First Past the Post (FPTP) or Single Member Plurality (SMP)


This is the current voting system in British Columbia. It is a system in which the candidate who gets the most votes in an electoral district wins and represents that district in the legislature as its Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). Each electoral district elects one MLA. The phrase “first past the post” comes from horse racing. In the case of elections, the winning candidate is the one who places first among all candidates in the electoral district.

Voting & Results


  • Voters in each electoral district vote to elect a single MLA
  • Voters use a single ballot listing the candidates for the electoral district
  • Voters mark an ‘X’ beside the one candidate of their choice
  • The candidate with the most votes wins the seat in the Legislative Assembly to represent the electoral district

Tendencies


  • Does not usually produce proportional results – that is, a political party’s share of the popular vote may not match its share of seats in the Legislative Assembly
  • Often results in single-party majority governments
  • Coalition and minority governments are less common than with other voting systems
  • Elects candidates of larger political parties and only rarely candidates of small parties and independent candidates

Perceived Strengths


  • Clear local representation – every electoral district represented by single member
  • Simple ballot – easy to understand, single choice
  • Simple process to determine results
  • More likely to produce single-party majority governments
  • Usually clear on election night who will form government

Perceived Weaknesses


  • Often produces single-party majority governments that win less than a majority of the popular vote
  • Difficult for voters to hold party and candidate separately accountable —a voter may vote for a candidate the voter dislikes if they represent the party the voter does like, and vice versa
  • Can feature a higher number of “safe seats” (electoral districts in which the candidate for a particular political party is very likely to win)
  • Majority governments often mean the governing party is not required to co-operate with other parties in the legislature
  • Only votes cast for winning candidates actually elect an MLA

To learn more about First Past the Post, visit these independent electoral information websites:

Samara Canada

ACE Project