official proponent for BC-STV has a TV ad claiming that STV
is fair. Perhaps they should have asked the Irish whether
they think STV is fair.
April 28th a column appeared in the Irish
Times which said: "The opportunity to vote for everybody,
through the ranking of your preferences, means that in reality,
you vote for no one." On April 26th Irish member of parliament
(TD) John McGuinness was quoted in the Independent.ie
saying: "The country is, in fact, being run by a small
group within the Cabinet, together with a handful of union
leaders and a small group of senior civil servants. Democracy
is suffering as the Dail, the Fianna Fail parliamentary party
and the people in general are not being listened to."
There are calls for electoral reform in Ireland where even
website for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and
Local Government, in announcing that Ireland's experiment
with electronic voting is abandoned, goes on to say: "
is still a considerable need for electoral reform which can
best be pursued by bringing forward proposals to establish
an Independent Electoral Commission in Ireland."
BC-STV ad mentions British Columbia's 1996 and 2001 elections.
For the first time in 150 years, in 1996 BC voters elected
a government that had less of the overall popular vote than
the opposition. The NDP won 39 seats with 39.5% of the province-wide
popular vote; the Liberals won 33 seats with 41.8% of the
vote. Reform won two seats in that election and the Progressive
Democratic Alliance won one, but STV supporters don't like
to admit that small parties can win seats with our current
system. They also don't like to admit that STV does not stop
the kind of outcome BC had in 1996. In Malta, with STV, the
party with the smallest percentage of the popular vote has
won the most seats four times. It first happened in Malta
in 1981, causing a constitutional crisis. They then amended
their constitution so as to add seats when the country-wide
popular vote was higher for the party with the fewest seats.
They had to use that fix in their last election in 2008. BC-STV
has no provision to fix such an outcome.
reason both STV and our current system can elect governments
with a smaller percentage of the popular vote than their opposition
is that governments are formed by the party with the most
seats in parliament. Seats are won by the vote in each constituency:
the most votes in single member ridings with our current system,
or by meeting the quota in multiple-member seats with STV.
Neither voting system ties the number of seats to the overall
popular votes for an entire province or country, contrary
to what is implied in the BC-STV television ad.
BC-STV ad also mentions the 2001 election when the Liberals
won 77 of 79 seats. In that election the Liberals won 57.6%
of the popular vote and the NDP won only 21.6% (the Greens
12.4%). Many would argue that it is a good thing that our
system purges parties and forces change. That is why Canadians
have seen some old parties die and new parties emerge. By
contrast, one party has dominated Irish politics for over
70 years. It is only the current political crisis in Ireland
that may force change, but even then STV might keep them from
making real change. When the vote is as lopsided as it was
in BC in 2001, it is not clear that STV would have produced
a significantly different result. With multiple-member electoral
areas requiring between 12.5% and 33.3% of the vote to win
a seat, the 2001 results might have been just as distorted,
depending on how many candidates each party might have run
in each area. We'll never know for sure because hypothetical
reconstruction of the 2001 vote depends on too many assumptions.
We do know that our system returned to normal in 2005 with
a balanced legislature, and a balanced legislature will be
the likely result after the vote on May 12th.
STV commissioned Ipsos
Reid to conduct a public opinion poll on BC-STV. It found,
based on a sample of 800 British Columbians (fielded late
March, margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent, 19 times out of
20), that "a majority of British Columbians are content
with the current electoral system. Three quarters (76%) feel
the current electoral system is very or somewhat fair and
71% are very or somewhat satisfied with the range of choices
of parties and candidates available to vote for under this
over the world, people complain about politics and politicians.
Changing to a complicated voting system that is being questioned
in Ireland, could yield massive disappointment for British
Columbians as they discover that changing how politicians
are elected can aggravate their complaints.