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Last Updated: Monday, 2 May, 2005, 18:44 GMT 19:44 UK
Should the voting system change?
Characters Tom and Mike stand by a poster encouraging people to vote, as part of an Electoral Commission campaign
Britain's first-past-the-post electoral system means that to become an MP, a candidate simply has to win more votes than any rival in their constituency, not a majority of votes cast.

Thus the Conservatives say that as few as 800,000 voters in marginal constituencies could decide the general election. Tony Blair says it is much less - just a few hundred.

Liberal Democrats say that many people's votes are "wasted" this way and so want a proportional representation system, where the number of MPs is determined by the national share of the vote.

Are you concerned about Britain's voting system? Should there be reform? Send us your views.

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments. You can read a selection of them below.


State funding would free parties to represent their voters rather than their sponsors
Desmond Campbell, London
A related issue is the funding of political parties. State funding would free parties to represent their voters rather than their sponsors. The current first-past-the-post system does not reflect people's wishes. Of course we should have PR of some sort.
Desmond Campbell, London

I would like to see a second chamber elected by PR (as in Germany). This would replace the House of Lords and act as an elected balance to the majority government in the House of Commons.
Joanna Pemberton, Chester, UK

I think the system needs to be thought out very carefully so that representation can be fairer. To me the system that works best sets aside a number of seats to make up the proportions for each party based on number of votes over the whole country. But this might mean having fewer, larger constituencies.
Celia Cook, Cwmbran, Wales

The STV system is good for Northern Ireland. It would bring great advantages to the rest of the U K. I have no problem in knowing who my MEP is, similarly I would know who my MP is in a multi-member constituency.
Richard Simons, Malvern, UK

Surely, if each of us knew that our vote actually counted, and our MP's would be in some way proportional to the number of people who voted for them, then many more people would vote and we would get nearer to what we all wanted. Whether the MP's voted in would then do what they say they would - well that is another question!
Mike Buzzard, Lledrod, Wales, UK

I have studied voting systems for many years and concluded that for the voters, STV is by far the best.
Brian Wichmann, Woking, Surrey

Of course we should have a PR voting system. Anything else can hardly be called democracy.
Binnie Yeates, Hove, England

If Tony Blair was seriously worried about the effect of a relatively few Labour voters switching to the Lib Dems, he would have got Parliament to switch to a fair voting system such as STV.
Eric T, London, England

We're held to ransom by small constituencies in Labour's northern heartland. PR is the only fair system
Maureen B, London UK
Labour needs 33% of the vote to win this election whereas the Tories and Lib Dems need 40%. We're held to ransom by small constituencies in Labour's northern heartland. PR is the only fair system. If the BNP and other extremists win a few seats it will show that democracy works and may motivate people to vote.
Maureen B, London UK

Political parties and political leaders have far too much power. In recent years we have seen the abuse of that power grow. It is well past time to return power to the people by the introduction of a PR system which emphasises the supremacy of the individual over the state or party organisation.
Keith Griffiths, St Andrews, Fife

As a Lib Dem I feel I should be an advocate of PR. However our current system does have benefits: you know who represents you, it tends to provide a single party government and discourages back room deals between parties that would otherwise have little in common.
Nick Waymark, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex

We do not have the chance to say none of the above. How can we register our dissatisfaction of all the parties? Not voting? A box which says none of the above? There's got to be a better system that stops people having the power to run the country with no knowledge of the subject that he or she is a minister of.
David Beswick, Knaresborough

My vote in safe Labour seat Lewisham Deptford is largely a waste of time, unlike the votes of people who live in marginals. I resent this. I don't want to choose between joining the vast majority in endorsing Labour and making a minor protest by choosing between other parties who cannot win.
Nigel Siederer, London, UK

The party machines should have no influence over which of their candidates are elected
Simon, Bath, England
Of course we should have PR. But it should not be so proportional that small extremist parties get representation, and the party machines should have no influence over which of their candidates are elected. This is the problem with the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly - the top-up members have no mandate at all from the voters.
Simon, Bath, England

I'd love to see a democracy in which everything is decided in local councils run by workers, but hey, the ruling class aren't going to give us that are they?
Ross, Notts

