The Role of ‘Delegated Transferable Vote' for Supporting Tactical Voting in First-Past-the-Post Elections: An Anthropological Study of Local, Regional, and National Elections in the United Kingdom

The Role of ‘Delegated Transferable Vote' for Supporting Tactical Voting in First-Past-the-Post Elections: An Anthropological Study of Local, Regional, and National Elections in the United Kingdom

Jonathan Bishop (Congress of Researchers and Organisations for Cybercommunity, E-Learning and Socialnomics, UK) and Mark Beech (Independent Researcher, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4796-0.ch016


This chapter investigates a method of counting votes called ‘Delegated Transferable Vote' (DTV) as a means to ensure that every vote counts by enabling voters to be able to vote for the candidate they want in the knowledge that their vote will be tactically allocated by the candidate they vote for if they get less than 50% of the vote. The theory is that if a voter trusts someone enough to vote for them then they should trust them to allocate their vote to a candidate with similar policies or political philosophies to them. The chapter finds that in elections where the candidates want to keep out a particular candidate or party, such as because they have a hegemony, then DTV can be effective in changing the outcome. However, in election where tactical voting has already taken place, such as where people vote on issues instead of party lines, then the outcome of counting votes using DTV is on the whole not different from the one presently used in the United Kingdom, which is First-Past-the-Post (FPTP).
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The 2015 and 2019 general elections to the United Kingdom’s House of Commons had something in common – the voting public believed they could actually change things. In both elections minor parties, like the Green Party, saw its share of the vote increase, but this was not automatically translated into new seats because the voting system in the UK is based on first-past-the-post (FPTP), but the fact the 2017 and 2019 general elections followed the 2015 one so soon has brought this system into question (Cowper, 2019).

Existing Electoral Systems

Many current voting systems are imperfect, encouraging voters to not vote how they would wish to vote, but based on selecting who they think would most stop the person they do not want to vote for from getting elected (Zhang, Bouadi, & Martin, 2017).

The First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) method of election is one of the oldest and simplest that voters have been able to access to elect their representatives (Blais, 2008). FPTP operates by the candidate with the most votes winning the seat being contested, with the votes for other parties being cast aside and being considered a “wasted vote.” The outcome of the 2015 and 2019 general elections were essentially the same – a majority for the Conservative and Union Party representing the right and centre-right as the vote for socialist party was split. Criticisms of FPTP have included that it does not allow multi-member wards (Kelly, 2008), but in fact there are many multi-member council wards in England & Wales that are based on FPTP. The actual problem with FPTP is that some people might not get the candidate they vote for, even if that candidate does not command a strong share of the number of votes cast. Most political scientist experts would agree that FPTP is not a very good method for ensuring that elections are fair in terms of voters getting who they want and avoiding who they do not want (Blais, 2013). A number of alternatives to First-Past-The-Post have already been tried and tested, with various levels of success.

There have been proposed alternatives to this system, such as Single Transferable Vote (STV), where people vote in order of preference and alternative vote (AV) where they vote for their first preferred candidate and their second preferred candidate. The former is used in Scotland and Northern Ireland and the latter was rejected in a referendum. In Wales for elections to the Welsh Parliament (Senedd Cymru) are partly first-past-the-post and partly the D’Hondt system, which in the case of the latter penalises parties successful under FPTP by giving a greater share of the seats to parties underrepresented in FPTP.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Member of Parliament: Someone who is elected to the House of Commons within the UK Parliament.

Additional Member System: A form of proportional representation where the parties with the most seats under first past the post are penalised so as to have fewer seats under the system.

Delegated Transferable Voting: A method of counting votes where the candidate with the least votes allocates their votes to the candidate they think those that voted for them would most want to see elected.

Member of the House of Lords: Someone whom becomes a peer of the House of Lords by appointment or election from a pool of hereditary peers.

Welsh Assembly: The National Assembly for Wales is the legislative institution in Wales that is made up of Assembly Members who are elected by both first past the post and a form of proportional representation called the Additional Member System.

UK Parliament: The legislative institution for the United Kingdom made up of Members of Parliament and Members of the House of Lords.

First Past the Post: A method of counting votes where the candidate with the most votes is elected, even if they have less than 50% of the vote.

Proportional Representation: A method of counting votes where the number of seats a party gets its proportionate to the number of votes they get.

Assembly Member: Someone who is elected to the National Assembly for Wales.

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