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Monday, October 25, 2004

Carr's Dilemma

As Rick Hiebert pointed out, BC will face a referendum on whether to adopt a new Single Transferable Vote electoral system. While I don't have quite the extent of mistrust for STV as Rick, I have qualms over the system's inherent complexity and slowness, which I go into detail on my own blog.

But what I am thankful for is that the Citizens' Assembly did not support a Mixed-Member Proportional system, best described as tacking on proportionality onto the current system by giving extra seats to disadvantaged parties. The system usually gives party leaders and insiders even more control over who gets on the ballot, since voters essentially surrender their choice of whom in the party to be elected to the party itself. Local nominations give freedom to residents to choose who's best for them, while party-wide votes are likely to be dominated by internal politics and quota rules for women and racial minorities (for the Left, at least).

And so, with the weakening of central party control promised by STV, it is no surprised that Adriane Carr of the BC Greens has lashed out against the Citizens' Assembly's recommendation (via The Public Eye):
"STV is even more adversarial than the system we have now. It’s not truly proportional. It entrenches big vested parties. It’s rock bottom in terms of getting women elected. And it still leaves too many voters frustrated by their votes not counting," explains Carr. "It’s not much better than the system we have, taking us forward an inch when we need to go a mile," adds Carr.
Read again the complaints. The "adversarial" and "women" can be translated as: "you're not giving the parties enough power to control voter stupidity. They must be given enlightened, progressive choices!" Proportionality is overrated: why should a party that has a low first preference but is the second preference of a large population be denied a voice behind that of a party with a slightly larger first preference? And the "big vested parties" line is a pure lie, as anyone in Australia can attest: Aussie Senators are elected by STV, and the upper chamber is the only one with minor parties, including (cough) the Greens.

My theory is that Carr is pissed because a system that practically guarantees her own place in the Legislature (MMP) has been shot down by a system that demands that she gets some sort of local support somewhere (STV, barring any machinations Hiebert had described). Carr received 27% of the vote in her riding in 2001, which may not be enough when diluted with neighbouring rural ridings into a single STV riding. And, of course, there's the bruise to her ego, coming after her failed attempt to bring in MMP.

So now Carr is left in the uneasy position of being forced to campaign against a PR system, while begging Gordon Campbell to let her cover her butt and say that a "No" vote does not endorse the status quo. Oh the joy.

Posted by Kelvin on October 25, 2004 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink


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So the Assembly has picked one of the most complicated voting systems ever used? Obviously, they've never been involved in actually running an election.

I'll have to study the proposal in more detail to decide whether to support it. But at least it's preferable to MMP.

Posted by: Marc | 2004-10-25 10:02:21 AM

I think they're going with the theory that a system that being used by beer-swigging Aussies and anything-swigging Irishmen can't be all that complicated. Or maybe that's where the problem started...
</ politically incorrect>

Posted by: Kelvin | 2004-10-25 10:18:13 AM

STV is not that complicated. If you can’t get your head around the transferable vote (or preferential balloting) you should not be commenting on politics.

For the voter, all you need to know is that your favorite candidate gets a #1, your second favorite gets #2… STV is simpler than our current system because you no longer have to worry about strategic voting. (Go ahead and put a #1 beside the Natural Law Party and a #2 beside the Libertarians. As long as you include a vote for a competitive party somewhere on your list, your vote counts)

For the political scientists, it is more complicated but I don’t think they mind. They will be happy to get a richer picture of the electorate. For instance, the provincial Liberals will know how many of their voters would rather have had the Christian Heritage Party and how many wanted the Libertarians.

The biggest problem with STV is the time it takes to count and recount the votes. The computers that have come along since 1952 make that objection irrelevant.

Posted by: Pete E | 2004-10-27 1:44:40 AM

It is precisely my admiration for the intricacies of STV that worry me. An electoral system shouldn't be so attractive to geeky math majors. ;)

Posted by: Kelvin | 2004-10-30 7:27:00 PM

STV is great. Multimember regional zones are used in most of scandinavia, and they get awesome results. STV, is more candidate centric than party centric, which is important.

Also, the complications are really overstated. In Ireland, 70% of voter's see their first choice elected. In B.C its usually like 40-50%. Then under STV, if you're not going to elect someone's first choice. You look at their 2nd choice. Its advanced, but only because its easy to ignore people's votes. For more info: www.stvforbc.com

Posted by: Daniel Grice | 2004-12-22 10:15:06 PM

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