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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 April, 2003, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
When two Xs mark the spot
Guto Thomas
By Guto Thomas
Political Reporter

Polling booth
You can use two votes at the assembly election

There is a lot to know about the way Assembly Members will be elected.

So much, in fact, that it's far too complicated for anyone to work out all the permutations of what could happen once those votes have been cast. But don't let that put you off!

Because what you really need to know - believe it or not - is extremely straightforward.

So here goes...

Everyone has two votes, because there are two types of AM, and two different ways of electing them.

But before explaining why that is, it's important to emphasise one simple point: all you have to do is decide where to put your crosses on the two ballot papers - one usually magenta (although this may vary) and the other white.

Familiar sight

On the magenta paper will be a familiar sight - a list of local candidates, each competing against each other, just like in Westminster elections. It had originally been thought that this paper would be white - but, in fact, magenta it is.

Every elector can...
use one or both votes
vote for the same party twice
vote for two different parties
choose not to vote at all

And whoever gets the most votes wins that constituency seat. This is Britain's traditional and familiar first-past-the-post system.

The second vote, on the white paper, is different. Here, you are asked to vote for a party, rather than an individual.

The choice of different parties here will be much greater than on the first vote. This reflects the fact that smaller parties can do better by pooling their votes across a region, rather than trying to beat the major parties in the smaller constituencies.

On the voting paper, there will be a long list of names of each party's candidates. But you are not voting for a particular person - just for a party.

The parties have already decided who is at the top of their lists, and there is nothing that can change that on election day.


One of the most common misconceptions is that if someone has voted for one party with their first vote, then they must use their second vote in a different way. This is not true.

You are free to use both votes in any way. And, just as you can choose not to vote at all, you could, of course, choose to use only one of these votes.

So what is the point of the second vote?

In the traditional system, it's likely that one party - Labour - would dominate Welsh politics. To avoid that, this electoral method was introduced to make sure other parties received "fair" representation in the assembly.

Vote Wales


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How 'losers' can become winners
04 Apr 03  |  Wales


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