Single Transferable Vote --
Questions & Answers
by NO STV
are factual Questions and Answers about STV that should be
considered by all voters before they decide how to vote on
May 12, 2009.
is the Single-Transferable Vote (STV) proposed by the Citizens
Assembly as BC's new electoral system?
Single-Transferable Vote (STV) is an alternative to the
First Past The Post electoral system currently in use in
Canada and every province, as well as in the United Kingdom
and United States. It is also sometimes called the Single
Member Plurality system.
Past The Post is used by the most people — about 45%
— in the world living in democracies, in about 67
is used in just two countries nationally: Ireland and Malta,
representing about one 10th of 1% of the world population.
It is also used in the jurisdictions of Northern Ireland,
as well as the Australian senate and in some Australian
states, such as Tasmania.
countries use a variety of electoral systems, with List
Proportional Representation and the Two Round System being
the next most popular after First Past The Post.
STV in BC, there would be fewer but much larger constituencies
in which voters elect their Members of the Legislative Assembly
(MLA) to represent their interests.
the May 12, 2009 election, BC will have 85 different constituencies
(up from 79 in 2005) but under STV they would be grouped
into 20 constituencies with two to seven MLAs in each one.
would rank all candidates in that larger constituency by
their personal preference, with a 1 being their first choice,
2 their second and so on. Voters can rank every candidate
in their constituency if they want to, but the rankings
are just instructions on how the single vote gets counted.
Each voters gets just one vote even if seven MLAs are to
be elected in the voter's constituency.
formula called the Droop Quota is used to determine the
percentage of support a particular candidate needs. This
quota will be different depending on the number of seats
in your constituency. The quota is the number of valid votes
cast divided by the number of seats plus one, plus one vote.
method of transferring ranked preferences is called the
"Weighted Inclusive Gregory Method" (see Citizens Assembly
Technical Report for details).
constituency of 100,000 voters electing three members the
number of votes needed to win is 25,001: that is 100,000
divided by 4 (3 + 1) + 1 vote.
counting the vote, all number 1 preferences are counted
first. Once a candidate has received enough votes to win,
the number 2 preference choices of those voters are counted
and so on until all candidates are elected in the constituency.
here for an explanation of STV vote counting.
constituency will I be in under STV, what are the geographical
boundaries and how many members will represent the constituency?
First Past the Post, each voter chooses one candidate to
represent their constituency and the candidate who wins
more votes than any other is elected.
FPTP constituency has one MLA who is personally accountable
to those voters and the constituencies are much smaller
both geographically and in terms of the number of voters
in each one.
One of FPTP's biggest advantages is the simplicity and ease
of understanding it brings to all voters.
may also be faced with a very large ballot and dozens of
candidates in larger ridings, making it hard to rank the
candidates knowledgeably. Click
here to see the details of an actual count in the last election
will also be confused by a mathematical quota called the
Weighted Inclusive Gregory System which determines how and
where exactly their vote will be “transferred”
to, by having to rank a large number of candidates in each
constituency and by the need to trust computers to get the
there any other options other than keeping FPTP or voting
for STV? Can we adopt other electoral systems?
only choice on the referendum question is to either keep
our current FPTP system or to adopt an STV electoral system.
Considering other systems after the referendum will be up
to voters and the government they elect.
will be less local representation and accountability because
STV will mean much larger constituencies and MLAs will be
representing far more people over a wider geographic area.
First Past The Post, smaller constituencies with only one
MLA mean that elected representative must be available and
accountable to the constituency, not just the part of it
with more voters.
rural constituencies that contain a major town, it’s
possible that all MLAs elected will come from that town
because that’s where the most voters are, reducing
accountability for other parts of the constituency.
constituencies like Vancouver, the majority of MLAs may
come from one part of the city. In Vancouver municipal elections
the west side of the city has elected the vast majority
of city councilors because west side residents vote in higher
numbers than east side residents.
supporters say local representation is very good in Ireland
under STV. What's the difference with BC?
Ireland are quite different geographically, with BC many
times larger. However Ireland's population is very close
to BC's 4 million people and they have 166 representatives
in their parliament, called the Dail, while in BC we will
have just 85 MLAs in our Legislature.
means tiny Ireland has double the number of elected representatives
as huge BC for roughly the same number of people.
with huge ridings and few MLAs parts of BC would likely
lose local representation. In some areas it is possible
that no local candidate would be elected as an MLA, removing
local representation completely.
