Understanding d'Hondt

ELECTORS have just one vote, but it is counted seven times. The count in the East of England is under the control of the regional returning officer, who is David Monks, the chief executive of Huntingdon district council.

Graham Dines

ELECTORS have just one vote, but it is counted seven times. The count in the East of England is under the control of the regional returning officer, who is David Monks, the chief executive of Huntingdon district council.

Voting is on Thursday but the declaration will not be made until every European country has closed its polls at 9pm British Summer Time on Sunday.

Counting of the votes in the UK will start at 3pm. Each of the 55 district councils in the region is responsible for the organisation of the poll in its area, counting the votes, and wiring the results to Huntingdon.


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Once all the votes are in, Mr Monks and his staff will tally them and quotients are calculated for each list. The formula for the quotient is V/(s+1), where V is the total number of votes that list received, and s is the number of seats that party has been allocated so far (initially 0 for all parties).

Whichever list has the highest quotient gets the first seat allocated, and its quotient is recalculated by dividing the total by 1+1. The process is repeated until all seats have been allocated.

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The rationale behind this procedure is to allot seats in proportion to the number of votes a list received, by calculating the seats as close as possible to a list's percentage vote. This makes it possible for parties having relatively few votes to be represented.

A final result showing just a few votes difference between the lists will be a nightmare scenario for the returning officer. He may have to order a total recount in all 55 counting locations, delaying the final outcome by up to seven hours.

The East of England constituency elects seven Euro MPs. The Conservatives dominate the region politically but because of the surge in the support for the UK Independence Party in 2004, their total vote was just 30.8%. UKIP polled 19.6%, Labour 16.2%, the Liberal Democrats 14%, and Martin Bell 6.2%.

The second UKIP candidate was elected in seventh position - 19.6% divided by 1+1 - which means that to win a seat in Brussels, a party had to have 9.8% support.

In 2004, the number of votes cast for each party or independent candidate in the East of England was:

Conservative 465,526

UKIP 296,160

Labour 244,929

Liberal Democrat 211,378

Independent Bell 93,028

Green 84,068

BNP 65,557

English Democrats 26,807

Respect 13,904

Independent Nesbit 5,137

ProLife 3,730

The seats were allocated as follows:

1 The top Tory candidate on the list was elected. The Tory vote was then divided by 1+1 - making 232,763 - which was less than the UKIP vote but more than the Labour total.

2 The lead UKIP candidate was elected. The UKIP vote was then divided by 1+1 - 148,080 - putting it below Labour, Liberal Democrat, and the divided Tory total.

3 The second Tory was elected. The Tory vote was then divided by 1+2 - 181,842 - which was less that the Labour and Liberal Democrat totals.

4 The top Labour candidate was elected and the party's vote divided by 1+1 (122,465).

5 The top Liberal Democrat was elected and the party's vote divided by 1+1 (105,689).

6 The third Tory was elected. The Tory total was divided by 1+3 - 116,381 - which was less that UKIP's divided vote of 148,080.

7 The second UKIP candidate was elected

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