How can someone who wins their parliamentary seat with a small proportion of the electorate in their constituency represent all the people in that constituency?
Rob, Yeovil

The longer a party is in power the more they gerrymander constituency boundaries to suit them. It happened with Thatcher's Tories, now we see it with Labour where they can win an enormous majority on a third of the vote. Fair minded people across the political spectrum should stand up against this and campaign for representative government.
Keith Mansfield, London, UK

Parliamentary democracy is not, as we all know, true democracy but it is also not in any MP's interests to change the system. However, the tiny democratic bit has been massively eroded by labour and we are being bullied into a system which we will not be able to change. They must be kicked out just to show who's in charge, if for nothing else. Our time is running out.
Keith, Chepstow, Wales

More and more people are simply not voting because they know their votes don't matter
Jack, York
It's becoming increasingly evident that while proportional representation is not perfect, and not everybody wants it, more and more people are simply not voting because they know their votes don't matter. If we regard electors as consumers, then it's clear that the current system has allowed a monopoly of parties to develop and has stifled real competition - restricting "consumer" choice, and inhibiting "innovation" in terms of ideas. On this basis some form of political "anti-monopoly" measures are needed to breathe life back into our democracy. This means some degree of some form of PR.
Jack, York

The current system has many failings, but by not voting are we advocating a dictatorship? On reform, I'd love to see an intelligent form of proportional representation that allows a separate vote for local candidate and national party. More hung parliaments, but more responsible government?
Peter, Felixstowe, Suffolk

Absolutely not. We have proportional representation in Scotland and all it has done is allow a bunch of what can only be called complete loonies into our legislative assembly.
Brian Fingal, Edinburgh

Why not allow a minus vote for a candidate - better than not voting at all and might reduce apathy
Barry G., London UK

The London and Northern Ireland Assemblies use the "d'Hondt" PR system. This allocates seats proportionally, keeps the geographical link and keeps extreme parties (with less than 5% of the vote) out. We should be able to vote this way for the Commons and have a national list for the Lords.
Brian Butterworth, Hove

If switching from Labour to Liberal Democrat creates the possibility of a Tory being elected, that is not the fault of the voter. It is the fault of the electoral system. If Tony Blair wants to, he can cure this by delivering on his 1997 promise and allow us to have a referendum on PR.
Per Sandland-Nielsen, Grenaa, Denmark.

No party is ever going to change the system by which it was elected
Neil Wallace, Sheffield
No party is ever going to change the system by which it was elected. Until we have a succession of hung parliaments, the parties will not even consider it. Although a Labour voter, I sincerely hope the Tories recover enough to clip Blair's wings.
Neil Wallace, Sheffield

There should be a way of registering a protest vote, in respect of a specific matter, independently of the vote for a party. A protest vote is for a day: not for four years.
J Westerman, Leeds

I live in a constituency where the Tory majority has always been large. If I want to vote for a different party my vote will be wasted. So why should I bother to vote at all? This is not a democratic system to have a person's vote ignored in this manner.
David Banks, Penrith, England

PR is easily the fairest system from the point of view of the electorate. However, as the Government tends to ignore the electorate until general elections, little is likely to be done about it.
Lenny P, Guildford

We should stop the practice of the elected government having the ability to change electoral boundaries
Atha Murphy, Bridgwater, Somerset
A combination of direct and PR (see the German model) allows you to elect your preferred local MP and then government is made up from a further number of candidates in each party to arrive at a proportional outcome, that is surely a better definition of democracy. We should also stop the practice of the elected government having the ability to change electoral boundaries. The system now is all geared to favour the party in power.
Atha Murphy, Bridgwater, Somerset

A proportional representation system would be much fairer, and may actually work. A lot of European countries manage very well! I would also make a government have to serve the 'full term' of say five years, as the US president does. This would avoid politicians calling an election at a time to suit themselves.
Peter, Newbury, UK

The only way a system can be changed is if you want to be a part of the change. Vote or shut up.
Jackie, Surrey

The archaic British electoral system guarantees that we are governed by a party that over 60% of the country didn't vote for. Call that fair? I don't!!
Andrew, Cambridge, UK

