Tuesday, March 10, 2009

MLAs From Same Town

Charge: STV will result in less local representation since all MLAs will come from the same town.

The election results from countries that have BC-STV show that the candidates do not all come from the same town… that this does not tend to occur. The candidates tend to be well distributed as shown by the results in the Irish rural districts, http://maps.google.ca/maps/ms?msa=0&ll=52.822683,-8.162842&spn=2.987736,7.075195&z=7&msid=100686598902148055059.0004637343be49550140b .

It is not likely that all MLAs would come from the same town as you are combining ridings that have roughly equal populations so one riding should not be able to dominate over another. Under the current system of FPTP the urban areas of a riding tend to dominate over the rural areas such that the rural areas often feel overshadowed by the bigger population centers. Under BC-STV this would be lessened, if anything, since there would be considerably more competition and the candidates would be more actively seeking the rural votes in addition to the urban votes. In the proposed Northeast district, there would be two MLAs elected and likely one would come from Peace River North and one from Peace River South but of course there is not guarantee of this. Personally, I would prefer a better quality candidate an extra hour’s drive away than a closer local candidate who does not represent me well. However, if having a closer local candidate is more important to others then they would have to make sure that they got out to vote. People who think it is important to not have an extra hour’s drive to see their MLA should be asking all the candidates if they are willing to set up an office in both of the major centers. If that is important to the majority of people than the candidate who shows a willingness to have this greater presence will be the one that gets elected.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Small Parties and Independents

Charge: It would be harder for independents and small parties to win seats under BC-STV. Also, from the other end of the spectrum, proportional representation systems such as BC-STV help extremist parties get into power.

People would likely vote differently under BC-STV. Currently there is a lot of strategic voting taking place where people vote against a party by voting for the next most likely candidate to have a chance rather than voting for the candidate and party of their choosing. Many don’t vote for the smaller parties as they are concerned that their vote won’t count… that it would be a wasted vote. With BC-STV this would no longer be a concern as their vote would not be wasted but rather transferred to their next preference if their first choice had already been elected or eliminated.

It is easier for popular independents or candidates from small parties to get elected under BC-STV. For example, in a district with 7 MLAs it would take just 12.5% of the vote to be elected. This can be achieved through first choice votes in addition to transfers if they run good candidates that can appeal to supporters of other parties as well. The result would be a Legislative House that better reflects the demographics of BC.

Since the districts are multi-member, voters in all of the regions will usually get a representative from the both the government and the opposition as well as occasionally a third party or independent. This would result in a more balanced government. Specifically, in the Peace area where 2 MLAs would be elected, the Liberal support is strong enough to ensure that one seat will definitely go to the Liberals. However, the big change from the current system will lie in the second seat. Under BC-STV there would be a real competition for that second seat. This competition would likely be between the second Liberal candidate and the NDP and would result in much greater accountability. There will be fewer ‘safe’ seats and we all benefit from this increased competition, regardless of what party you support.

On the other hand, Fringe parties will still have difficulty getting elected unless they receive enough votes. Under BC-STV, candidates will need to get roughly 20,000 votes in a district to get elected. If they can get that many votes then those 20,000+ should have representation and they deserve to get a seat.

Dave Huntley and Michael Wortis regarding the advantages of STV (1),

  • reasonably proportional representation of parties; the number of MLAs of each party will be in close proportion to its fraction of the popular vote, resulting in a broader representation of public opinion in the Provincial legislature
  • increased opportunity for independent popular local candidates to be elected

Voters with a strong preference for an independent candidate or one from a smaller party can give their first choice votes to such candidates without fear of “wasting” their ballots. If such candidates receive relatively few votes, the votes are transferred to the voters’ second preferences, and possibly third preferences, etc., during the counting process.

Response by Antony Hodgson (2),

There will be the same number of MLAs as with FPTP, there will be regional teams of MLAs … and voters will be much more likely to vote in independents and Greens …. One of the advantages of STV, in my mind, is that by having regional districts throughout the province, there will almost always be both government and opposition MLAs in each district (virtually certain when there are 3 or more MLAs), so the government won't be able to punish a particular district for voting 'incorrectly' without also hurting their own candidate. I expect that the result will be more sensitive and balanced policies.

Independents have a much easier time getting elected under STV (Ireland typically elects 5-10% independents).

Tony wrote (3),

I agree that there are some strong ethnic divides in BC, particularly in the Lower Mainland, but I think that STV is part of the solution, not something that will exacerbate things.

I can understand the frustration of many of the ethnic groups here in BC when they don't find themselves represented in the faces of their MLAs (not to mention the male/female imbalance). … With STV, I fully expect to see an increase in the number of East Asians and South Asians in the legislature. Their communities will then feel that they have a real voice in government and will likely become more committed to seeking common solutions to our common problems through political processes.

