Values and Strengths behind STV
STV is a proportional voting system. Proportional systems aim to produce a Parliament which reflects how people voted and make every vote count.
All proportional systems share many strengths and common values.
Fair results: Parties receive seats in proportion to their
support. Unlike first-past-the-post, Alternative Vote, and
other winner-take-all systems, with STV there will be
a much closer correspondence between vote shares and
seats won than with our current system.
Voter Choice: STV is a candidate-centered system. It
often gives voters a choice of candidates of the same
party, and allows voters to rank candidates in any order,
across party lines. This gives voters the freedom to put
more emphasis on the party or on the qualities of individual
candidates in making their choices.
One the reasons the BC Citizens' Assembly recommended
STV was because they felt it put more power in the hands
of voters, not parties.
As this video from the Irish Times states, "The power the Irish voting system gives the voters to decide which personality, which actual politician, they want represented is extraordinary."
One of the "weaknesses" of STV identified during the learning phase of the Citizens' Assembly was "It has the potential to weaken party control of candidates and members of parliament." Obviously not everyone feels such a slight shift towards MP independence is a weakness.
STV also also gives popular independent candidates a better chance of being elected.
Almost Eliminating Strategic Voting: Compared to other voting systems, including other proportional models for Canada, STV is extremely resistant to the manipulation of strategic voting. Imagine how hard it would be to organize a strategic voting campaign whose success depends on understanding how voters will rank candidates first, second, third and so on and the order in which votes will be transferred! STV encourages voters to be sincere in their choices, knowing that about 90% of voters will help elect an MP.
Making Almost Every Vote Count: PR systems aim to make as many votes as possible affect the makeup of Parliament. . With our current system, only 48% of voters voted for their MP - 52% of voters elected nobody. With STV, about 90% of voters will have an MP they helped elect.
Stable, Collaborative Governments: Over 80% of
OECD countries use some form of PR, and most are
governed by majority coalition governments
representing a majority of voters. These governments are
just as stable as single-party governments elected with
winner-take-all voting, and tend to produce policies closer
to the views of the median voter.
As the Electoral Reform Society notes in its report on the
successful introduction of STV in Scotland:
It is clear that political parties have to embrace the new environment of coalition administration, and move away from the outdated language of who ‘won’ or ‘lost’ the election.With STV, parties represent different proportions of the electorate, and have to try to work together for a greater good, as opposed to pursuing overtly partisan objectives on the false premise that they alone have the right to drive policy on the basis of 20-30% of the electorate that actually voted for them.
Representation of Diversity: With proportional representation, seats in each region of Canada would reflect the diversity of opinion. No longer could the Conservatives sweep every seat in Alberta, the Bloc every seat in Quebec, the Liberals every seat in Toronto. And when parties offer voters the choice of more than one candidate, PR systems elect more women and minorities, naturally.
Strong Local Representation: All proportional
systems designed for Canada have local representation
built in. STV means voters elect a team of representatives
from their local riding, and almost every voter
has an MP he/she helped elect.
Having more than one MP means having choice,
as well as increasing the responsiveness of each MP
to local constituents.
As an elected representative in Scotland said of his fellow
representatives after they switched from first-past-the-post
to STV, “They’ve been very, very good for me. Particularly
the conservative candidate in this ward has worked really
hard, it’s kept me on my toes…it’s very healthy. It doesn’t
allow any candidates to rest on their laurels.”
"Political parties will remain at the centre of the electoral process, but they will give up some of the excesses of party discipline and
the adversarial style that alienates many voters.
The Legislative Assembly will be strengthened in its ability to hold governments accountable."
- from the Final Report of the BC Citizens' Assembly
"This may seem a paradox: how could the change to
multi-member constituencies possibly strengthen the local link? But it is a fact, as politicians elected by STV-PR in Ireland will testify. It comes about because of the power that STV uniquely gives to the voters to choose their representatives. With STV each elected member is elected because he or she obtained the support of a personal constituency of voters. Those voters voted that member in and they can just as easily vote that member out at the next election without having to vote against their preferred party."
- UK Electoral Reform Expert Dr. James Gilmour to the BC Citizens' Assembly
"When you change the voting system, you change the incentives for the parties."
- Associate Professor Dennis Pilon, Canadian electoral reform expert in the video series "Why BC-STV?"