Compare the Westminster parliament to the Scottish one, and there is no contest! Scotland gets members according to the voters' wishes, and we have had a stable partnership between two parties for years now, with no problems. We also achieved scrapping tuition fees, free personal care for the elderly, and are about to get nationwide free bus travel. Nice to get things done for a change!
Gordon Johnson, Wick, Scotland

The voting system should be changed so everyone's vote has an equal value
Matt, Hackney, London, UK
If you live in my seat, voting at all if you don't support Labour is a waste of time - they always win here by a huge margin. It's the equivalent of voting for a Democrat to be president in the deepest of the Deep South - your vote doesn't count. The voting system should be changed so everyone's vote has an equal value - but it won't, of course, because our system always benefits the governing party.
Matt, Hackney, London, UK

The voting system should change because we are not in fact a democracy in any meaningful sense. According to the BBC's own results calculator, if the Conservatives won 40% of the vote and Labour just 35% then we would still end up with a Labour government. The parties concerned here are irrelevant - the disturbing fact is that we have an electoral system in which a party can form government despite coming second in terms of overall votes. That just isn't right.
Jamie Shepherd, UK

Maybe if all these people who say their vote doesn't count, as they live in a safe seat, went out and voted the seat wouldn't be so safe.
Richard, Birmingham

The current system leads to a narrowing of the political debate as the main parties specifically target the small group of swing voters they need for victory. Voters in safe seats are practically ignored and their votes have little value. The system must be changed.
Garry, Aberdeen, UK

At least first-past-the-post helps to keep extremist minorities, like the NF and the BNP, out of Parliament.
Alister, London, UK

In the past, the Tories won when Labour had a majority in terms of the number of votes cast, e.g. in 1951 the Tories won despite Labour having 48.8% of the vote and the Conservatives 48%. It might be time for a change.
Stuart Boon, Coventry

Until proportional representation is brought in there is no point in expending the energy
David Blair, Edinburgh
Voters are not stupid. The politicians can bleat on as much as they like about how important it is to use your vote. The reality is that until proportional representation is brought in there is absolutely no point in expending the energy if you live in a stronghold area. I will always vote in the Scottish elections as my vote actually counts, as can be seen from the fact that we have Green and SSP MSPs.
David Blair, Edinburgh

The voting system is inherently biased against minority political parties thus rendering true democracy a nice idea.
Edward Houlton, Golborne, Wigan

If the Conservatives get the same number of overall votes as Labour, your model shows a 109 Labour majority. Why is this clear rigging of the ballot being kept quiet?
Geoff Halls, Swindon

PR would be an important step in the right direction. However a pure representative democracy means we must engage in party politics rather than issue politics - how frustrating!
Evgueni Boiko, Smallfield, Surrey

The main problem with first-past-the-post is that it results in the rule of the minority over the majority
John Wallace, London, UK
The main problem with first-past-the-post is that it results in the rule of the minority over the majority. In most recent UK general elections the winning party has received only around 33% of the vote of the whole electorate. A change in voting system would result in better government. For example, if a Blair government had had to consult with their coalition partners (eg the Liberal Democrats) over the Iraq war, a more sensible outcome may have been achieved.
John Wallace, London, UK

I have just tested the BBC seat tester and was staggered to find that even if Labour and the Conservatives had a 35% share of the vote Labour would have 135 more seats than them and a 53 seat majority over all parties. This clearly is unacceptable and a new system with accurate representation needs to be put in place. I thought we lived in a democratic country. I wonder what we would say if the Third World used this method.
Kenny, Wallington

First-past-the-post for the Commons and PR for the Lords. That way the Commons decides what is on the agenda and a Lords which is more representative of the national vote should have the power to apply checks and balances to get amendments that ensure we end up with balanced legislation.
Geoff M, Bristol

Despite the fact I am a politics university student I was amazed to find that as I live in two constituencies I get a vote in each (and yes, I'm sure because I have received both of my polling cards) so most students living away from home in fact get two votes out of the national vote. Surely that's not fair?
Joanna Chambers, Harrogate (North Yorks) and Edinburgh

