Response to Globe Article on BC-STV

April 22, 2009

The Globe and Mail has had a few articles recently on the upcoming referendum, some fair and some quite uninformed.  The following is a recent response I sent in to one of the more reasonable articles that still needed a few comments:

Re: Residents to vote on election reform

The explanation of BC-STV given by Greg Jones is on the whole fair and balanced except for two points.  He expresses bafflement at the counting process which is not really complex, it is merely a bit more complex than the simplest possible voting system imaginable, which is our current one.  The simplicity of our current system limits voters to one choice, winner take all and throws the rest of the votes away.  I think British Columbians are willing to have the experts at Elections BC work a little bit harder in exchange for a lot more voter choice.

That brings me to Mr. Jones’ second point, why do so few countries use it?  BC is very very lucky to have an opportunity to vote on this system for precisely the reason that it is not widely used.  Most countries that have proportional voting (and most do) use some form of list voting, of which MMP is one of the best.  All of these systems, including MMP, leave a lot of power with the political parties to choose candidates that fill the proportional seats.  STV is the only system that leaves all the power in the hands of voters.  If voters want to favour all women regardless of party affiliation, they can.  If they only care about the environment, or taxes, or jobs they can cherry pick candidates from any party that agree with them.  Or they can vote along party lines, they can even just vote for one single person.  Their vote is counted and transferred so that each of their choices is helped as much as needed before using their next choice on the list.

The reason more countries don’t use STV is that parties control the process and when people demand PR they are provided with a system that lets the parties keep more control.  STV is unique in that it removes almost all this control while still maintaining high quotas that will avoid a large number of fringe parties.  Its all about giving power to the voter to tell their representatives what is important.  Surely we all want that.

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