Voting in a Senedd election differs to a UK General Election in that we have two votes instead of one.

When we walk into a polling station on Thursday, May 6, we will be asked to cast our vote on both a constituency ballot paper and a regional ballot paper.

But why, and how does that impact the result of the election?

Wales’ electoral process

Senedd elections use the Additional Member System, also known as Mixed-Member Proportional Representation.

The Senedd has 60 seats, divided between 40 constituency members (MSs) and 20 regional MSs.

Even though members have the same duties regardless of whether they are a constituency MS or a regional MS, how we vote for them and how they are elected differs.

Constituency ballot paper | First Past the Post

The National Wales:

The election of constituency MSs works in the same way as how Members of Parliament are elected in Westminster general elections, using the First Pass The Post method.

In each of Wales’ 40 constituencies, individual candidates stand for election, either representing a political party or as an independent.

The candidate with the highest number of votes is elected as that constituency’s MS.

That member is then responsible for representing people in that constituency.

Regional ballot paper | Proportional Representation

The National Wales:

Senedd elections differ to Westminster elections in that Wales is also divided into four regions.

North Wales, Mid and West Wales, South Wales West, South Wales Central and South Wales East each have an addition four MSs.

These regional members are elected using the regional ballot paper.

This time, instead of voting for a single candidate, we vote for a political party of our choice.

This means we could vote for a candidate from one party in our constituency vote and another party in our regional vote.

On the regional ballot, each party compiles a list of candidates, ranked in order of the party’s preference.

This means we vote for a specific party, but we have no control over which candidates from that party are elected.

The regional vote is calculated using a system of Proportional Representation, meaning the share of regional seats roughly reflects the share of votes between the parties.

To further complicate matters, the method in Wales also takes into account the number of constituency seats a party has won in order to ensure a more equal distribution of seats based on vote share.

This is how UKIP won seven Senedd seats in 2017. Although they did not win any constituency seats, their seats roughly reflect their share of the votes across Wales.

Once elected from the party’s list, regional members are responsible for representing people in that region.

So how many MSs represent each of us?

Each person in Wales is represented by five MSs: one constituency member and four regional members.

For example, somebody living in Prestatyn is represented by the MS for the constituency of Vale of Clwyd, and four MSs for the North Wales region.

Each of these members have the same duties in the Senedd and there is no hierarchy.

Regional MSs are selected for government and party positions in the same way as constituency members.

The only technical difference is that constituency MSs represent people in their constituency, while regional MSs represent people in their regions, a role shared with the other members in that region.