It sounds like a paradox, but it's actually true. Only if you don't vote do you have the right to complain. People who vote transfer their voice to their MPs. Whatever happens afterwards, they can't complain, because by voting they are effectively saying, "we agree with whatever you people in Parliament come up with". Those who don't vote can always say "not in my name".
William Farmer, Coventry, UK

It's still worth voting, even in a safe seat
Eddie, Reading
It's still worth voting, even in a safe seat. Policymakers take national trends into consideration - the Greens had a big influence on policy in the early nineties even though they didn't win any seats. We should reform, but in the meantime your vote has a lot of influence even if it won't unseat your MP.
Eddie, Reading

I remember a Lib Dem campaigner in the 1992 election, enthusing about PR, telling me that its benefit would be that after an election, the Lib Dems could decide whether we had a Conservative/Lib Dem government or a Labour/Lib Dem one. Apparently, it's fairer than giving voters the choice between a Conservative or Labour government.
Graham, Southampton

Countries with proportional representation tend to have unstable parliaments which rely on fragile coalitions to get anything done. The result is that parliament has no direction and frequently collapses into legislative paralysis due to infighting. First past the post may be flawed but at least it gives a clear majority and a workable mandate for the government.
Matt Munro, Bristol

No system is perfect. PR has significant weaknesses in that the party that most people voted for can be kept out of government by a coalition of two or more smaller parties. Coalitions themselves throw up interesting issues. How does a voter know which policies of their party will be thrown out if that party goes into a coalition? Perhaps the solution is to keep the first-past-the-post system for the commons and introduce a PR system for the Lords.
Alan Cooke, London

Turnouts would be far greater if everyone knew their vote counted
Mike HS, London
Turnouts would be far greater if everyone knew their vote counted. Voter apathy is partly due to the fact that, while some people cannot tie themselves down to either of the main two parties, they feel that voting for the Lib Dems is a wasted vote. Proportional representation will soon bring about a three-party system. It would be the best thing to happen to British politics in decades.
Mike HS, London

I'm not voting for any party. Our system is draconian, unfair and anything but democratic. How can any party win an election when less than half the population votes?
Mike Stern, London

Yes, the voting system should be changed to some system of proportional representation that would give Westminster a more positive mandate. The British have had the good sense not to be too interested in politics but I think there is now a feeling abroad that whatever the outcome of this election it will not really matter as the elected government will still not truly reflect what the public wants.
Mike Bettney, Long Eaton, UK

The first-past-the-post system is a medieval relic which should be thrown in the bin. If turnout falls again, and Labour scrape in again, Tony Blair could become PM with the support of less than 25% of the population. There is also the fact that only 800,000 voters in key seats will decide the new government. This is totally unfair, and out of step with all our allies in the EU.
Alan Houston, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Very few times in the past have we had a government with 50% or more support
Bob, MK, UK
Almost 40% of the people in this country vote for someone other than the two major parties. Very few times in the past have we had a government with 50% or more support. It is time for a change, this is another promise broken by Labour. The Tories have no interest in democracy being a party of privilege, they would not survive PR or a similar system.
Bob, MK, UK

Possibly, it certainly should be debated. It does lead to weak government making it difficult to get unpopular policies through the House. Perhaps there is a case for it now we belong to the EU.
J Copleston, UK

Yes it should change - to something like the voting system for electing the Scottish Parliament or the German lower house - and we should have a referendum on this change.
John Collins, London, England

In 1998 we had the Jenkins report into the election system where they proposed a system called AV+. Seven years later the government has done nothing about this and at this election Tony Blair is now using the side effects of the first past the post system to try to gain votes by saying the Conservative Party will win 'by the back door' if people do not vote for him. If they win by this method it will be because the government didn't implement this system.
Anna Morgan, Leicester, UK

I was brought up to believe that if you don't use your vote, then one day someone will take it away from you. Imperfect as our electoral system is (I'm in favour of proportional representation, which does work well in other countries, eg the Netherlands) there are many other countries whose population envy our right to vote as we choose.
Liz G, West Midlands

