Strategic Thoughts

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February 23, 2009

Latest False Claims about BC-STV

STV should be rejected because its multiple-MLA electoral areas decrease accountability, its complex rules for counting votes are not fair, and allegations made by its proponents are not true.

The pro-STV folks have a new list on their website of benefits that they claim BC-STV would deliver; unfortunately, they are wrong on every point. The allegations listed below are cut and pasted directly from and they appear in the same order as they appear in the scroll box on that site.

Allegation: More power for voters and less for political insiders.

Truth: In Ireland political parties are more powerful. On one Irish political blog, a commentator wrote: "I wonder if the national exec elections at the FF Ard Fheis will actually be a chance for party members to voice an opinion on the state of the party and the country or the usual exercise in time serving." Another said: "It may well be such an opportunity - as councillors begin to believe they will lose their seats, they will be less inclined to shut up and take directions, which may well cause serious breakdowns in internal discipline."

Allegation: To reclaim democracy for voters.

Truth: The Citizens' Assembly acknowledged that our current first-past-the-post voting system is fair (hear the tape of their afternoon session on November 27, 2004 - MP3 format, 14Mb). Many believe that allowing someone's sixth preference to trump another voter's first preference is contrary to the principle of one-person-one-vote, and thus is anti-democratic and unfair.

Allegation: Fairness between voters and between parties.

Truth: It is hard to understand what that means, but there is an anti-political party bias that runs through much of the pro-STV material. In the few places STV is used, political parties are alive and well, and more powerful than they are in B.C.

Allegation: More effective Local Representation.

Truth: With its large multiple-MLA electoral areas that combine from 2 to 7 of the current single member constituencies, STV replaces local representation with regional representation. Many communities currently served by a local MLA would be represented by one from another community under STV.

Allegation: Accountability at elections & during 4 year term of office.

Truth: We have accountability at election every four years under the current system, but STV would decrease accountability by making it more difficult to defeat any particular MLA since that member could find the minimal support needed to be re-elected anywhere in the larger region. Where STV is used incumbents enjoy a re-election record of 80% or more; we have higher turnover under our current system.

Allegation: Having an MLA you actually voted for.

Truth: That is only true in a trivial sense because most voters support one of the two major parties and under STV MLAs would be elected from both parties in almost all of the multi-MLA electoral areas. It is not assured that third party candidates would enjoy such success.

Allegation: Not having to vote strategically.

Truth: It is difficult to measure strategic voting in any system, but under STV voters must still decide how to rank candidates and what that means for fractional vote transfers - that's strategic, but much more complicated.

Allegation: Better representation of women and diversity.

Truth: In 2007 a record number of women were elected to Ireland's Dail, 22 out of 166 TDs (13.3%). In 2005, BC elected 18 women out of 79 MLAs (22.8%), down from 28% in 1996 and 24% in 2001. Claims about diversity are difficult to substantiate because the places where STV is used are very homogeneous compared to B.C.

Allegation: Having real choice and being able to vote across party lines.

Truth: There's real choice now and 25 parties fielded candidates in the 2005 election. With STV only 14 parties fielded candidates in Ireland. B.C. has more choice.

Allegation: Being able to choose between candidates from the same party.

Truth: That's what happens in nomination meetings, and that's where the key decisions would still be made with STV. In Ireland the central parties do not allow their local constituency associations to run full slates of candidates; that's enormous power for the central party and less choice for voters.

Allegation: Real elections in every district, with no "Safe Seats".

Truth: Incumbents are safer under STV than they are with our current system.

Allegation: Stable public policy to help investment & reduce uncertainty.

Truth: Who are they kidding! STV is more likely to produce coalition governments which increase uncertainty.


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