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STV in BC
24/10/2004

No, that's not a health warning. British Columbia may be about to switch to a new voting system for its provincial legislature.

An assembly of citizens gathered to study the issue has chosen the single tranferable vote (STV) method as the best alternative, and today will vote on whether it should be prefered to the status quo. If it is, there will be a referendum this May.

(See UPDATE at bottom of posting.)

As far as I can tell, the form of STV chosen is Instant-Runoff Voting. In this form, you vote with a ranked ballot. If no one gets 50%+1 of the 1st place votes, the bottom candidate gets dropped and the 2nd place choices on those ballots are allocated. This continues until someone has a majority, just like traditional Canadian leadership conventions. (Flash animation here.)

The citizens' assembly chose STV over mixed-member proportional (MMP) balloting with a vote of 80%. MMP would have allowed people to vote for candidates and for parties, and the legislature would have been made up of a mix of the winning candidates and some representatives chosen based on the votes for parties. This would have allowed smaller parties to have seats without winning a single riding.

There has been a lot of talk about and support for proportional representation in the past few years, mainly by supporters of the smaller parties (NDP and smaller). Although I've voted for the Green Party in the past two federal elections, I've never been a big fan of PR. I'm not sure why.

For some reason, I've always been tied to the somewhat romantic notion of ridings being represented in Parliament by individual men or women who use their best judgement to debate and create legislation. The reality is that most of our MPs our actually party drones. However, I still prefer have a strong preference for Instant-Runoff Voting rather than Proportional Representation.

I'm not sure what effect this will have in BC, but federally, I imagine it would mean more votes for a variety of parties on the first ranking, but ultimately more seats won by centrist candidates, which would have the unfortunate effect of entrenching the Liberal Party even more solidly in control of Ottawa.

UPDATE: It has passsed but it's not really the system I thought it would be. Read here or Declan's comment on BlogsCanada. There will be larger ridings with multiple MLAs in each.


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