From looking at the BBC election website it may be possible for the Tories to have a two or three % lead in the popular vote and yet we get a Labour overall majority. Thousands of people will vote for the Greens, UKIP, Respect and Veritas etc and will get no representation. Our system is both unfair and corrupt as the electoral commission seems to have slanted the constituencies in favour of the government (as Thatcher did in the 1980s).
Nick Foster, Reading, UK

There are problems with our present system and with proportional representation
Richard, Cannock, Staffs
There are problems with our present system and with proportional representation. Whilst accepting that my proposal would not be perfect a mix of systems could work; if we half the number of constituencies and allow voters to either vote for a constituency MP or a party list we could have the best of both systems. The final allocation would better reflect the vote share and there would be no wasted votes in strongly held seats. I am a Labour supporter, by the way, and this system would at present act against my party's interests.
Richard, Cannock, Staffs

I think it's time for a regional system of PR. Voting in a safe local constituency is a very dreary process. Voting for some national body of candidates is too remote and disembodied. But a regional system would retain local links whilst, at the same time, offering a real choice of candidates.
Lorraine, St Albans

The current first past the post system means that the outcome is determined by a handful of swing voters in bell weather seats. As a result, most of the electorate are effectively disenfranchised. Proportional representation would enable new parties to grow more quickly and make it harder for the old parties, Labour and the Conservative, to prop one another up. An example of this is Labour constantly telling us that if we do not support them, we will be "letting the Tories in by the back door".
Julian Borrett, Leeds England

"If you don't vote, don't complain" is much like saying "if you don't buy a car, don't complain about cars". Until people feel that their vote is important and can make a difference, which under this system is often not the case, they won't vote.
Jason Maude, Nottingham, UK

You could put a blue rosette on a donkey here and it would be elected
Rob Wills, Bicester
You could put a blue rosette on a donkey here and it would be elected. The voting system should be changed to the 1-2-3 preference. This system is used by the Liberal Democrats to elect their leader.
Rob Wills, Bicester, England

First Labour were saying that a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for the Tories; now the Tories are saying a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for Labour. We need proportional representative so that the party you vote for is the party that benefits.
Will Howells, Falkirk, Scotland

Proportional representation wouldn't solve anything. The underlying problem is that a single vote for a single party cannot possibly reflect a voter's desires or opinions on such a wide range of issues as the economy, health, immigration, terrorism, education, families, housing, transport, and the environment. Only direct democracy - in which citizens vote on policies rather than for representatives - can do this. Direct democracy works: just look at Switzerland.
Stephen, UK

I live in one of the safest Labour seats in the country. This basically means that my vote is 100% useless
Richard W, Wales, UK
The current voting system has to take a lot of the blame for low voter turnout. I live in one of the safest Labour seats in the country. This basically means that my vote is 100% useless and counts for absolutely nothing. A blend of FPTP and PR have worked in many places and really should be introduced here. The Welsh assembly for example has managed to do it so why not the real government?
Richard W, Wales, UK

I'll be working as a presiding officer and I can tell you it's incredibly dull work when the turnout is low. Perhaps a regional PR system similar to the EU regions would be a suitable compromise. That would maintain a level of local accountability.
John Airey, Peterborough, UK

It annoys me intensely that so many people in government know how undemocratic the current electoral system is and yet make no move to reform it. Their inaction completely invalidates anything else they might say about wanting people to participate, use their votes or take an interest.
Sal, UK

The overriding problem with the current voting system is that a party could be deemed the majority party and new government in terms of seats, but it may have secured less single votes overall across the country than the opposition party, such is the need for a form of transferable vote per person!
Matt Bacon, Gloucester

Proportional representation is the way forward
Ben Martin, Faversham, Kent
Proportional representation is the way forward. I live in a Tory safe seat so as it stands my vote is worthless. At least proportional representation would make my vote count.
Ben Martin, Faversham, Kent

Labour won't agree to proportional representation! The present system likely to give them an overall majority of seats even if they have fewer votes than both other parties. The BBC seat calculator shows seats 325, 204, 86 and 31 if Lab, Cons, Lib Dems and others got votes totalling 30%, 30.1%, 30.1% & 9.8%. That is a four seat overall "majority" for less than one in three of votes.
David Monkman, Auch, France

