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Additional Member System

From Academic Kids

The Additional Member System (AMS) is a voting system where some representatives are elected from geographic constituencies and others are elected under proportional representation from party lists. The constituency representatives are generally elected under the first-past-the-post voting system. The party list representatives are elected by a second vote, where the electors vote for a political party, not directly for an individual. This party vote determines the number of representatives the party has in the assembly. The particular individuals selected come from lists drawn up by the political parties before the election, at a national or regional level.

Variations of the AMS have different ways of determining how many party list representatives each party is entitled to. The main difference between systems is whether the constituency representatives are counted when list representatives are allocated to each party.

  • Under the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) or Top-Up system, the aim is for the party's total number of representatives, including constituency representatives, to be proportional to its percentage of the party vote.
  • Under the Parallel Voting or Supplementary Member (SUP) system, the party list seats are allocated proportionally, and any constituency seats the party may have won are additional.

Parallel Voting is the more common variation among voting systems of the world, but MMP is the system described here. Small parties will generally win more seats under MMP than SUP.

Missing image
Sample-nz-ballot-large.jpg
This fictional New Zealand ballot has the party vote on the left and the constituency vote on the right.
Contents

Employment

The AMS is used to elect members to numerous representative bodies around the world.

It would have been used for the proposed Regional Assemblies in England.

AMS is also used in Bolivia, Italy (lower house, since 1994), Lesotho, Mexico and Venezuela.

Hungary has a complex voting system that results in a less proportional representation than AMS but more proportional than Parallel voting.

Proposals for British Elections

In 1976, the Hansard Society recommended that the Additional Member System be used for UK parliamentary elections, but instead of using closed party lists, it proposed that seats be filled by defeated candidates, on a 'best loser' basis. A similar system was proposed by the Independent Commission in 1999, known as Alternative Vote plus (AV+). This would involve the use of the Alternative Vote for electing members from single-member constituencies, and regional party lists. However, contrary to the Labour party's earlier manifesto promises, there was not a referendum before the 2001 election and the statement was not repeated.

Procedures

The voter makes two votes: one for a constituency representative and one for a party. In a lesser-used variant, which is used by some of the several States of Germany, both votes are combined into one, so that voting for a representative automatically means also voting for his party.

In each constituency, the representative is chosen using first-past-the-post (that is, the candidate with the most votes, by plurality, wins).

On the district or national level (i.e. above the constituency level), the total number of seats in the assembly are allocated to parties proportionally to the number of votes the party received in the party portion of the ballot. Subtracted from each party's allocation is the number of constituency seats that party won. The number of seats remaining allocated to that party are filled using the party's list. If a candidate is on the party list, but wins a constituency seat, they do not receive two seats; they are instead crossed off the party list and replaced with the next candidate down.

Overhang Seats

Because a party can gain fewer seats by the party vote than needed to justify the won constituency seats, overhang seats can occur. There are different ways of dealing with overhang seats. In the Scottish Parliament the number of overhang seats is taken from the number of proportional seats of the other parties, in Germany's Bundestag and the New Zealand House of Representatives the overhang seats remain.

Threshold

In order to be eligible for list seats in the New Zealand, German and various United Kingdom systems, a party must either earn at least 5% of the party vote or must win at least one constituency seat (three constituency seats in Germany). This is extremely important to the minor parties. A party which wins no constituency seats and fails to meet the 5% threshold faces oblivion. Having a leader with a safe constituency seat is a tremendous asset to a minor party in such a system as it ensures survival.

Potential for Tactical Voting

In terms of tactical voting, the first vote for the district representative is often much less important than the second party list vote in determining the overall result of an election; in other cases a party may be so certain of winning seats in the district election that it expects no extra seats in the proportional top-up. Some voters may therefore seek to get a double representation by voting tactically and splitting their votes, though this runs the risk of unintended consequences.

Decoy lists

Political parties can also abuse the system: in the 2001 Italian elections, the two main coalitions (the House of Freedoms and the Olive Tree) linked many of their constituency candidates to decoy lists (liste civetta) in the proportional parts, under the names Abolizione Scorporo and Paese Nuovo respectively, so that if they won constituencies then they would not reduce the number of proportional seats received by the coalitions. Between them, the two decoy lists won 360 of the 475 constituency seats, more than half of the 630 total number of seats, despite winning a combined total of less than 0.2% of the national proportional part of the vote. In the case of Forza Italia (part of the House of Freedoms), the tactic was so successful that it did not have enough candidates in the proportional part to receive as many seats as it in fact won, missing out on 12 seats.

Decoy lists are not used in most countries using AMS, where most voters vote for candidates from parties with long-standing names.

See also

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