the STV Vote Count Fair?
are used to seeing election results within minutes of the
polls closing. If the single transferable vote (BC-STV) is
adopted on May 12th, forget ever seeing quick results again.
Proponents of STV claim that computer programs can be written
to count the vote, but Ireland's
experiment in three electoral areas with electronic voting
was a disaster.
Proponents of STV need to admit that the complicated system
requires a manual count that takes weeks.
of BC-STV claim that it is easy to understand the count and
that it is an insult to British Columbians to suggest otherwise.
They offer a simplistic example of candidates
Apple, Banana, Cherry and others running in a five candidate
race with three positions to be elected. Even in that example
it takes four rounds of counting to determine the winners.
Real counts are much more complex and they reveal much more
about how STV does or does not work.
has 43 electoral areas, 18 with 3 TDs (what they call their
elected members), 13 with 4 TDs and 12 with 5 TDs. In its
2007 election there was an average of 11 candidates running
in each electoral area. Counts typically took 7 rounds, with
votes being split fractionally and transferred. It is interesting
to look at how candidates ranked on the first count in Ireland's
2007 election and compare that with the final results; in
other words, what difference did STV make compared to how
the finish would have been under plurality rules (FPTP)? Out
of 166 TDS, only 14 were elected who would not have been elected
had the count been on FPTP plurality rules. When those 14
seats are analyzed by party, the Greens picked up three seats
they wouldn't have won under plurality rules, half their total
seat count. Fianna Fail lost 7 and won 3 through the multiple
round counting; in no case did a member of a party lose to
a member of the same party. Ironically in the end, Fianna
Fail hung onto power thanks to forming a coalition with the
Greens. That coalition government is now in crisis with only
14% in the public opinion polls. Ireland's government could
fall before B.C.'s May 12th vote. Is that the kind of stability
we want in B.C.?
the count in Dublin
Central where there were 4 TDs to be elected, 13 candidates
and 8 rounds of counting. With 34,639 valid votes, the quota
(number required to be declared elected) was 6,928 (20%).
Three candidates who led on count 1 when the first preferences
were tallied where eventually declared elected, one on count
1, one on count 6 and one on count 8. The fourth candidate,
a retiring senator, was eventually elected but he received
only 939 votes on count 1. He gained a few votes on each round
of counting and elimination until he reached 6,348 votes at
the end of the 8th round. Even though the quota was 6,928,
he was declared elected with just 6,348 because there were
no more votes left to transfer; he was the last person standing.
is typical in STV vote counts for one person to be elected
with fewer votes than the quota because all ballots are exhausted.
It is also typical for most of those elected to lead from
the first count, but there are sufficient cases like the former
senator who came from behind to make the count very complicated,
and not necessarily what everyone would consider fair. In
the case of the former senator, now an elected TD, there were
five candidates who eventually lost but who had more votes
than he did on the first round. Four of those contenders had
two or three times more first count support than the eventual
its meeting of November 27, 2004 members of B.C.'s Citizens'
Assembly said that they consider our current voting system
to be fair (MP3
format, 14Mb). After working through the details of an
actual vote count under STV, many British Columbians might
conclude that STV doesn't satisfy their concept of what is
at the vote count for Dublin
Central or any other Irish electoral area by clicking
If those counts look hard to understand or unfair, you
might want to vote against BC-STV.