EU Election: How Does It Work?

The Whole EU Election

There are 751 seats on the European Parliament.  All 751 seats are democratically elected through 3 forms of proportional representation, with 508 million registered voters electing MEPs for their regions.  The seats are split between 28 countries according to population.

The next five-year term of the European Parliament starts on 2nd July.

What if Westminster finally agrees a deal?

Theresa May has just offered MPs a bribe to vote through her very unpopular and thrice-defeated plan.  The bribe is that if they vote her deal through, they will be allowed to vote on whether to hold a second referendum.  Whether she will actually cleanly follow through on the bribe is debateable, and the deal is the same one which has been repeatedly rejected, and will then have been passed by parliament.

Cross party talks have failed and no adjusted deal is forthcoming.

If Brexit goes ahead before 2nd July, British MEPs will have to resign their seats. The current deadline is 31st October.

When is the election?

The election takes place on Thursday 23rd May 2019 in the UK and in the Netherlands.
Ireland votes on Friday. The Czech Republic allows 2 days of voting on Friday and Saturday. Latvia, Malta and Slovakia vote on Saturday. The other 21 member states vote on Sunday.  The differences are due to different voting regulations in different countries.

How do we vote?

The ballot paper will look much like the party-candidate lists which have been published in newspapers.
There will be a master list of political parties.  Each of those party entries will contain a “closed list” of candidates selected by the party.  This means that you cannot choose some candidates from a party and reject others.  It also means that you can only choose one party. The candidates will appear in the order in which they are favoured by the party, and they will be elected in that order according to how many votes the PARTY gets.  Independents are usually listed individually and there will be 1 candidate listed alone.  The other independent candidates have all stood under the Independent Network and will be a “closed list” under that option.

You check one box by the one party you choose.

How do the “closed lists” work?

Parties choose the candidate who has the best chance of attracting votes for the party as No.1 on their list.

Eg. The Green Party lists Kat Boettge as No.1, and Gerhard Lohmann-Bond as No. 2. Then they list three others.  If the Green Party gets enough votes for 1 candidate, Kat Boettge will be elected.  If they get enough for 2,  Gerhard Lohmann-Bond will also be elected.  In the unlikely event that they win all the seats, all 5 candidates will be elected.

If you look at who is first and second on the lists for each party, these are the people most likely to be elected by your vote.  For information on those candidates, please check out our Comprehensive Candidate Guide.

How many seats does the UK get?

There are 12 constituencies in the UK, as the MEPs represent a region rather than a constituency, as happens in the general election.  The number of seats assigned to each region is proportional to the population in the region.

The constituencies, in alphabetical order, are:

  • East Midlands (5 MEP seats)
  • East of England (7 seats)
  • London (8 seats)
  • North East (3 seats)
  • North West (8 seats)
  • Northern Ireland (3 seats)
  • Scotland (6 seats)
  • South East (10 seats)
  • South West (6 seats)
  • Wales (4 seats)
  • West Midlands (7 seats)
  • Yorkshire and the Humber (6 seats)
How are the votes counted?

Some countries use a “single transferable vote” system,  some use a “preferential vote” system, and some use a “closed ballot” system.  We use the “closed ballot” system. This form of proportional representation called the D’Hondt system. The D’Hondt system is considered the least proportional and least representative of the three methods.

The votes are counted in the following way:

  •  The party with the most votes wins ones seat.
  • That winning party then has their total number of votes divided by 2 (seats won (1), +1). So for the 2nd round of counting, the 1st party to win a seat only has half their original votes count for a 2nd time.
  • The vote is counted again and whichever party now has the most votes wins the 2nd seat. Then their votes are divided.  If the 1st winning party wins the 2nd seat as well, their votes are divided by 3 for the next round (seats won (2) +1).  If a different party wins the 2nd seat, their votes are divided by 2 (seats won (1) +1).
  • This repeats until all seats are won.

An example with numbers:

Round 1:

Party A – 200 votes

Party B – 160 votes

Party C – 40 votes

Result: Party A wins 1 seat and goes into Round 2 with 100 votes

Round 2:

Party B – 160 votes

Party A – 100 votes

Party C – 40 votes

Result: Party B wins 1 seat and goes into Round 3 with 80 votes

Round 3:

Party A – 100 votes

Party B – 80 votes

Party C – 40 votes

Result: Party A wins a 2nd seat and goes on to Round 4 with 50 seats.  With 2 more rounds, for 5 seats, Parties B and A each win another seat, and Party C gets no seats because they don’t represent enough people. Party A has 3 seats, Party B has 2 seats.

How will this affect the results?

For the topic of Brexit, it depends on how organised Remain and Leave voters are.

At present it looks like the majority of Leave supporters will vote for the Brexit Party.  The other Leave parties are Labour, Conservative and UKIP.

The Remain vote is split between mainly the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, with ChangeUK as an additional Remain Party.  Independents are not addressing the issue.

The proportional system then gives The Brexit Party more seats because the votes are tallied by party voted for, not motivating sentiment.

However, Best For Britain has estimated that if just 5.5% more Remain voters turn up to vote, the Brexit Party will not win any seats.

Otherwise, voting for the party which represents what you stand for is the best way for proportional representation to work, and if enough people agree, those candidates will get to add their values to the EU Parliament.

Although the election is being used as an unofficial referendum, it is not going to work that way, because parties and their promises are more complex than Remain or Leave.  Only those who aim for no plan beyond Brexit are going to vote for the same party in enough numbers to dominate the results.

When will the results be announced?

Because the countries all vote on different days, in different time zones, the votes cannot be announced before all of the polls in all of the countries have closed.

We vote on Thursday, and the last poll closes in Italy on Sunday night, at 10pm UK time.

Full results will not be available until Monday 27th or Tuesday 28th depending on recounts and problems.  Results for the UK will start being announced overnight 26th-27th May.

Clare Washbrook

Current Editor-in-Chief Former Editor of BS News and S.O. Magazine Community Affiliations: Belper Goes Green, Belper's WW1 Poppies, Amber Valley Solidarity No political party memberships/affiliations.

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