How voting works in the European Parliament elections for England, Scotland and Wales

A polling card and a voting ballot box

Tomorrow, voters in the UK will go to the polls to elect new members of the European Parliament. Unlike most other votes held in England, Wales and Scotland, these elections will use a system called D’Hondt to decide how seats are won.

Developed by a Belgian lawyer and mathematician, Victor D’Hondt, it’s one way of ensuring that seats are awarded to parties proportionately. D’Hondt does this with a complicated system of counting that penalises parties that have already won seats, so other parties or independent candidates have a chance of winning seats.

At Demsoc, a big part of what we do is explain how democratic decision making works. So, for a bit of fun, we’ve had a crack at explaining D’Hondt. It’s not easy!

But D’Hondt worry

What makes the D’Hondt system interesting, however, is that from a voter’s perspective, it’s really easy to vote.

Unlike some other proportional systems, where you may have to indicate which candidate or party you prefer by voting several times, with D’Hondt you vote once. It’s what happens after you vote that’s a bit more complicated.

Nonetheless, learning how it works is a good idea. If you are a voter, and you’re trying to work out who to vote for, you’re going to want to know how likely it is that your chosen candidate or party will win a seat.

How it works

So here are some slides we’ve prepared that take you through the nuts and bolts of the D’Hondt system.

D’Hondt stop now

Just so you know, this is the system that’s used in Great Britain, but not in Northern Ireland – which uses a different voting system. This guide explains more.

Elsewhere, EU elections are different too – the rules only state that a form of proportional representation must be used. For an overview of some of the differences across the EU, you could look at this European Parliament PDF – but be warned: it’s also a bit complicated!

Oh yeah… D’Hondt forget to vote! And sorry about all the terrible puns!

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