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Additional member system

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The additional member system (AMS), also known as mixed-member proportional representation (MMP) outside the United Kingdom,[1][2][3][4] is a mixed electoral system with one tier of single-member district representatives, and another tier of "additional members" elected to make the overall election results more proportional. While virtually identical to MMP in every other regard, AMS differs from MMP in that AMS does not compensate for the disproportionate results caused by overhang seats (i.e. the legislature is a fixed size under AMS whereas it may vary under MMP).

The term additional member system, introduced by the Hansard Society, has been largely replaced in the literature by the term mixed member proportional coined by New Zealand's Royal Commission on the Electoral System (1984–1986).[5] This article focuses primarily on semi-proportional implementations of MMP used in the UK.

Method of voting

In an election using the additional member system, each voter casts two votes: a vote for a candidate standing in their constituency (with or without an affiliated party), and a vote for a party list standing in a wider region made up of multiple constituencies. The first vote is used to elect a member from their constituency under the first past the post system (i.e. in the constituency, the candidate with the most votes takes the seat) The second vote is used for a party. Once the votes are counted the second votes come into play. Parties receive additional members to help top up their seat allocations in the assembly or parliament to match the voting percentages which they received. This works to even out the votes to seats calculation and make the election more fair.

Voters are not required to vote for the same party in the constituency and regional votes. If a voter votes for different parties at the constituency and regional levels this is referred to as split-ticket voting. In the regional vote, the voter votes for a specific party, but has no control over which candidates from the party are elected. On the other hand, in the constituency vote, the voter votes for a specific candidate rather than a party. The Arbuthnott Commission recommended that Scotland change to a model where the voter can vote for a specific regional candidate as well, but this has not been implemented. With a similar model in Bavaria the second vote is not simply for the party but for one of the candidates on the party's regional list and both votes count for party and candidates so that every vote counts: Bavaria uses seven regions for this purpose. In Baden-Württemberg there are no lists; they use the "best near-winner" method (Zweitmandat) in a four-region model, where the regional members are the local candidates of the under-represented party in that region who received the most votes in their local constituency without being elected in it, but this model has not been copied in the United Kingdom.


The Scottish elections are divided into two tiers.
The Scottish elections are divided into two tiers.

In the model of AMS used in the United Kingdom, the regional seats are divided using a D'Hondt method. However, the number of seats already won in the local constituencies is taken into account in the calculations for the list seats, and the first average taken in account for each party follows the number of FPTP seats won. For example, if a party won 5 constituency seats, then the first D'Hondt divisor taken for that party would be 6 (5 seats + 1), not 1. In South Korea, which uses the largest remainder method, constituency seats are taken into account by subtracting the number of list votes a party got with the number of FPTP seats it won, with the result then being divided by 2.[6]

As in many systems containing or based upon party-list representation, in order to be eligible for list seats in some AMS models, a party must earn at least a certain percentage of the total party vote, or no candidates will be elected from the party list. Candidates having won a constituency will still have won their seat. In almost all elections in the UK there are no thresholds except the "effective threshold" inherent in the regional structure. However the elections for the London Assembly have a threshold of 5% which has at times denied seats to the Christian Peoples Alliance (in the 2000 election), the British National Party, Respect – The Unity Coalition (both in the 2004 election), and the Women's Equality Party (in the 2016 election).

Decoy lists

So-called "decoy lists" are a trick to unhinge the compensation mechanisms contained into the proportional part of the AMS, so to de facto establish a parallel voting system.

For instance in the 2001 Italian general election, where a system in many respects similar to AMS was used, one of the two main coalitions (the House of Freedoms coalition, which opposed the scorporo system) linked many of their constituency candidates to a decoy list (liste civetta) in the proportional parts, under the name Abolizione Scorporo. As a defensive move, the other coalition, Olive Tree, felt obliged to do the same, under the name Paese Nuovo. The constituency seats won by each coalition would not reduce the number of proportional seats they received. Between them, the two decoy lists won 360 of the 475 constituency seats, more than half of the total of 630 seats available, 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.

Although a theoretical possibility, decoy lists are not used in Scotland, Wales, or most other places using AMS, where most voters vote for candidates from parties with long-standing names. In the run up to the 2007 Scottish election, the Labour party had considered not fielding list candidates in the Glasgow, West of Scotland, and Central Scotland regions,[citation needed] as their constituency strength in the previous two elections had resulted in no list MSPs; instead they proposed to support a list composed of Co-operative Party candidates.[citation needed] Before this the Co-operative party had chosen not to field candidates of its own but merely to endorse particular Labour candidates. However the Electoral Commission ruled that as membership of the Co-operative party is dependent on membership of the Labour party they could not be considered distinct legal entities.[citation needed]

In contrast, in the 2007 Welsh Assembly election, Forward Wales had its candidates (including sitting leader John Marek) stand as independents, to attempt to gain list seats they would not be entitled to if Forward Wales candidates were elected to constituencies in the given region. However the ruse failed: Marek lost his seat in Wrexham and Forward Wales failed to qualify for any top-up seats.

For the 2020 South Korean legislative election the electoral system was changed and a partial use of AMS was implemented. In response, there were two satellite parties that only ran in the proportional part, the Future Korea Party (controlled by the United Future Party) and the Platform Party (controlled by the Democratic Party of Korea). Both merged with the parent party after the election.