I'm not worried about small splinter groups forming under STV. This is far more likely under a purely proportional system with a low province-wide threshold. With STV, given its higher threshold of 10-15%, I think you'll find that ethnic groups will put forward candidates from the major parties so that they can have both representation (ie, an MLA from their community) and access to power (by working within the party structures that help forge policy platforms).

Tony again (4),

“…I don't think it's anywhere near as easy for single interest groups to get elected under STV as [one may] think. Even in the largest 7-seat districts (if we get any of them), you'll still need to attract in the range of 10-12% of the voters to get elected. This seems like a relatively large threshold to me, so I suspect that only serious candidates will be able to cross it. It's one of the things I like most about STV - it seems to me to strike a fine balance between making my vote count (giving me further meaningful choices if my top preference doesn't have enough support to be elected) and being mindlessly 'proportional', the way Israel and Italy are always (in my mind rightly) being criticized for.

And if someone convinces 20k voters to elect them, then that MLA has a very strong claim to be their representative and has every right to make their voices heard. Realistically, I expect that in BC, we'll elect half a dozen or so Greens, and maybe one or two other independents or representatives of smaller parties in areas where they have particular strength. I think the Greens' voice will be widely welcomed (at least amongst the voters, if not amongst the other politicians) and may well provoke the major parties to shift their policies greenward. That doesn't seem like a waste of time to me.

Response by Dgrant (5),

I don't see the problem with narrow-issue or racially defined parties. … If they can garner enough votes to get a seat in legislature via PR they deserve a seat. …I don't think we should keep the status quo just so we can keep these fringe parties out of the legislature. The current system is unfair.

(1) Proportional Representation, Local Representation and More Voter Choice by David Huntley and Michael Wortis, http://www.stv.ca/download/BCSTV_Huntley_Wortis.pdf

(2) Antony Hodgson said… , http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/2007/08/know-stv-says-new-bc-electoral.html

(3) ‘It’s All About Representation’ by Tony, http://thetyee.ca/News/2008/02/22/STVFunding/#comment

(4) ‘Resistance to Special Interest Groups’ by Tony, http://thetyee.ca/News/2008/02/07/ReturnOfSTV/

(5) ‘G West, I don’t see the’ by DGrant, http://thetyee.ca/News/2008/02/22/STVFunding/#comment

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Campaign Costs

Charge: Campaign costs would be considerably more under BC-STV.

Many of the substantial costs that a political party faces, such as media advertisements and air-time, are provincial in scope and thus would be unaffected by the introduction of BC-STV. These media related costs are usually not limited to certain ridings but rather are done on a party-wide basis. Parties who run candidates in all of the ridings within a potential district will not likely have any increased cost for campaigning. Within a district, candidates from the same party would issue joint literature and signage to keep the costs the same and as long as they work together it doesn’t mean additional canvassing is necessary although they may still chose to do so. It could even result in a better working relationship between candidates in the same party as they will benefit from the enhanced cooperation. Independents will have to come up with more innovative strategies to keep the costs down as their overall cost could go up a bit but many of their contributing costs such as media coverage would also remain unchanged.

Detailed response from Antony Hodgson (1),

I don't think that running under STV will necessarily cost much more than under FPTP. In other jurisdictions, candidates from the same party issue joint literature - that is, pamphlets listing all the candidates from a given party. Newspapers, radios and TVs are not limited in coverage to provincial ridings, so FPTP candidates typically have to buy airtime or adspace that covers ridings other than their own (eg, an ad in the Vancouver Sun will be seen provincewide; even the Vancouver Courier, which has westside and eastside editions, covers 5 or 6 ridings with each edition), so there are no increases in cost under STV - in fact, by pooling their resources, they can increase the visibility of their candidates quite substantially. It's true that an individual candidate will be less able to knock on all the doors in an expanded riding, but, assuming the same density of party volunteers, each party will still be able to knock on just as many doors - the volunteers simply have to seek support for their party's candidates. If a voter expresses a preference for one candidate on the list and a volunteer prefers another candidate, they can thank the voter for supporting the party and ask if the voter would consider giving their second preference to the volunteer's preferred candidate. In San Francisco, which adopted Instant Runoff Voting some years back (a single member version of STV), they've found a remarkable increase in civility between candidates, even those of different parties (if as a candidate you get too negative about another candidate, you won't attract a second preference vote from that candidate's supporters, but if you acknowledge their strengths and any similarities, you might get that second preference). Independents will have to be smarter about how they seek their support - they will more likely have to target their intended constituency by meeting with certain kinds of groups (eg, environmentalists) rather than going door to door throughout the expanded region. Ireland shows that it's certainly possible for independents to be successful with this kind of strategy.

(1) Antony Hodgson said…, http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/2007/08/know-stv-says-new-bc-electoral.html

Friday, February 20, 2009


Charge: BC-STV is not ‘truly’ proportional.

