Northern Ireland

How do I vote in the Westminster Election? First Past the Post voting system explained

X marks the spot as Northern Ireland goes to the polls on July 4

Many Sunday newspapers have declared who they think should be in Downing Street after this week’s General Election
At Westminster elections, you only need to mark an 'X' beside the one candidate you would like to elect. (Rui Vieira/PA)

The election on July 4 will see 18 Members of Parliament (MP) from Northern Ireland returned to Westminster. That’s one MP for each of the constituencies here.

Voting at this election works differently to NI Assembly and Council elections.

But why is there a difference? Well, that comes down the voting systems used.

Several men with connections to Westminster were targeted as part of a sexting scam
18 MPs from Northern Ireland will be elected to the House of Commons at Westminster. (Nick Ansell/PA)

What is the voting system used for Westminster elections?

Elections to Westminster use a system called ‘First Past the Post’ (FPTP). This system works using a simple majority.

The person who receives the most votes in your constituency – that is, whoever comes first – is the first ‘past the post’ and takes the seat.

They then become the Member of Parliament for your area.

How do I vote in a Westminster election?

The FPTP system is an easy election to vote in.

On the ballot paper, you only need to mark an ‘X’ in the box beside the candidate that you want to represent you in parliament. Your ballot paper will have a list of the candidates and their political parties with a box beside each name.

Remember: no numbers, no preferences – just an X in the box beside one candidate.

Why do we vote with numbers at other elections?

Elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly and local councils use a system called ‘Single Transferable Vote’ or STV for short.

They are a form of proportional representation and aim to ensure that as many voices as possible are represented in an area.

Some parties, such as the Liberal Democrats, believe that this system should be used to elect members to Westminster.

However, this is not yet the case.

So on the 4th of July, remember to mark an X beside the candidate that you want to elect!