In the 2021 Scottish Parliament election, former SNP leader, Alex Salmond announced his leadership of the newly formed Alba Party, with the stated aim of winning list seats for pro-independence candidates. At the party's public launch, Salmond quoted polling suggesting the SNP would receive a million votes in the forthcoming election but win no regional seats. He said that having Alba candidates on the regional lists would end the "wasted votes", and the number of independence supporting MSPs could reach 90 or more.[7]


AMS is used in:

It was used from 1953 to 2011 in Germany:

  • the Bundestag, if you get more overhang seats than proportional seats, these have been added to the legal size of the parliament

In 1976, the Hansard Society recommended that a mixed electoral system in a form different from the German be used for UK parliamentary elections, but instead of using closed party lists, it proposed that seats be filled by the "best runner-up" basis used by the German state of Baden-Württemberg, where the compensatory seats are filled by the party's defeated candidates who were the "best near-winner" in each of the state's four regions.[8] It was the way that compensatory seats were allocated that made their report the origin of the additional member system, the term which the report also invented, which was then applied along with the much older "mixed system" by English-speaking writers on voting systems to West Germany's system and similar models until mixed member proportional (MMP) was invented for the adoption of the German system proposed for New Zealand in a royal commission report in 1986, which would explain why AMS and MMP have been used as synonyms. The system the Hansard Society proposed was eventually adopted but with closed lists instead of the "best runner-up" (popularly known in Britain as "best losers") provision for elections to the Scottish Parliament, Senedd and London Assembly, but not for that proposed for elections to the House of Commons.

This system was proposed by the Independent Commission in 1999, known as Alternative vote top-up (AV+). This would have involved the use of the Alternative Vote for electing members from single-member constituencies, and regional open party lists. However, contrary to the Labour Party's earlier manifesto promises, no referendum was held before the 2001 general election and the statement was not repeated.

The AMS system in use in the London Assembly would have been used for the other proposed regional assemblies of England, but this process has stalled since the No vote in the Northern England referendums in 2004.


Scottish Parliament Election Study 1999 and Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2003[9]
% answering correctly
Question (and correct response) 1999 2003
You are allowed to vote for the same party on the first and second vote (True) 78% 64%
People are given two votes so that they can show their first and second preferences (False) 63% 48%
No candidate who stands in a constituency contest can be elected as a regional party list member (False) 43% 33%
Regional party list seats are allocated to try to make sure each party has as fair a share of seats as is possible (True) 31% 24%
The number of seats won by each party is decided by the number of first votes they get (False) 30% 26%
Unless a party wins at least 5% of the second vote, it is unlikely to win any regional party lists seats (True) 26% 25%
Average 45% 37%

The system implemented for the Scottish Parliament is known to make it more difficult for any one party to win an outright majority, compared to the first-past-the-post system used for general elections to the UK Parliament in Westminster.[10] However, in 2011, the Scottish National Party won 69 seats, a majority of four.[11]

In the first election for Scotland's new Parliament, the majority of voters surveyed misunderstood some key aspects of the difference there between the "first" (constituency) vote and the "second" (regional list) vote; indeed in some ways the understanding worsened in the second election.

The Arbuthnott Commission found references to first and second votes fuelled a misconception that the constituency vote should be a first preference and the regional vote a second one. That misconception was not helped by the Green Party's tactic of running only regional candidates and appealing for "second votes".[citation needed]

To deal with the misunderstanding between "first" and "second" votes, the ballot for the 2007 Scottish Parliament election was changed as recommended by the Arbuthnott Commission. The British government announced on 22 November 2006 that the two separate ballot papers used in the previous Scottish Parliament elections would be replaced for the elections in May 2007 by a single paper, with the left side listing the parties standing for election as regional MSPs and the right side the candidates standing as constituency MSPs.

See also


  1. ^ "Additional-member system: Politics". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  2. ^ "Elections in Wales". Cardiff University.
  3. ^ "Electoral Reform and Voting Systems".
  4. ^ "Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) System" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 October 2017. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  5. ^ Lundberg, Thomas Carl (2007). "Electoral System Reviews in New Zealand, Britain and Canada: A Critical Comparison" (PDF). Government and Opposition. 42 (4): 471–490. doi:10.1111/j.1477-7053.2007.00232.x. S2CID 153862834.
  6. ^ "How Does South Korea's New Election System Work?". Korea Economic Institute of America. 15 April 2020. Retrieved 20 November 2021.
  7. ^ "Alex Salmond to lead new Alba Party into Scottish Parliament election". The National. 26 March 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  8. ^ Report of the Hansard Society Commission on Electoral Reform Archived 31 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Hansard Society, 1976
  9. ^ Catherine Bromley; John Curtice; David McCrone; Alison Park (4 July 2006). Has Devolution Delivered?. Edinburgh University Press. p. 126. ISBN 0748627014. Proportion of respondents giving correct answers to knowledge quiz about the electoral system
  10. ^ "Parliament in depth: Electoral System: Electoral system for the Scottish Parliament". Scottish Parliament. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  11. ^ "Scottish election: SNP majority for second term". BBC News. 7 May 2011. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
This page was last edited on 25 December 2021, at 16:03
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