I believe it is now time to consider proportional representation as a more democratic way of electing an MP, and I further believe this would encourage far people to vote.
Leo Collins, Manchester

This issue, along with that of low voter turn out could be solved in one fell swoop by making voting a legal obligation for everyone over 18.
Mark Cordell, Glasgow

The low turnouts of recent years and the rise in tactical voting prove the electoral system we have is unfair. We are grown up enough now to have PR, like 90% of our European neighbours.
Guy, Darlington, UK

Why can't we choose where to cast our vote?
Andy Lisle, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire
As both the main parties are always going on about choice, why can't we choose where to cast our vote? I, for one, should like to be able to vote in Sedgefield, where I am sure my vote might make more of a difference to the future of this country.
Andy Lisle, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire

In the past year, I have moved to a safe Tory seat - I very much feel that my vote no longer matters. Where I used to live, I was one of those that helped Labour gain a seat from the Tories. The current system marginalises too many people who want their voice heard and should be changed.
AJ Cottrell, Solihull, UK

PR is not the way forward. For proof of this, just look at the Scottish Parliament which is nothing more than a talking shop where nothing can get done. PR would also result in extreme left and right wing parties getting MPs when they have failed completely to gain a stronghold in any part of the country. You just need to look at the Scottish Socialist Party for proof that PR is a bad idea.
Douglas, Glasgow

I'm a student and don't intend to vote. Why? Because both Penrith and the Borders and Cambridge South are not going to change. There is no point in me voting, my vote doesn't count.
Ed Loffill, Cambridge, UK

The system is not perfect but it is the only one we've got at the moment
Jay, Edgware

The system is not perfect but it is the only one we've got at the moment and voters should not be disillusioned into not voting as I don't think that one can fully appreciate the importance they place on their vote until they are facing the prospect of losing it. If millions of the years have seen fit to fight and die to maintain this right then I think we should accept at face value that voting is extremely important and we should exercise this privilege as often as possible, even in imperfect circumstances.
Jay, Edgware, UK

The Conservatives knocked on our door canvassing for our local seat. The asked my wife if they could count on her vote. When she said that she hadn't made her mind up they said fair enough and left. No attempt to convince her to vote for them. Now surely if her vote was worth anything in our constituency they would have made an effort but we live in a safe Conservative seat so what's the point?
David, Egham, UK

We should all vote. It is our responsibility to do so but more people would be inclined to do so if only the bickering and personal attacks on each of the three leaders stopped, and concentrated on the real issues. It would also help to have candidates come and talk to us - to date, I have only seen one local government candidate!
Wendy, Cornwall

I don't want Michael Howard to get in just because I like our local MP
Helena Boughton, Buckingham

Our local MP is fantastic on a local level but represents the Conservatives - I think that there should be some way I could vote for my MP locally, but not for the party nationally as I don't want Michael Howard to get in just because I like our local MP.
Helena Boughton, Buckingham

Whilst I am not a big fan of proportional representation I think it would be much fairer than the present system. I also think a system more like that of the US would be better - voting for the leader of the country, not just getting whoever happens to head the leading political party at the time.
Lianne, Manchester

Using the Single Transferable Vote in general elections would give us a true and more fair representation of party support, allowing us to vote for our preferred candidate but also to express support for parties such as Greens, or UKIP. Candidates would have to interact positively in large multi-member constituencies, making coalitions easier in parliament. In short, all the benefits of a hung parliament without the acrimony and mud-slinging.
Jon, Hatfield, UK

Proportional representation would lead to hung parliaments and disjointed government. However, it would certainly be more entertaining and may reduce the power of the party whips which wouldn't be a bad step.
Ian, Baildon, UK

People justifiably expect certain rights in this country (the right to trial by jury, the right to free speech, the right to join a union and so forth). They should consider voting the other side of the same coin. If they want to enjoy the fundamental rights that they have, then they must vote in the democratic process. Voting should be made a legal requirement, it works in Australia.
Michael Byford, Uckfield

