How do Elections work here?

A lot of Americans were confused on how the elections work over here, especially because there was a recent election which ended up in the a coalition government. I was too so I thought I would research it.

A misconception some people have is that the Prime Minister(PM) is the equivalent to the U.S. President. The PM is the equivalent to the Majority Leader in the House of Representatives.

Before someone can vote, they have to register. People can register to vote when they are 16 but cannot vote until they are 18. You cannot vote if you are a member of the House of Lords. You have to be a citizen of the United Kingdom, Irish Republic or belong to the Commonwealth in order to vote. EU citizens can vote in local elections but not general/national elections unless they become citizens.

Elections have to be held at least every 5 years or less if the PM decides to hold one. If the PM dies or resigns, then there is a by-election that is held.

When people vote, they have to vote in the polling stations where they live. If they are away they can do absentee voting. Polling stations are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. There were some issues with this as they are not allowed to be open past 10 p.m., so some people were still in line when the polling stations closed.

When people are voting, they vote for their local Member of Parliament (MP), equivalent to a State Representative. Whichever party (LabourConservativesLiberal Democrats, other) wins the majority (has to wins at least 326 seats) is in charge of the House of Commons. The leader of the party becomes the Prime Minister.

One interesting thing that I learned is that the MP candidates do not have to live in their constituency. This means that the person that the party wants to be Prime Minister will be posted in a place that that they are certain that they will win.

In general, there is a North/South divide between the parties. Up North, they tend to vote along the lines of Labour- these areas have a high percentage of working class people and this party generally is tied to the working class. Down South, they tend to vote more Conservative as they benefit from big business and low taxes. Then there are weird places like Cambridge which is very Liberal Democrat and Brighton which is very Green Party.

2010 made history because it ended up in a hung parliament, the last time this happened was 1974. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats joined together to create a coalition government. Combined, the parties had enough seats to take charge of the House of Commons. If this did not happen, the Queen would have to choose who she felt had the most confidence in the House.

For more information about voting in the UK, click here.

All the Best!

American to Britain