BC-STV is a proportional type of electoral reform. If we make a comparison to the current system of FPTP, any type of proportional representation system is a significant improvement. All one has to do is look to the skewed results of past provincial elections to see how disproportional the current system is. In 1996, the NDP won a majority government despite having less % popular vote than the Liberals (NDP received 39% support and Liberals received 42% support). In 2001, the Liberals received 57% popular vote but won 97% of the seats in the House. Since a picture says a thousand words, the improvement in proportionality under BC-STV can be easily seen graphically by looking at the following link: Proportionality and the Single Transferable Vote .

It is true that BC-STV is not 100% proportional but it is far more proportional than the current system of FPTP. I see it as a balance between local representation and proportionality. You could make the districts very large… the larger you go the more proportional the results. If we had one district that was the whole of BC, similar to the provincial list region for Ontario’s MMP model, it would be 100% proportional but that would be undesirable as you would not get local representation at all. Districts with 5 or more MLAs are very nearly proportional while the smaller ones are less so but still significantly more proportional than what we have now. From the largely populated areas feedback to the Citizens’ Assembly suggested that proportionality was the most important factor. Under BC-STV, with the proposed electoral boundaries, these urban areas get near proportionality with districts having a greater number of MLAs. In the more spread-out rural ridings feedback suggested that local representation was the most important factor and we get that under BC-STV with districts of fewer MLAs. In the rural areas, we could get better proportionality by combining more ridings together but we would lose too much in terms of local representation as the districts would be far too spread out. Personally, I would not want to combine the Northeast and Northwest in order to have a 4 MLA district and thus more proportionality. The cost in terms of loss of local representation would be far too high. The proposed electoral boundaries under BC-STV give the best balance between local representation and proportionality for both urban and rural regions, giving very nearly proportional results for urban areas and leaning more towards local representation for rural areas… we all get what we want.

With proportional results the House would more accurately reflect the diversity of BC as it should.

Response by Wilf Day (1),

With STV, the higher the district magnitude, the more proportional the results. The district magnitude of BC-STV is higher than in Ireland, lower than in Northern Ireland or Tasmania. In both Ireland and Northern Ireland it is called PR-STV, or "PR" for short. They understand very well that it is more proportional with larger districts; Northern Ireland was not satisfied with five-seaters and changed to six-seaters. Yet they still considered the five-seater model as "proportional representation" -- because it is, although six-seaters are even better.

Detailed response by Antony Hodgson (2),

On proportionality, for example, there is no doubt that STV is far more proportional than FPTP. Using Gallagher's Disproportionality Index, for example, Northern Ireland dropped from about 15% to about 4% when they adopted STV (Canada's outcomes on this scale have ranged over the past 30 years from ~9-21% and the UK from 12-18%). The two countries using STV to elect their legislatures are Malta (0.3-3%) and Ireland (2-7%). Malta and Ireland are both in the top 10 most proportional countries in the world, whereas none of the FPTP countries (Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand pre-MMP, etc) are. These values for STV are comparable to all the various list PR and MMP countries often held up as examples of proportionality - Finland (2-5%), Germany (0.5-5%), New Zealand (1-3.4%, down from 9-18% under FPTP), so there's no historical evidence for arguing… that "STV is nowhere near as proportional as other electoral systems being considered in places like Ontario or already used elsewhere in the world.” On a provincewide scale, STV will likely be just as proportional as the MMP system Ontario is considering.

(1) Chris H. by Wilf Day, http://thetyee.ca/News/2009/01/09/STV2009/#comment

(2) Antony Hodgson said…, http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/2007/08/know-stv-says-new-bc-electoral.html

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ballot Counting

Charge: The counting of the ballots under BC-STV would entirely rely on computers and it is too difficult to calculate without computers.

The counting of the ballots does not require a computer but it is recommended and much quicker with computers. There would be paper ballots that would be scanned and they can be recounted later if needed. Also, election officials will publish a list of results afterwards showing which votes or portions of votes were transferred.

Response by Antony Hodgson (1),

STV will use paper ballots that are just as secure as our current ones. Just like in the Vancouver city elections, scanners will probably be used to speed up the count, but the integrity of the election won't be threatened.

(1) Antony Hodgson said…, http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/2007/08/know-stv-says-new-bc-electoral.html

Monday, February 9, 2009


Charge: BC-STV is too complicated

I think BC-STV can be as easy or as complicated as one wants it to be. I don’t believe everybody needs to understand every little hypothetical situation that could arise in order to be a responsible voter under BC-STV. Watching the simple animation at http://stv.ca/watch gives sufficient information for a basic understanding of how it works which is all that is really necessary. For those who want to go beyond the basics and complicate things, I can totally understand this desire for the details as I myself am a detail oriented person which is why I began this blog in the first place… to put the details together in one spot.

