the make up of the Assembly reflects the way London has voted as a whole.
It is quite possible for a Party to receive a substantial percentage of votes in the constituency elections but have no [or few] member[s] elected. It is likely that this party will do well in this section, even if they receive less votes than other parties in this section.
Conversely, it is quite possible for a party to have a high number of elected members in the constituency section, which is not reflected by their total percentage of the vote. This party is likely to fair badly in this section even if they have a high percentage of votes in this section. This is also the section where minor parties pick up seats.
The way the system works in this section is that votes for a party that already has its fair share of the seats are counted less favourably than those cast for a party which does not yet have a fair share.
Voters need to consider this very carefully if they wish their vote here to have maximum impact. Given that this section favours medium to small parties who have not done well in the constituency section relative to their share of the vote, voters may wish to consider which of those they prefer over those they do not.

Finally, one thing that voters should be aware of is that whoever gets to be elected as Mayor of London, he or she will need only 9 [that’s NINE] Assembly Members to vote their budget through. That’s 9 out of 25, Yes, a ONE THIRD majority [sic!] is all that is required.

You can also find advice and information at London Elects, a politically neutral site.


  1. And just to complicate things, could I add:

    If you are going to cast a Mayoral vote, you have to vote for your FIRST preference, but you do not have to vote for a SECOND preference.

    You do NOT have to vote for either or both of the Assembly positions.

  2. Sadly, your description of the voting system for the Mayor of London is completely wrong. This is NOT an Alternative Vote election - it is a Supplementary Vote election, and there is a VERY important difference between AV and SV.

    In this election, if any candidate gets 50% or more of the first choice votes, that candidate will be elected. So far, so good.

    But if that does not happen, there will be a "run-off" between ONLY the top two candidates. ALL the other candidates will be eliminated, and the second choice votes on those ballot papers will be examined. Votes can be transferred ONLY to the top-two candidates. Any other second choice votes will be wasted. So to cast an effective second choice vote, the electors need to guess which of the candidates will be the "top two" after the first choice votes have been counted.

    Compared with the Alternative Vote, which you described correctly, the Supplementary Vote is a rotten voting system. Very large numbers of second choice votes can be wasted and have no effect at all. But is the Supplementary Vote that London's electors will have to use to choose the next Mayor of London. So it is important that they understand exactly how it works when they mark those vital second choices.

  3. You are quite right Edinburgh. I will amend the post. Thank you for pointing it out.

  4. The problem with the Supplementary Mayoral Vote system is that you could be helping into office the person you feel is the least worst, rather than the best.

    And it would be worth checking whether your 'least worst' candidate has made any deals with your 'absolutely not under any conditions' candidate and his/her Party.

  5. You mean the “least worst” of who you think will be the final two. If they don’t make it to the second round you could be helping your “worst” preference get elected.

    And on “deals” voters may also wish to check what’s on with their “absolutely, this is the one I want” candidate.

    Bring back FPTP, my brain hurts.

  6. Well, you don't _really_ want FPTP - at least this method means you can vote for the candidate you want to express support for, but also influence the final result, if they won't be in the final two... and I say that even though I've spent the whole afternoon on the doorstep explaining this again, and again, and again ... and just to complicate things more, in a ward where there's also a council byelection.

  7. Sounds to me like your brain is hurting too Natalie, but I suppose it’s worth it. Pray tell, why you have such a constant stream of visitors to your doorstep asking such awkward questions?

  8. B21 - Could this be the trouble with the Zimbabwian Elections?
    And I have be accused of writing lengthy complicated information.
    Give Em the Facts boyoh!
    Thank goodness for Edinburgh's info - though I do prefer the Edinburgh Fringe.
    I think he missed out the clause that those elected should keep to their election promises.

  9. A timely reminder of this utterly and absurdly complex voting system that is guaranteed to turn off the majority of electors.

    1. An invention of the Bliar dictatorship designed to ensure that no political party could ever have a majority in the London Assembly.

    2. But the Mayor only needs a ONE THIRD Majority[Sic!].

    3. Not quite, B21. It needs two thirds of the Assembly Members present and voting in order to reject the mayor's budget. If all 25 Members are present it needs 17, so if the mayor can secure the votes of 9 members (ie just in excess of one third) then he wins.

      Not only is this to stand logic on its head, it is also the antithesis of democracy - more like the operation of an oligarchy. No wonder Bliar never introduced such a system for parliamentary purposes - he'd have lost hands down.

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  11. All these anonymous bloggers - does none of them have the balls to be identified?

  12. Perhaps some of them are ladies, Morris. That would make them anatomically anonymous wouldn't it?