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First Past the Post

What is first past the post?

First Past the Post or plurality system is a voting system in which the winning candidate simply receives the most number of votes. The plurality system refers to the requirement of the winning candidate receives the most votes, but not necessarily a majority or more than 50 percent of the vote. 

Many, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, India, and many Caribbean and African states use this voting system.



  • Simple to understand

  • It's fairly quick to count the votes and work out who has won meaning results can be declared relatively quickly after the polls close

  • In a political environment, FPTP enables voters to clearly express a view on which party they think should form the next government

  • Representatives can get elected with small amounts of public support, as the size of the winning margin is irrelevant: what matter is only that they get more votes than other candidates. 

  • Minority parties have no power--under representation--because the politicians from the main political parties usually win the election. The scope of political discussion is much narrower than other systems. 

Effects of first past the post

It can cause vote-splitting. Where two similar parties or candidates compete under FPTP, the vote of their potential supporters is often split between them, thus allowing a less popular party or candidate to win the seat. Voter turnout is 7 percent lower on average in countries with first past the post. This happens because it excludes minorities from fair representation. Ethnic and racial minorities across the world are far less likely to be represented in legislatures elected by FPTP. Thus, voters think their votes are useless because minorities do not often get elected.



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