STV give proportional results? That is, if a party gets
10% of the popular vote in B.C. would it win 10% of the
STV supporters say it is more proportional than FPTP but
there is no guarantee that seats won will correspond with
popular vote. Proportional representation electoral systems
such as List PR are designed to ensure such proportionality,
party got 10% of the vote under STV it would be unlikely
to win a seat in any constituency in BC. Look again at the
example of a constituency of 100,000 voters electing three
members: the number of votes needed to win is 25,001, which
means that a party would need at least 25% support to win
one seat of the three.
Proponents say because STV it is more proportional "overall"
if is a fairer system. But a candidate in a two-member riding
in northern BC can get elected with 33.3% public support
while a Capital Region candidate can get elected with just
12.5% of the votes cast.
means some MLAs have had to win far more support than others
to be elected to the BC Legislature.
necessarily. Malta has used STV since 1921 but since
1950 not a single independent candidate has been elected.
Any candidate requires significant funding to win election
and with STV the constituencies will be much bigger, forcing
candidates to raise even more money. In a seven-member constituency
as proposed for Vancouver, major parties will likely spend
$1 million or more in that constituency campaign alone —
an amount no independent candidate could possibly raise.
necessarily. In Malta, which has had STV since 1921, there
are only two parties with elected officials. In recent elections
the largest third party has won less than 2% of the vote
and no seats. In Ireland small parties have won seats but
so have smaller parties in BC under First Past The Post,
as recently as in 1996.
In Malta women make up just 9.2% of the country’s
legislators, with only 6 women elected out of 65 representatives.
In Ireland just 13.3% of elected officials are women.
in British Columbia under our First Past The Post system,
women make up 22.8% of our MLAs, 18 out of 79. While it
isn’t representative of our society, it is significantly
better than under either STV system.
in Canada women represent 21.1% of all elected Members of
Parliament, with 65 women out of 308 seats.
vote were to be "wasted"; that would mean every
voter's candidate of choice would have to win election --
it's not possible or sensible. Elections are to select which
candidate in each constituency has the most support and
then which parties across the province have enough support
from elected members to form a government.
supporters say that by ranking your choice of candidates,
the odds are one of your choices will win a seat. But that's
a little like saying if you bet on every horse in a horserace,
one of your picks will be a winner.
because of the complicated transfer system, you will never
know were your vote actually went in electing the MLAs for
First Past The Post, your vote goes to one candidate and
is counted clearly. Regardless of your choice, that's not
a wasted vote.
an STV electoral system is approved, will that mean an end
to majority governments?
In Malta, where STV has been in effect since 1921, there
is almost always a majority government formed by one of
their two major parties. And our current electoral system
does not guarantee majority governments -- look at the federal
minority government situation in Parliament today.
It is a mistake to think an electoral system will change
the nature of politics and politicians. Under STV, if no
party has a majority there will have to be deals to form
a minority government supported by several parties.
STV does mean is that potentially a party with just a few
MLAs who may represent a very minority view will have the
balance of power and can dictate policies in the backroom
to the other parties who want to form a government.
under STV there will be deals around nominating candidates
in the multi-member constituencies that STV requires.
an STV system mean political parties have less influence
over candidates and that candidates can be more responsive
Individual candidates will still require the same level
of significant election campaign financing they need today
to get elected, meaning they will still need political party
STV combines the smaller single member constituencies of
our current system into large multi-member constituencies,
the likelihood is that special interest groups would dominate
the nomination process of political parties even more than
example, if 7 candidates from each party are to be nominated
in the Capital Region, whoever signs up the most party members
for their own personal campaign will also be able to pick
the party’s other 6 candidates, because they will
have the most votes at the meeting.
an STV electoral system requires 60% of all valid votes
in the May 12, 2009 election to vote in favour, plus the
referendum requires that 60% of all 85 constituencies in
BC to vote in favour of STV by a simple majority.
is, overall 60% of all BC voters must vote yes to STV and
voters in at least 51 of BC's 85 constituencies must vote
in favour of STV by 50% plus 1 vote.
necessarily. It is up to the new government to decide what
to do if STV is rejected by the voters. Both the NDP and
the Green Party have positions in favour of some form of
Electoral change is always an important part of democracy.
NO STV is simply very concerned with the STV proposal.
is complicated, confusing, prone to errors and delay, it
reduces local accountability, increases the size of ridings,
allows MLAs to avoid direct accountability for their decisions,
increases party control and allows special interests to
dominate party nominations.
hasn't been proven to do many of the things its proponents
claim -- like increase the ability of third parties and independents
to get elected, and it is not truly proportional in guaranteeing
that each party will get the number of seats in the Legislature
equivalent to the percentage of votes they received.