European Parliament elections 2019: how it works

This May voters across the European Union will go the polls to select the 705 MEPs to serve in the European Parliament for the next five years.

It’s no different for when voters go the polls: for most, it will be Sunday, May 26; for others the 23rd, 24th or 25th.

MEPs are elected to represent regions in some countries, like Italy, while in others, such as Germany, they have the whole country as their constituency.

They pass EU laws and approve its budget, along with the European Council, which comprises the heads of state of each country.

They will serve a five-year term (2019-2024) and spend their time between European parliaments in Strasbourg and Brussels.

The number each country gets its proportional to its population.

Germany, the most populous, will get 96 MEPs for its 82.8 million people, while tiny Malta, with 475,000 people, has just six.

How are MEPs elected?

Confusingly, there are different voting systems used across the EU. But all are some form of proportional representation, which is where parties gain seats in relation to the number of votes they get.

Closed lists: Some vote for parties, who have selected a fixed list of candidates to appear on the ballot paper.

The number of MEPs a party gets elected is proportional to its vote share, as long as it passes a minimum threshold, often 5%.

So if party X gets 30% of votes in a country allocated 10 MEPs, it would get 30% or 3 MEPs.

Candidates at the top of the list are chosen first.

Open lists: Other countries have more open lists where voters choose a party or indicate who is their favourite candidate.

This allows voters to change the order of the party lists and influence who is elected first, in contrast to the fixed or closed list.

Single transferable vote: There is also the single transferable vote, where electors choose as many candidates as they like and number them by preference

The numbers tell those counting to transfer the vote of any candidate that has passed the threshold to be elected or has no chance of winning.

When a winning candidate gets enough votes, all additional ballot papers with him as the first choice are ignored and second preferences counted instead.

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