BC’s Single Transferrable Vote Referendum

So as you may (or may not know), BC is headed for a provincial election on May 17th. Get out and vote! Your vote counts!

What significantly fewer people to know is that at the same time, there is also to be a referendum on how we vote in BC. Of those who know that this referendum is happening, fewer still have idea what this entails. The question is fairly straight forward:

  1. Keep our existing first-past-the-post system
  2. Move to a new single-transferable-vote (stv) system

What the hell is STV (apart from the way I habitually identify myself online?), you might ask? Well, the CBC has put together an excellent site detailing what it’s all about, including a sample ballot to show you how you would vote under this sytem.

It will probably come as no surprise that I’m all in favour of the STV system: in my opinion, in increases the value of a vote. Even in a riding traditionally heavily weighted towards one party or another, under the STV system, your vote could still result in the candidate of your choice being elected. Which is great. It also tends to more closely reflect the “political will” of the populace. Under our current system, it’s entirely possible to win an election, seat-wise, but still lose the popular vote. Or, as what happened in our last election, win all but two seats, despite the fact that some 30 or 40% (I can’t recall the exact percentage) of the population voted for another party. Under the STV system, that would have resulted in a much more evenly matched legislative assembly. The election prior, in 1996, the NDP lost the popular vote, but won the election.

There are some serious potential negatives to be aware of with the STV, which I list some of below:

  • It’s more complicated: This is true. Suddenly, you have to indicate a numerical preference, rather than just an X to say who you want to vote for. You also should indicate more than one candidate (although you don’t have to. If there’s only one candidate you like, than you only need to vote for one).
  • Poor handwriting could result in mis-counted voted: This is already true, where people seem unable to mark an X correctly. Also, as electronic voting comes of age, this will become less of an issue. But it is a possibility
  • Larger ridings result in less of a connection between politicians and their constituents. One of the most significant changes of the STV system is that you no longer vote “for a party”, but rather, for the individual candidate(s) that you prefer. Because of this, in other jurisdictions that use this system, it has been found that local & community focus from the politicians can actually increase, the exact opposite of what many fear.

Please educate yourself about this important referendum in BC. For more information on the process that led to this referendum, check out the Citizen’s Assembly on Electoral Reform‘s website, or BC-STV, the Yes for STV campaign site. For reasons not to vote for STV, have a look at Know STV (although I hope that you’ll vote yes, I still think it’s more important that you vote at all)