The Contingent Vote (CV) is an electoral system used to elect a single winner. In this system the voter ranks each of the candidates in order of preference. In such an election, if no candidate receives an absolute majority of first preference votes, then all but the two leading candidates are eliminated and there is then a second count undertaken. The candidate with an absolute majority on the second count is elected.
The contingent vote is similar to the alternative vote except that the alternative vote typically allows for many rounds of counting. Under the contingent vote system there are never more than two. The contingent vote can in many ways be considered to be a compressed form of the two round system, or ‘runoff system’, such as that run in France, in which both rounds occur without the necessity for voters to go to the polls twice.
The contingent voting system is widely used throughout the world and is particularly popular in both the U.S.A and Australia. A variant of this system, the supplementary vote has been used to elect the Police and Crime Commissioners in England.
In an election held using the Contingent Vote, voters rank the list of candidates in order of preference. Under the most common ballot layout, they place a ‘1’ beside their most preferred candidate, a ‘2’ beside their second most preferred, and so on. In this respect the contingent vote is the same as instant-runoff voting.
There are then a maximum of two rounds of counting. In the first round only first preferences are counted. If a candidate has received an absolute majority of first preferences, (i.e. more than half) then they are immediately declared the winner.
However, if no candidate has an absolute majority then all but the two candidates with the most first preferences are eliminated, and there is a second round. In the second round the votes of those whose first preference candidates have been eliminated are transferred to the two remaining candidates, based on the voter’s preference for one of the remaining candidates. The votes are then counted and whichever of the remaining candidates has the most votes is declared elected.
What are the advantages of Contingent Voting?
- CV encourages strategic campaigning, as not only first choice but also second choice votes are important.
- CV gives the voter more power because both first and second preferences may count.
- CV is a simpler system to understand compared to AV.
The Alternative Vote (AV), or ranked choice vote, is also a preferential voting system in which the voters have the opportunities to rank candidates in order of preference. AV works in a similar way to CV, where voters decide on first and second preferences; however, voters can, if they so desire, rank any number of candidates in preferential order.
Candidates are elected outright if they gain more than half of the first preference votes. If not, candidates with the fewest number of first preference votes are eliminated and their votes are redistributed according to the second, or next available, preference marked on the ballot paper. Unlike CV, this process continues until one candidate has half of the votes and is duly elected. The option for alternative voting was put before the British public in the 2011 referendum, but was overwhelmingly rejected in favour of retaining the First Past The Post FPTP electoral system.
What are the advantages of AV?
- All MPs would have the support of a majority of their voters,
- AV retains the same constituencies, meaning no need to redraw boundaries,
- AV encourages candidates to chase second- and third-preferences, which lessens the need for negative campaigning,
- AV reduces the need for tactical voting,
- AV reduces the number of “safe seats” where the election result would previously have been a forgone conclusion.