The importance of voting

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Principal Mark Jones

Why you should be casting your vote in the forthcoming election


In just a few weeks – on Thursday 6th May – 2.3 million potential voters get the chance to select their preferred politicians who will take one of the 60 seats in the Welsh Parliament in Cardiff Bay for the next 5 years.  And for the first time,  in this election 65,000 16-18 year olds in Wales will have the opportunity to cast their votes – as is also the case in Scotland, but interestingly not yet in England.


So why should I vote? Well you will hopefully be aware that the Welsh Government has devolved responsibility in a number of areas such as education (which is why for example we have AS levels and the Welsh Baccalaureate which doesn’t exist in England) and health – and indeed in the past year we have seen on a regular basis how the Welsh Government has dealt with the challenges of the pandemic in different ways to some of the approaches taken by the UK Government.


And so if you have found that, at any time, you have disagreed with any of the political statements made by either the Welsh Government or any of the other political parties, then here is your chance to have your say – you can’t really complain afterwards if you haven’t taken the opportunity that is given to us all at these elections.


So how does the process work in Wales?  Well essentially candidates are selected by the various political parties – including Labour, Conservatives, Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrats, UKIP, Reform, Propel, Green Party, Abolish the Welsh Assembly as well as numbers of “independents” with each party asking for your vote based on what they see as their list of priorities for the country, their manifesto commitments.


All of us get 2 votes each – the first vote being for the one of the 40 constituency “seats” in the area we live – with the second vote being for one of the 4 regional seats in each of the 5 separate regions within Wales and which for most of us, at the College,  will be South West Wales.  So 40 + (4×5) = 60 seats


And who wins?  Well the winner of the constituency seat is simply the candidate with the most votes cast and there is no minimum of votes that has to be achieved.


But determining the winners of the regional seats is more complicated and there is an algorithm in place which essentially gives a high “weighting” or “score” to those political parties whose candidates have won less constituency seats in that region.  So for example if there are say 10 constituency seats in the region and all 10 seats have been won by candidates from party A, it is very unlikely that any candidates from party A will then win any of the regional seats.


Once all the votes have been counted, the party with the largest number of candidates will form the Government, but of course they will only have a majority if they win more than 30 seats.  If they win less than 30 then they have a number of options – they could either “buddy up” with another party of they could go it alone and look to deal with each item on an individual basis by convincing politicians from other parties to join them.  But neither of these are ideal – these negotiations can take a lot of time and effort and can slow down and potentially derail many of the Government plans.


And I am afraid this happens frequently and indeed in the past 5 elections the number of seats won by the largest part – Labour on all occasions was 28 seats (1999), 30 seats (2003), 26 seats (2007), 30 seats (2011) and 29 seats (2016) and so you will appreciate why a number of the leading parties are already talking about “deals” or “no deals”.


However this election looks more open than previous years, as – in 2016 – 7 of the 31 “non-Labour” seats were won by UKIP, who this year are unlikely to repeat this performance. As such there is everything to play for and so – and returning to the question at the top of this article – if any of you were to ask me “should I vote?” then my answer to you is an unequivocal “yes…yes you should” but you should not only vote but you should also use your votes wisely for the policies and priorities that you believe in.


Mark Jones



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