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To STV or not to STV… that is the (referendum) question

How it works, and why B.C. should, or should not, vote ‘yes’ for the Single Transferable Vote System



"He passed a series of observation monitors let into the walls behind plates of toughened but still badly scratched perspex. One of them showed some horrible green scaly reptilian figure ranting and raving about the Single Transferable Vote system. It was hard to tell whether he was for or against it, but he clearly felt very strongly about it. Ford turned the sound down."

— Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Book Four: So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

"STV strikes me as the worst possible option that could be recommended, which probably accounts for why it’s principally used just in Ireland and Malta and hasn’t spread."

— David Schreck

"Some people say to me, ‘don’t fix it if it ain’t broke, and the system ain’t broken’, to which I say ‘where have you been for the last four years? There’s no opposition government, just a deflated NDP minority… STV could be what this province needs."

— Norman Ruff

There’s always some debate about exactly what Greek philosophers had in mind when they coined the concept of democracy more than 2,000 years ago as a means to rule their disorganized clusters of city states. But it’s a safe bet that even the ancient Greeks – who invented mathematics and science – would be at a loss to explain modern party politics, where the party that wins the most jurisdictions or votes, even by the slimmest of margins, calls the shots for the next three to five years.

And the lengths that political parties go to in order to win the majority of ridings is astounding – kissing babies…putting on hard hats and nodding thoughtfully at construction sites… repeating carefully scripted buzzwords until they get stuck in voters’ heads… bashing the character and competency of other candidates… even making promises they have no intention of keeping.

It’s enough to turn anyone’s stomach. It’s no wonder that people are staying away from the ballot box in droves these days – especially young people who are more prone to being idealistic. In the 2001 provincial election only 27 per cent of British Columbians aged 18 to 24 bothered to cast a ballot.

There’s also a strong sentiment among voters that the political system we currently enjoy is broken – true representation appears to be impossible when the makeup of legislative bodies, like the Legislature in British Columbia, does not actually reflect how the people voted.

The last two provincial elections have driven this point home with relish. In the 2001 election the B.C. Liberal Party won 58 per cent of the popular vote, but through our First Past The Post single member riding system, they managed to claim 77 of 79 seats in the Legislature, or 97 per cent of all seats.