AMS election results: good news for BC-STV

February 5, 2009

There were many reasons to be optimistic about last night’s AMS election 2009 results:

1) Strong BC-STV supporters elected to key positions

UPDATE: It appears that Blake Frederick has been disqualified for ‘slating’ (collaborating too much with other candidates), which would make Alex president.  Details and commentary posted here.  There could be an appeal, so this may not be final.

We at Fair Vote UBC were happy to see that the two candidates we endorsed, Blake Frederick for AMS president and Tim Chu for VP External, were both elected in their respective races. It is crucial that in the coming months leading up the May 12 BC-STV referendum that we have a supportive AMS executive that will help raise awareness among the UBC community. Both Blake and Tim support an AMS endorsement of BC-STV, and we hope that the AMS will take a leading role in promoting BC-STV in the coming months.

However, one of these races could have easily gone the other way: in the presidential race, Blake Frederick beat Alex Monegro by a narrow 46 vote margin. We believe Alex Monegro would have been an excellent, competent president, but in our endorsement we thought that Blake would prioritize BC-STV more. So, what of the almost 50% of voters that had different priorities and preferred Alex? They may not have someone who shares their views representing them for the next year. It would be great if almost everyone could have a representative that shared and advocated for their priorities, and this is possible when you elect multiple candidates (as in the BC-STV system we will be voting on in May, and as in the STV system that the AUS will hopefully soon adopt to elect its councillors). Unfortunately, proportionality is not possible when electing a single person (i.e. a president). In these cases, a preferential ballot (such as the Condorcet system) will make sure that a consensus candidate that is acceptable to at least a majority of voters is elected. Had the AMS used a first-past-the-post (FPTP) system, it is possible that candidates would have been elected that were unacceptable to a majority of the electorate.

Detailed Results are posted here.

2) Fair Vote UBC won $700 in the Voter Funded Media competition

Thanks to everyone who voted for us! We will continue to spread the word about BC-STV and fair voting systems in general, focusing on why these issues matter to the campus community.

While it is true that we came in 6th place in the competition, we did get nearly 10% of the total prize money and 38% of what the first place finisher received. We are very happy with the result, and pleased to participate in a competition that produces more than one winner and rewards a variety of views.

The system used to vote for the VFM winners is a consensus system, somewhat similar to Condorcet but with several constraints built in to make sure that there are multiple winners, that a large diversity of preferences are represented while not awarding large amounts to candidates with very low vote turnout.  It’s yet another example of how the voting system used has an enormous effect on the way people vote and the possible outcomes.

Different voting systems are suitable for different environments and a healthy democracy requires people to discuss the system in use and its effect on the way people vote.  We hope that the STV referendum, the switch to Condorcet voting for AMS elections and competitions like the VFM get this kind of discussion started on our campus and elsewhere.  We applaud the AMS and VFM founder Mark Latham for being part of the this discussion.

Very high turnout, and Condorcet used without a hitch

Finally, voter turnout was the highest in 22 years, with over 6,500 students voting. It’s great to see rising levels of political engagement, particularly right before the pivotal May 12 provincial election, where BC-STV will be back on the ballot.

It’s impossible to know for certain what motivated this rise in turnout, but could some of it be attributed to the Condorcet voting method used in this year’s election? Preferential voting systems such as Condorcet combat voter apathy by largely removing the lesser-of-two-evils problem and by encouraging more civil and positive campaigns, because each candidate wants to get the second choice votes of their opponents’ supporters.

Perhaps the best news is simply that 6,500 people just experienced preferential voting, with no problems. This is good news for BC-STV. While STV and Condorcet are significantly different systems (we will further explain the differences in a later post) they look pretty much the same from the voter’s point of view. All you have to do is rank the candidates in order of preference. It a perfectly simple thing to do, and you probably rank things in your head dozens of times a day. As Fair Voting Burnaby/New Westminster demonstrated last Christmas, it’s so easy children can do it.

Now, when opponents of BC-STV argue that ranked voting is too confusing, too complicated, and too different, 6,500 UBC students can tell them otherwise. It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3.

Alan McConchie is a PhD student in the Department of Geography at UBC.


2 Responses to “AMS election results: good news for BC-STV”

  1. Charles Says:

    Does anyone, at all, have access yet to the full numerical results of the Condorcet voting? I’d really like to see how it looked.

  2. Rory Rickwood Says:

    A Two-Vote Electoral System Proposed

    The need for electoral reform resonated with me. While the Single Transferable Vote concept was not acceptable to BC Voters, I believe it would be a mistake to give up on electoral reform. I believe first-past-the-post voting system is wrong because it allows disenfranchisement and encourages voter apathy.

    I would support a simpler electoral reform, such as a Two-Vote electoral system. The province would be divided into 43 constituencies which would elect two representatives. The ballot would allow a Voter to choose their top candidate using the traditional “first-past-the-post” method, and allow a second vote for Voter’s alternative choice of a political party or identified independents. Simple rule, between your two votes, you can’t vote for the same party twice (unless you wish to register an abstention).

    This simple binary voting system would not be as perfect as STV, but would result in a legislature that is more representative. Knowing you have two representatives to choose from in your constituency would encourage greater voter turnout because their votes would matter and result in increased representation.

    Could you support simpler Two-Vote electoral system?

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