Government website wrong on how to vote in mayoral elections

12 December 2023
What was claimed

Mayoral elections in England, including the election for Mayor of London, use the ‘Supplementary Vote’ system, where voters may choose a first and second choice candidate.

Our verdict

Incorrect. Since May 2023 mayoral elections in England have used the ‘First Past the Post’ system, where voters only choose one candidate.

As of the start of this week the UK government’s official website and the UK Parliament’s website both incorrectly stated that mayoral elections in England, including the election for Mayor of London, use the ‘Supplementary Vote’ (SV) system rather than ‘First Past the Post’ (FPTP). 

While mayoral elections previously used SV, a change brought in by the Elections Act 2022 means that since May 2023 FPTP has been used in mayoral elections in England instead. 

Parliament has now updated its website, after Full Fact queried the error, and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is in the process of updating too.

Parliament and government should ensure that information voters receive through their websites is accurate and up to date, so that voters know exactly how elections work and how their vote will be counted, to avoid confusion and maintain trust in the democratic process. 

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How the websites got it wrong

The ‘Types of election, referendums, and who can vote’ section of the website outlines information on elections within the UK. As others have pointed out, under the heading ‘Local mayors, Mayor of London and London Assembly’ the website says “mayors are elected using the Supplementary Vote system” and “the Mayor of London is elected using the Supplementary Vote system”. 

This is what the website still showed on 11 December 2023, more than six months after the first FPTP mayoral elections took place in England. 

As of 11 December 2023, the website for the UK Parliament also made a similar error. It said: “Elections for mayors in England and Wales, and for Police and Crime Commissioners, use the Supplementary Vote system.” 

The Elections Act 2022 also introduced FPTP for Police and Crime Commissioner elections in England and Wales. As of 11 December 2023, the and UK Parliament websites both wrongly said these take place using SV too.

After Full Fact highlighted the errors, the Parliament website was corrected. A spokesperson said: “We were made aware of an error on the website, where a page on voting systems contained out of date information. The page has since been updated and the issue has now been resolved.”

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is in the process of updating too. 

How do these voting systems work?

The Supplementary Vote system allows voters to choose a first and second choice candidate. If a candidate receives more than half of the first choice votes, they are elected. If no candidate manages this, only the two candidates with the most first choice votes move to a second round of counting. At this stage, the second choice votes of those who’ve voted for an eliminated candidate are counted and tallied, and whichever of the remaining two candidates receives the most first and second choice votes combined wins.

Under First Past the Post, which is used in general elections, voters select a single candidate on their ballot paper. Whoever gets the most votes wins. 

There are currently no directly elected mayors in Wales. 

What is the Elections Act 2022?

The Elections Act 2022 changed a number of rules surrounding elections in the UK, and England and Wales, such as the introduction of voter ID requirements for UK parliamentary elections and local elections in England, and the need for voters to include their national insurance number when applying to vote by post.

Section 13 of the Elections Act 2022 introduced provisions for the elections of mayors of combined authority areas, the Mayor of London and elected mayors of local authorities in England to be held using FPTP. While the Act passed into law in April 2022, this section was activated on 26 October 2022, and the change in voting system applied to elections from May 2023 onwards. 

Image courtesy of Red Dot/Design Factory.

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