Single Transferable Vote

So along with our provincial election, we are having a vote on changing the way in which we elect our provincial politicians.  Currently we use a first-past-the-post system – there are a bunch of candidates in your area (called a “riding”), you vote for one and then the candidate with the most votes wins the seat in that riding.  The problem with this system is that a lot of people’s votes don’t count for anything and a person can (and often do) win their seat even when the majority of people in the riding don’t vote for them.

Take, for example, the riding in which I lived during the last election – Vancouver-Quadra, which just happens to be the riding currently held by the Premier.  This is how many votes each candidate received in that riding in the last election:

  • Gordon Campbell – BC Liberals* 12,498 votes
  • Mel Lehan – BC NDP 10,248 votes
  • Damian Kettlewell – Green Party 4,111 votes
  • Yolanda Perez – Marijuana 138 votes
  • Tom Walker -Work Less Party 126 votes
  • Jeff Monds – Libertarian 44 votes
  • Gudrun Kost – Platnium Party 18 votes

To put it another way:

Votes for Gordon Campbell – 12,498

Votes for NOT Gordon Campbell – 14,685

(Votes for NOT Gordon Campbell if you only look at the 3 major parties – 14,359)

Simply put, more people in the riding didn’t want to see Gordo as their Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) than did.  And yet he won the seat.

The Single Transferable Vote (STV) system allows for more proportional representation.  For example, a party like the Green Party which tends to get a fair percentage of the popular vote (9.17% in the last BC provincial election) but no seats because they don’t get enough votes in any single riding could actually win some seats, meaning that the 9.17% of people who voted for the Green Party could have some representation.  And people like me – a lefty in a heavily righty riding1 – will have a chance for their vote to count.

The clearest explanation of how STV works that I’ve seen has been this little animation on the CBC website2.  There doesn’t seem to be a way to embed that animation here on my blog, but you should definitely click on the link and go watch it, because it explains the whole thing really clearly.  Go and watch it.  I’ll wait.

Did you watch it?  It all makes lots of sense now, right?  Good.

We actually had a referendum on the STV during the last election, but there was very, very little promotion of that fact, so many people showed up at the polls and were all “What? There’s a referendum too?  What the f is STV?” And since, as you saw from the animation that you just watch (you did watch it, right?), it’s not something that can be explained in 30 words or less, those people just tended not to vote in the referendum, which actually got 58% of the votes in favour, but needed 60% to pass.  But because a lot of people felt they weren’t informed enough to vote on it last time, they are having a do-over.  I haven’t really seen many ads or explanations of STV yet (although there are lawn signs, as Cath@VWXYNot? pointed out in her comment on my last blog posting and they were talking about it on CFOX radio this morning).  Anyway, this blog posting is my little attempt to get the word out.  So watch the animation and then vote in the BC-STV referendum, k?

*Not in anyway liberal.
1I’ve actually jumped out of the frying pan into the fire in that respect, having moved from Gordo’s riding into an even more staunchly right-wing riding where the incumbent BC Liberal* candidate won a strong majority of the vote.
2Props to Rebecca who had a link to this on her blog.

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  • I think it’s important to mention there are TWO conditions for BC-STV being implemented that the BC Liberals*, in all their wisdom (note: sarcasm), decreed: it must received 50% + 1 support in at least 2/3 of the ridings (which it easily did last time) and it must receive 60% of the popular vote (last time it received 58%). Of course the question becomes why must it receive such phenomenally high support?

    Contrary to I think most regular idiots’ beliefs, there is absolutely no law anywhere that states the bar must be set so high. In fact, if the BC Liberals* were really serious about electoral reform, they could vote to implement BC-STV right now without any referendum (well, where “right now” = before dissolving the legislature for the election). I can definitely see the point of requiring it to attain majority support in 2/3 of the ridings (to ensure they can say it has widespread support throughout the province, but 60% overall?! Can any politician or political party in BC even dream of attaining support at the 60% level?

    The reason the bar is set so high is precisely because the BC Liberals* have absolutely ZERO interest in electoral reform–they just want to look like they’re all reasonable and support-y of it. The fact that it would make attaining majority governments harder to achieve is exactly why they have no interest in it. It’s also why NDP support for it is anemic at best.

    But the BC Liberals* are especially against it, because then their insane landslide in 2001 where they got 97.5% of the seats with a mere 57% of the vote could never have happened. And if you look over the electoral history of BC, there’s a tendency to vote primarily BC Liberal* (and its predecessor parties like the Socreds) (much like there’s a tendency for Canada to federally vote Liberal) so which party has the most to lose from implementing BC-STV, which would have meant in 2001 that the Campbell government would have received approximately 40% fewer seats in the Legislature? That’s right: the BC Liberals*!


  • Ummm, ok here are clearly two NDP supporters who support STV and have stated their reasons as such. Didn’t you get the memo? With your examplesthat you gave it makes me wonder if you really understand STV. NDP do not support STV. The Liberals created the assembly and STV will likely ensure that the NDP will never get any majority ever to govern this province again (Thank God). But please, go ahead and shoot yourself in the foot. I don’t want to change your mind now that you’re on the good side. I am voting for STV and although we don’t support the same party, we clearly agree on this.

    Kalev, “bar set so high” Are you high? This is major reform and 60% is hardly high. Get off those meds and get your vote on.


  • Zeus, you hit the nail on the head. Kalev, you live under a rock. NDP pulled the wool over your eyes. They refused electoral reform. The Liberal gov, the only prov government in Canada to ever give the power to the people and let them vote in 2005 for STV, and now again making the decision to put the vote back for the people. Does this sound like a government that is afraid of electoral reform? The only party afraid is the NDP. They are all dippers and communists. The only platform they have is to dissagree with everything the other party states, regardless of it’s merrits. Unions and NDP will vote against STV as they did in 2005.


  • The following link lets you pick a district, vote using STV, and step through the counting process, observing what happens to your ballot choices all along the way. It’ll clear up at least some of the questions that you might have after looking at the animation on the CBC site.


  • A Two-Vote Electoral System Proposed

    The need for electoral reform resonated with me. While the Single Transferable Vote concept was not acceptable to BC Voters, I believe it would be a mistake to give up on electoral reform. I believe first-past-the-post voting system is wrong because it allows disenfranchisement and encourages voter apathy.

    I would support a simpler electoral reform, such as a Two-Vote electoral system. The province would be divided into 43 constituencies which would elect two representatives. The ballot would allow a Voter to choose their top candidate using the traditional “first-past-the-post” method, and allow a second vote for Voter’s alternative choice of a political party or identified independents. Simple rule, between your two votes, you can’t vote for the same party twice (unless you wish to register an abstention).

    This simple binary voting system would not be as perfect as STV, but would result in a legislature that is more representative. Knowing you have two representatives to choose from in your constituency would encourage greater voter turnout because their votes would matter and result in increased representation.

    Could you support simpler Two-Vote electoral system?


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