Makes Your Vote Worth Less
folks claim that BC-STV (The Single Transferable Vote) will
"make your vote count". Actually BC-STV can make
your vote worth less and make your MLA less accountable.
is inherent in BC-STV. The Northeast (Peace River) would get
two MLAs while the Capital Region would get seven; some voters
would see their vote dead-ended, not electing anyone and not
transferred, while others would see their vote help elect
more than one MLA. What's fair about that?
one should vote for STV unless they can understand how votes
are counted. Supporters of BC-STV say that it doesn't matter
if people don't understand how votes are counted. They argue
that most people don't know how their car works but they can
still drive it. That analogy is misleading. Voters are asked
to compare BC-STV to the existing first-past-the-post system
(FPTP) and decide between the two on election day, May 12th.
In deciding whether to buy a GM or a Toyota vehicle, prospective
purchasers need to know a lot more than just how to drive
each car, such as whether the company will be in business
next year and whether the warranty will be any good. In deciding
between voting systems, British Columbians need to know a
lot more than just how to vote. They also need to know how
votes are counted in order to be able to adequately compare
FPTP and BC-STV. B.C. voters are not test driving BC-STV;
we could be living with it for decades
would result in 20 multiple-MLA constituencies, each of which
would elect from 2 to 7 members of the legislature for a total
of 85 MLAs. The constituencies would not be equal. Large multiple-MLA
constituencies would be formed by merging the single MLA constituencies
from the 2009 election. The Capital Region would have 7 MLAs;
the Northeast would have 2 MLAs; most constituencies would
have 4 or 5 MLAs. The area covered by the Northwest, which
would have 3 MLAs, is more than 5 times larger than the Republic
the existing first-past-the-post voting system, whoever gets
the most votes wins. Voting is simple; every voter gets one
vote for one MLA. Up until 1986 BC had some constituencies
that elected two MLAs, but there is nothing similar between
2-MLA constituencies in 1986 and 2-MLA constituencies under
BC-STV. In 1986 voters in 2-MLA constituencies could cast
two equal votes and the two candidates who got the most votes
won. With BC-STV a voter would rank candidates starting with
a "1" for the candidate most preferred, and continuing
with 2, 3, 4 and so on. The numbers are instructions on how
to count each voter's single vote.
first word in STV is "single". That is exactly what
it is, a single vote, even though a constituency will elect
from two to seven MLAs. With BC-STV the minimum number of
votes required to win is called the Droop quota: one plus
the number of valid votes divided by one plus the number of
MLAs to be elected. In percentage terms the quota is equal
to 12.5% of the total votes cast in a 7-MLA constituency,
rising to 33.3% of the total votes cast in a 2-MLA constituency.
Those percentages are important because any votes in excess
of the quota get redistributed to other candidates based on
the instructions each voter gave by way of candidate rankings.
vote count under BC-STV starts by counting how many first
preferences each candidate receives. If any candidate receives
more than the quota, the candidate is declared elected and
the excess number of votes above the quota is allocated to
second preferences. Since voters are unlikely to have the
same second preference, the second preference of every voter
who ranked the elected candidate a "1" is examined
and a fraction of each vote is reallocated to second preferences
(the fraction being the ratio of the excess over the quota
divided by the total first preferences).
there are no longer any excess votes from winning candidates
to transfer, the candidate with the lowest number of first
preferences is eliminated and the votes for that candidate
are transferred at their full value to their second preferences
(full value because no portion of their vote counted towards
their first preference). It can take a dozen rounds of adjusting
votes before the count is finished. The last candidate to
be elected usually has fewer votes than the Droop quota, because
there remains one position to fill and no further votes to
transfer. The remaining candidate with the most votes in the
final round is declared elected. That means that in a 7-MLA
constituency, the 7th candidate to be declared elected wins
with less than 12.5% of the total vote.
Citizens' Assembly attempted to explain the complicated counting
procedure by providing a cartoon animation showing the vote
count in a make-believe election with 3 representatives to
be elected and 5 candidates running. Click
on their animation to see how fractions of second and
third preferences are transferred. In the simplified version
those who voted for the fictitious candidate Eric Elderberry
never have their second preferences considered, while those
whose first choice was for Amanda Apple and whose second choice
was for Bill Banana also get to have a fraction of their vote
count towards their third preference. It is unfair to have
some votes stop with a first preference while others get fractionally
distributed over several candidates.
a real-life example, look at the actual count in the May 24,
2007 Republic of Ireland election for the district of Dublin
North which had 4 representatives to elect and 13 candidates.
The website ElectionsIreland.org
allows you to see how votes were counted in each of Ireland's
multiple-member constituencies by just clicking on the name
of the constituency and then on the top tab for "count
details". Browsing through those actual vote counts is
a good way to see how complicated vote counting is under STV,
and that there are always some voters whose vote doesn't count
as much as the vote of others because it is cast for someone
who survives until the last round of the count, doesn't get
elected and doesn't have second preferences transferred. In
Dublin North, the vote count took 10 rounds of redistributing
votes but the 5,256 people who voted for Brendan Ryan (who
lost) did not have their second preferences transferred. You
can pick any other real life example of STV and you'll see
that there are always some voters whose vote doesn't get transferred
and whose first preference doesn't win.
who has ever had more than one boss at the same time for the
same job knows that accountability can go out the window.
With BC's existing system of single MLA constituencies, accountability
is clear. If you don't like what your MLA did, or what your
MLA's party did, vote for someone else. With 5 MLAs representing
one enormous constituency each could say a problem is the
other guy's responsibility or fault.
an MLA's point of view, large multiple member regions would
make it impossible to service all the school boards, municipal
councils and community organizations that would be in regions
two to seven times larger than our existing constituencies.
Supporters say that candidates would carve out their own constituencies
within the large regions, which, if true, is another way of
saying they would ignore large numbers of voters in the region
since they would know that they could get elected, not with
the most support, but with a minimum support of 12.5% to 33.3%.
existing first-past-the-post (FPTP) system is not perfect,
but it is better than BC-STV.