Surely democracy depends on all votes having equal weight. If some votes are "more equal than others", then the electoral system is inherently flawed. The winner is being decided not by the electorate, but by those running the election. What kind of confidence does that inspire in a system of democracy?
Robert O'Callaghan, Guildford

How about a single transferable vote system - that way everyone gets to vote for their ideal candidate and the one that they consider the best of the most likely options. It might make ballots more complicated, but it would be worth it.
Alice, London

Although I don't believe in compulsory voting, I do believe that if you don't vote or take part in the running of this country, then you have no reason to complain if you don't like what is going on. Maybe if people's rights were tied into what they put into this country we would have a higher turnout.
David Bell, Coventry

Voting is not a right, it's an obligation
Jim Meaden, Bere Regis
Regardless of what politics you believe in, or what you think of the system, there is one universal truth which all children must be taught from an early age. Voting is not a right, it's an obligation.
Jim Meaden, Bere Regis, Dorset

Tony Blair says that PR will break the link between MP and constituency, but hasn't that already happened? Who votes for an individual candidate these days anyway? It's all about party politics. And maybe a hung parliament will not be all that bad a thing: political influence in the Commons would be spread out a bit more amongst all MPs.
Steven, Manchester

Turkeys won't vote for Christmas. The big parties won't reform the system - it's not in their interest.
Matthew Wolstenholme, Manchester

I do believe that our voting system is in dire need of change. The only people that the present system suits are the ones in government. What kind of a system is it that feels it just and democratic to bring to power for five years a political party that does not have the backing of the majority of the electorate? After this election, we are going to have a government running the UK who polled less than 40% of the vote.
C Preece, Tamworth, UK

The current system produces results that don't reflect the votes of the vast majority of people
Katie, London

It should absolutely be changed. The current system produces results that don't reflect the votes of the vast majority of people. It also encourages people to vote tactically, rather than voting with their hearts. Sadly it is not in the interests of the two main parties to introduce true electoral reform - the status quo favours them. Perhaps it should be 'grandfathered' in over the next decade?
Katie, London, UK

A democracy should represent each and every one of us. If a country comprises of broadly speaking 40% social democrat, 30% conservative and 25% liberal centrist then these figures should be reflected in the parliament. That way not one of these large minorities would hold total power and discussions and compromise would be forced upon them. It takes a brave government to switch to PR knowing that they will give up forever total power in exchange for limited power in a true democracy.
Chris G, Cambridge, UK

Proportional representation would reflect more accurately the views of the people and would stop the party in government altering the constituency's boundaries in an attempt to improve their chances of winning. The voting would be more exciting too.
Barbara Ryan, Merseyside

There are three things I would change to the electoral system in this country. Make it compulsory for everybody to vote but ensure they can vote for nobody on the electoral form but themselves, stop voting by post to prevent electoral fraud and change the dates for voting to a weekend so people have all weekend to vote and we don't have to close schools.
Nigel Brown, Bradford

Using the BBC seat calculator, if the three parties are all given 31% of the vote, the Lib Dems get 85 seats, the Conservatives 202 and Labour 328 with a ten seat majority. Hardly seems fair!
Kevin Bridges, Haywards Heath, England

We are hardly a representational democracy under a system where marginal seats are all that matter
Mark, London

Of course it should. We are hardly a representational democracy under a system where marginal seats are all that matter. (My area has a low Tory majority yet I have not had a single leaflet from any party and that is appalling.) It also means that we continue to get sound bite politics on trust (whatever that means), council tax and immigration.

While (arguably) the more important subjects such as how the UK will find the money to support an ageing population (in pensions and health) and find a workable solution on energy are ignored. The party candidates need to be forced off script by engaging with far more of the electorate and this won't happen while they focus on dithering swing voters in Cheadle Hulme. Not that I've got anything against the place, of course.
Mark, London

Living in a safe constituency has one advantage - you have the freedom to express your support for a single-issue party that you consider important (from UKIP to the Greens), without fear that it will affect the chances of your preferred main party. Even though these single-issue parties will not win a seat in parliament, a significant proportion of the national vote for them will send a clear message to those in power about that issue.
Richard Gosling, Newburgh, Aberdeenshire

