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.