First past the post
| How the sausage is made|
First past the post (FPTP) is a system used in elections, in which the candidate with the most votes wins the election, even if they fail to win an absolute majority, and is the least effective democratic system. Nations with FPTP are usually either one-party systems, dominant-party systems, or de facto two/three-party systems. While it is easy to understand, the absurdity of this method can be highlighted in areas where parties can win an election, despite receiving fewer votes than their opponents. In the US, this is due to the electoral college system for presidential elections; in the UK it's from voters voting for local constituency MPs (Members of Parliament). For presidential elections In the US, the candidate with the most electoral college votes (that is, votes are measured in how many states won rather than how many voters voted for the president) becomes the president; in the UK, the party with the most MPs forms the government. In both cases, the 'winner' may have received fewer votes than the 'loser'. This has happened in, for example, the United States in 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000 and 2016, and in the UK in 1951 and 1974. A special note should be made for the 1860 US election. The election was 4 ways, and Abraham Lincoln only received 39.9% of the vote, but was so unpopular in the South he wasn't even on the ballot in every state and the number of Southern counties won was in the single digits. It's likely most of the votes for the other 3 candidates would've predominantly gone for each other, and a different man would've been elected 16th President of the US. Anger at the election results was the catalyst for the American Civil War, the deadliest war the US ever fought, but on the flip side, that war had so many other contributing factors that it may have been inevitable.
It promotes strong government (ha!), generally with 2 major parties, an observation called Duverger's law. This is because unlike mixed member proportional voting (MMPV) or instant runoff voting (IRV), all the losing votes are discarded. Third parties tend to do very badly in first past the post, as they not only are effectively discarded votes, but they actually help the major party the voter dislikes more than the other major party due to the spoiler effect. A common argument in favor of this method is that it's very difficult for a political extremist to win a national election or gain power in general since they require most of the vote, thus promoting more centrist politics, though this argument is questionable given some far from centrist parties in countries with this voting system. Furthermore, in elections without two clear favorites,[note 1] FPTP is biased towards extremists compared to other single-winner voting methods, since centrists face vote splitting from multiple sides, whereas extreme candidates only face vote splitting from one side, and because vote splitting makes it possible to win without having a large amount of support.
Third parties that do emerge in FPTP tend to have a rather strong regional base, as evidenced by the Bloc Quebecois or the Scottish National Party, neither of whom run candidates outside of their regional base. Another issue is the disparity of voter support to political power. For example, in the 2010 UK election, the Liberal Democrats secured 23% of the vote, but didn't even get 9% of the House of Commons. In fact, even though they went from 22% in 2005, they actually LOST five seats from 2005.
- Instant runoff voting
- Two-round voting
- Approval Voting
- Proportional representation
- Mixed member proportional voting
- Single transferable vote
- This can often occur in non-partisan elections without much polling, or American primary elections.