I feel a little disappointed that a vote I could have made 12 months ago could have been more important that the one I will make next week
Andrew Parsons, Bristol

Having moved from the marginal Central Cardiff to the Labour stronghold of Bristol East, as a staunch Lib Dem supporter I feel a little disappointed that a vote I could have made 12 months ago could have been more important that the one I will make next week. However I still feel it my duty to vote and have my say. You never know - there may be more upsets than predicted!
Andrew Parsons, Bristol, Avon

A version of PR in this country would make the result fairer, but as a consequence, most elections would result in a hung parliament. The two main political parties would much prefer to govern by themselves. Consequently, no political party is going to change the electoral system that elects it.
Mark Mann, Cambridge, UK

I live in a Labour stronghold area, and I often say if the Labour party put a pig up for election here it would get in. I have voted in every election for 20 years - local and general, and even though I don't vote Labour, and I know my opinion wont count, people have died for the right to vote, and its a democratic right I don't take lightly.
Jan, Liverpool, UK

PR would make the voting system fairer and reflect more accurately the mood of the country politically. It seems absurd to say you have a mandate to govern when you get less than 50% of the total vote and there is more than 50% saying they do not want you. The entire system needs to be looked at, including the second chamber, but politicians in the so called two main parties have a vested interest in keeping things as they are. No wonder much of the electorate feel that their vote doesn't count.
Michael Widdowson, East Haddon, England

I live in what was once the constituency with the largest Labour majority. If I want Labour to win all I have to do is stay in bed. If I want anyone else I might just as well stay in bed. I probably will.
John Wilkins, Ackworth, England

Why vote in safe seats? Because, obviously, the fixed portion of the vote is only valid if people actually vote! If voters in safe seats stayed at home, the contest would be wide open. The real problem for me is that we have such a narrow choice of candidates representing such a wide number of issues.
Mike Bond, Studley, Warwickshire, UK

Although the current electoral system makes it difficult for many voters to influence the outcome of the general election, it is definitely still worth voting. As a citizen of this country, one has the duty to play one's part in the electoral process, and who knows, if enough people vote for a party that cannot gain power due to the system, then the Prime Minister may feel pressure to seriously consider moving towards proportional representation; a much fairer form of election.
Charlotte, Bracknell, Berkshire

There are so few posters and leaflets round here that you'd hardly think it was happening. But it really is worth voting, even if your favourite party doesn't stand a prayer. For a start it influences the winning party's approach after they get in.

It's also a boost to the finances, publicity and morale of a party. Finally if you can't bring yourself to cast a definite vote, spoil your paper: all spoiled papers are scrutinised by all parties: they'll all see what you have to say!
Candy Spillard, York, UK

It's bad enough that our parliamentary systems means that the people only get a say every five years or so, the government being able to do what they like in the intervening period irrespective of what the electorate thinks, without people being given an excuse to be apathetic.

Flawed as it is, it is our duty to engage with the political process that we have, if only for the reason stated in the Electoral Commission's adverts: no vote = no right to complain.
Simon Allistone, York, UK

Is the voting system fair? Well that's a good question. The thing is how do you define fair. Is it so everyone has the same chance? In that case the voting system is fair because everyone knows before hand how it works, and therefore have the same chance. Also, I love our system, it gives the parties a way to play with the electorate.
Joshua Brown, Bardwell, Suffolk

"To express confidence in the system of democracy," says Mr Folkes. I have no confidence in the system - so where does that leave me? Like many of my peers I feel utterly helpless. We are desperately unhappy with the current electoral system but by it's very nature we are powerless to change it.

We don't just favour proportional representation but a complete rethink of the party political system. It is not a democracy if the wishes of the people are overridden by the party whips. Whatever weakness might exist in a party-free system it is far better than the dictatorial strength wielded under the current one.
Stuart Morgan, Midlands

If far fewer people vote in safe seats, then surely they run the risk of becoming marginal in the sense that a really determined campaign by one party could easily overturn the majority of another who assumes they can take it easy. If you don't vote, don't complain.
Lawrence, Crowthorne, UK





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