For those who just want to keep it simple…

In the simplest form, voters only need to learn about the one candidate they are interested in and put a ‘1’ beside their name rather than an ‘X’. However, it is better to learn about more of the candidates in their multi-member district and rank their choices of candidates with a ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’, etc. It is also good to know that if your first choice has more than enough votes to be elected then your vote will be partially transferred to your second choice as your first choice doesn’t need all of it. Also, if your first choice has been eliminated, as they do not have enough votes to be elected, then your vote will be fully transferred to your second choice. This means that there will be less wasted votes (since they are transferred) and will give near proportional results (a close match between popular vote and number of seats in the house) and will reduce the problem of vote splitting (ex. where two parties on the ‘left’ split the ‘left’ vote making it an easy win for the one party on the ‘right’ often resulting in ‘safe’ seats and less accountability as under FPTP)

Response by dgrant (1),

“…you don't have to rank all candidates on the ballot in BC-STV … so it doesn't have to be that complicated. For some it can be as simple as ranking all Liberal candidates 1,2 and that's it with no other choices. I don't think simplicity/complexity should be an issue. People are required by law (if you owe taxes at least) to submit tax returns which are far more complicated. It's unfortunate that some things in life are complicated but for something as important as choosing our elected representatives every 4-5 years I'll take complicated over FPTP.”

Response by Antony Hodgson (2),

“It sounds to me as though you're concerned about voters understanding the system. I think it's really easy, and have taught my 11 year old son how to do an STV count. Most people are simply unfamiliar with how STV works, but I find that I can usually get across the idea in 30 seconds or so. I have faith that BC voters are every bit as smart as the Irish, Australians, New Zealanders, Scottish, and Americans who all use STV.”

Response by Dan Grice (3),

“[An opponent to BC-STV] probably knows he cannot convince other voters that British Columbia is best served by a two party electoral system. So instead, he is trying to convince voters that they must understand every single statistical possibility under BC-STV before they support it. He likes to focus on things like the droop formula (Votes/Seats+1). The droop formula may require some voters to blow the dust off their grade 8 Algebra textbooks to remember what a fraction looks like, but it is hardly some "complicated" formula as [an opponent] describes it. The droop formula works to make sure as many votes count as can be realistic in an area. If there was one seat, a candidate would have to get elected by 1/2 the votes plus one. If there are three seats, a candidate would require 1/4 or 25% of the votes plus one.

[An opponent] probably realized that droop is the fairest way of allocating seats in districts with 2-7 candidates, but he doesn't support any sort of fair distribution of seats so he hopes to confuse people into having second doubts.”

(1) ‘G West, I don't see the’ by dgrant, http://thetyee.ca/News/2008/02/22/STVFunding/#comment

(2) Antony Hodgson said… , http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/2007/08/know-stv-says-new-bc-electoral.html

(3) David Schreck's strange opposition to BC-STV by Dan Grice, http://www.dangrice.com/?q=node/224

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

2005 Referendum Question

Charge: The referendum question was biased in favour of STV.

By Antony Hodgson (1)

The referendum question was designed by the BC Citizens' Assembly members themselves (without partisan political interference) to ensure that it contained the key information they felt British Columbians needed to make an informed decision. The question was:

"Should British Columbia change to the BC-STV electoral system as recommended by the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform?"

In the view of the assembly members, it was important for British Columbians to understand both what the proposal was (STV) and where it came from (ie, from ordinary citizens looking out for the best interests of the province as a whole, rather than for any special or partisan interests). [Some] opponent[s] [say] that it "was worded like a confidence vote in the process that proposed the new system" and impl[y] that this produced a disproportionately high result.

However, a similarly worded question in Prince Edward Island,

"Should Prince Edward Island change to the Mixed Member Proportional System as presented by the Commission of PEI's Electoral Future?",

was supported by only 36% of the voters. Voters there clearly did not feel comfortable with the proposal itself, and the additional information about the source of proposal did not have a decisive impact on the result.

In any case, the central question here is surely whether or not the information is relevant. The BC Citizens' Assembly process is historically significant because it was the first time that a government had willingly given control of the electoral process directly to citizens. The assembly members felt that it would be a disservice to voters not to make them aware of this and that's why they phrased the question the way they did.

Indeed, BC voters understand and appreciate this information. According to detailed polling studies by Prof. Fred Cutler (UBC Political Science), over 70% of voters who were familiar both with the process and the proposal voted 'Yes'. We have faith in the wisdom and sense of civic responsibility of our fellow citizens who were called to this task of public service.

We therefore believe that the referendum question is perfectly justified as it highlights the two major characteristics of the process that voters need and deserve to be made aware of in order to make an informed decision.

(1) Charge: The referendum question was biased in favour of STV by Antony Hodgson, https://stv.ca/node/155