Sunday, January 13, 2008

Single Transferable Vote (STV) is the best alternative to our antiquated "Winner-Take-All" voting system

Check out this great piece on which highlights the strengths of the Single Transferable Vote, or STV, a voting system which ensures representation for all voters in the final results, be they in the Iowa Democratic Caucuses or in legislative or parliamentary elections. Some U.S. primaries simply use the "Winner-Take-All" system, handing an entire state's delegates to one winning candidate simply because that candidate won the highest number of votes; the other votes count for nothing.

In parliamentary elections using STV, voters rank candidates running in multi-member ridings (instead of casting a single 'X' next to one candidate). A group of candidates is elected, representing various parties and perspectives, all of them are accountable to the voters. Instead of one person representing your interests, you have several people elected to represent your interests. This is different from our "Winner-Take-All" system where one candidate with the most votes wins the whole constituency outright.

Voters in British Columbia are set to get another chance to endorse STV in a referendum in 2009 (58% of B.C. voters endorsed STV in a 2005 referendum, but the government-imposed 60% threshold meant passage was denied.) If over 60% of B.C. voters embrace STV in 2009, it will mark the beginning of true democracy in Canadian elections...

"STV ensures that a representative democracy is truly representative — that the opinions of all blocs of voters are represented, in the proportion with which those opinions are held by the population. It is used for a variety of elections in many Western democracies, including the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. About two-dozen U.S. cities, including New York, have used STV at various points; Cambridge, Mass., still does, and Minneapolis will starting in 2009 for certain offices..."

"Voters just head to the voting booth and rank candidates by preference on a standard ballot; if a voter’s first choice doesn’t get the number of votes needed to win a seat, his or her vote is counted in the next round for their second choice, and so on. STV makes it more likely that a given individual’s vote, or a give bloc of votes, will make a difference. And because of this, it tends to sharply boost participation. It minimizes the problem of the “wasted” vote, whereby some votes don’t help elect any candidate at all, and voters for that candidate go entirely unrepresented. STV also makes politics less negative, encouraging cooperation among candidates."

"A candidate wants to be the first choice of as many voters as possible, but also wants to be the second choice of the rest, and so doesn’t want to turn them off. Dennis Kucinich, for instance, urged his supporters to caucus for Barack Obama in precincts where Kucinich didn’t have enough support to win a delegate of his own."

"There’s a strong case to be made that one reason STV is used less than it used to be in the United States is precisely because it actually achieved its aims: It yielded a level of popular representation and participation that made it harder for the wealthy and party bosses to wield ironclad control over politics in jurisdictions where it was used, and so they pushed back and got rid of it."


Wilf Day said...

Since the vote went against closed province-wide lists, I think you are wise to ask Ontario Liberals to have a look at STV, since it may be adopted in BC where 58% of voters already favoured it last time.

Ontario Liberals would also want to keep in mind two other options for electoral reform which may be more acceptable than closed province-wide list MMP:

1. Open lists with regional lists. For example, the Dec. 21st
report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Qu├ębec "Characteristics of a Compensatory Mixed Member Voting System"
suggests nine regional lists for Quebec. With open list, voters vote for the candidate they prefer, which is only possible with regional lists unless you can imagine province-wide personal campaigns. A similar option noted by the Quebec CEO is "flexible list" where voters have the choice of either voting for one name or voting for the regional list as ranked by the party nomination process.

2. No-list MMP, or "near-winner" as the Citizens' Assembly called it. It works like regional list, except that there is no list: the additional MPP representing the region's under-represented voters is the "near-winner" who got the most support (highest percent) in the region. This means every MPP has first won a local nomination, which appeals to democrats, although it may not help diversity a lot.

aileen said...

I have just read your blog and felt I needed to correct one part. As I am from New Zealand I can tell you We do not have STV (I wish We did) but MMP.