Friday, January 30, 2009

VOTE YES TO BC STV. Get the word out.

So, if you're living in BC, you may (or may not) have heard about something called the Single Transferable Vote, or STV. I would like to talk to you a little about why this lovely system has been floating around lately.

In 2001, we had a provincial election. The BC Liberal Party took (quite literally) all but two of the seats in the BC legislature in that election. Thus, the Citizens' Assembly for Electoral Reform came into being, and consisted of one man and one woman from every provincial riding in our wonderful province. This assembly looked into all kinds of ways to fix the electoral system that had allowed such a colossal majority without the same level of public support, and found the STV. They voted more than 90% in favour of this system as a means of fixing our government.

Four years later, in 2005, there was a referendum in BC. When we had our provincial election, there was an extra question on the ballot. The question was this:

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

The threshold for changing over to the STV system was 60%, higher than the required threshold for the Quebec separatist referendum in 1995. BC voted in favour of STV by a majority of only a little more than 57%. For this reason, we are still using the First-Past-The-Post system.

Now what is STV, you say? It is a system of Proportional Representation in Government. That means that the number of elected officials in government will reflect the amount of popular support they have among the populace. For example, if the green party has 8% of popular support, they will also have close to 8% of the seats.

The number of seats in parliament doesn't change, but the way that candidates run and that ridings are organized will. For example, an area that currently contains 5 ridings might be amalgamated into one large riding. In this riding, the same number of candidates that run under the current system would campaign during the election; that is to say that each party would run five candidates for this one super-riding. Voters would then pick and choose which politicians they would like to have represent them by numbering them off in order of preference. You don't even have to number off every candidate: if you only want to select eight, four or two of the given candidates, that's fine. Choose as many as you like; just make sure you don't give any candidate the same number. You've all done this before, I'm sure, in one form or another; it's the same as being given a list of films and marking them off in order of preference.

When the votes are counted, they are put into groups. Each person's first choice is initially counted, but if the number of votes for that candidate does not reach the threshold to gain a seat (which would be different in every riding depending on the voter turn out), then the person's second choice would be counted instead. This process would continue until each of the seats for the riding are filled and each ballot has been put towards a vote of some kind. In this way, everyone gets some level of representation, rather than being completely cut out of the governing process, as occurs often under the current system.

In this way, each large ridings would have a group of representatives instead of just one. There would therefore be a level of cooperation necessary to represent each riding, and everyone would have some say in the decisions made, rather than having the views of one party governing all.

If this sounds like a good idea to you (and you live in BC and can vote), then VOTE YES TO BC STV!!!

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