As you are no doubt aware, the Welsh Assembly elects members using the d’Hondt method of additional members. Essentially the list seats are preferentially allocated to parties who have fewer constituency seats than is proportional to their vote. Here’s a longer explanation. But rather than being allocated across Wales as a whole, the list AMs are allocated separately in five regions – North Wales, Mid and West Wales, South Wales West, South Wales Central, and South Wales East.
It’s not clear why we do this. The constituency AMs already represent specific areas and the list AMs are supposed to compensate for the lack of proportionality in the first-past-the-post system.If this is the case, why not elect them across Wales as a whole?
Under the existing regional list system, the AMs were allocated as follows:
- Labour: 2
- Plaid Cymru: 6
- UKIP: 7
- Conservatives 5
What if we ran the system over Wales, ignoring regions? The results look like this:
- Labour: 0 (from 319,196 list votes!)
- Plaid Cymru: 5 (from 211,549 list votes)
- UKIP: 7 (from 132,138 list votes)
- Conservatives: 3 (from 160,846 list votes)
- Liberal Democrats: 2 (from 65,504 list votes)
- Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party: 2 (from 44,286 list votes)
- Greens: 1 (from 30,211 list votes)
A few things jump out:
- A greater number of parties get AMs, including rather surprisingly the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party.
- Labour get no list AMs at all, despite getting over 32% of the list vote.
- Only one party with AMs would stand to profit from such a change (the Lib Dems, who would get two list AMs).
- UKIP do exactly the same under either system.
At the end of the day, it depends on what you want a voting system to do. Proportionality, ties to locality, support for strong governments, and simplicity (as my R code to run the d’Hondt process will attest) are somewhat mutually exclusive. The system as it stands seems relatively friendly to Labour, who of course set the assembly up. That said, it would seem perverse for them to get no list seats at all from a full 32% of the vote. What is clear though is that for better or worse, the regional character of the current list system acts as a filter on smaller parties, to the advantage of the larger parties. Which is why I would be surprised if they adopt this system any time soon.