EDITORIAL: STV Or Not STV? That is the Question

Rossland Telegraph
By Rossland Telegraph
February 4th, 2009

A couple of years ago, in BC’s first referendum on the Single Transferable Vote system, the initiative garnered 58% of the vote, a mere 2% short of the 60% it needed to become law. In this May’s provincial election, British Columbians will be asked to vote on the STV a second (and presumably final) time.

The basic idea behind the STV is two-fold and roughly as follows.

First, ridings each receive more than one MLA, much like city politics where Rossland as a whole elects six councillors. This allows more than one point of view to be represented at the table. Second, something called ‘preferential balloting’ is employed. Let’s say ten candidates run and three MLAs will be chosen. Voters rank the ten candidates according to their personal preference, with point values being assigned to each candidate. One’s first choice might get ten points, for example, one’s second choice nine points, and so on. To decide the result of the election, these points are tabulated and the top three candidates are chosen. Check out www.stv.ca for more information.

The rationale behind STV is that under this system, the electorate’s will is expressed more accurately. Often in a multi-party country like Canada, a party can win an election with little more than 30% of the popular vote and other parties that receive up to 10% of the vote receive no seats whatsoever. Under the STV system, the aim is for “a more diverse legislature.”

Under the current ‘first past the post’ system, voters often fill out their ballots strategically, voting for the party most likely to knock out the party they like least, rather than for the party they like best. For example, under the current system a Green sympathizer may hold her nose and vote Liberal, considering a vote for that party preferable to the re-election of the Conservatives and knowing that her preferred party stands no chance of election at all. That’s not right.

STV has been around for over 100 years and is currently used, according to the stv.ca website, in Australia, Ireland, Malta, Canada, the USA, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, India and Scotland.

Is STV better? Hard to say right now, given our lack of experience with the system. What’s clear to us, anyway, is that the current system isn’t working. In the West Kootenay, there’s the feeling that our local values aren’t reflected provincially or nationally. In the last federal election, for example, the Greens came in second in a number of nearby ridings but to look at parliament, it’s as though that party and its adherents don’t even exist.

That’s not democracy. And so the question arises: why not give the STV a chance?

Categories: Op/Ed

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