BC-STV Electoral Reform Referendum May 12, 2009

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BC-STV Electoral Reform Referendum May 12, 2009

Post by Assembly Talker »

Hello Everyone,

I am a former member of the Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform for BC. On May 12, 2009, with our Provincial election, all of us will be voting for a second time on the proposed change to our electoral system, BC-STV, as proposed by the Assembly that I was a part of.

As a member of the Assembly, I do strongly advocate that we adopt this change for BC. But at the same time, Assembly members see a stronger need for educating the public on the matter of electoral reform and BC-STV in particular. My personal focus is education and providing my fellow voters the information they need to make an educated choice on May 12.

So at this time, I offer all of you my knowledge on this topic! I would be pleased to answer any questions that you may have about BC-STV, the Assembly itself, and of course our current system and how it works as well.

The Assembly was made up of 160 members, randomly chosen from around the province. We worked together for the entire year in 2004, and made our recommendation for change in early 2005. I can assure all of you, that as Assembly members we left our own partisan political views to the side, knowing that we had power to make meaningful change for British Columbians, we worked tirelessly to create what we believe as the best electoral system for BC.

In the first referendum, BC-STV received 57.58% of the popular vote, and was endorsed by a majority in all ridings except two. The threshold for automatic implementation of the new system needed 60% support. With the strong endorsement the first time around, our legislature decided to provide funding to support educating the public and also to give the public a second chance to decide on this issue. The same 60% threshold is maintained for 2009.

I encourage all of you to take the time to study our recommendation, to review what you believe as important to you when electing your representatives to your legislature. There are many great resources online to review. Search Citizens Assembly, or Electoral Reform, BC, and you will find a multitude of information.

In the meantime, if you have questions, I will do my best to answer them for you from the perspective of what the Assembly believed when we put the proposal forward in 2005.

Look forward to hearing from you!

AT
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Urbane
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Re: BC-STV Electoral Reform Referendum May 12, 2009

Post by Urbane »

Thanks for posting. I'm not sure if this thread will stay here or if the mods will merge it with the STV thread already started under British Columbia but I do have a question. B.C. had a preferential ballot system that brought WAC Bennett's Social Credit Party to power in 1952 but the system was subsequently scrapped. If it were enacted how would the STV be different than the preferential ballot system that we had back then?
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Re: BC-STV Electoral Reform Referendum May 12, 2009

Post by Assembly Talker »

Urbane,

1952 BC used the Alternative vote system. Both systems (AV & BC-STV) use the preferential ballot, but the systems are much different in their core design. Alternative Vote system, (AV) is a system designed to "form a majority", much like our current FPTP system, while BC-STV using multi-member districts, is designed to generated proportional results. AV elects one candidate in each race, BC-STV uses multi-member districts, to generate proportional results by electing more than one MLA.

Understand that the Preferential Ballot is a design feature of an electoral system, and is not on its own an electoral system. The preferential ballot was considered by the Assembly as a very powerful tool for expanding choice to voters. BC-STV uses the preferential ballot totally differently to generate results with completely different results as were intended in 1952. In particular, in a multi-member districts, voters will have a choice between the candidates within the party of their preference. Giving voters the ability to choose individual candidates within the party, it is believed that this will give voters more influence over the candidates and take away some of the power from the party caucus (party whip).

Three things to consider when designing an electoral system:

1) There is no perfect system.
2) Designing electoral systems is a process of balancing features that often have trade offs between one benefit and another.
3) When choosing electoral systems, you must have a clear understanding of what features or values are important to you. What do you want the system to do.

In the case of the Assembly the values that we believed voters wanted were: Greater Voter Choice, Local Representation, and Proportional election results.

Alternative vote and FPTP, are both designed to narrow or channel choice, with the intention of creating a majority government. Both systems were designed to work with only two parties, the government and the opposition. Simplicity was also a focus of the day when these systems were implemented in Canada.

So I think that it is a good idea to look at the values that were in play in 1952 and what values are in play in 2009. Also understand that once you start adding more than two parties or points of view, AV and FPTP are not designed to be able to sort the ballots in this environment. Our federal situation is probably the best case study for this problem in the world. Five viable parties competing in a system designed only to handle two.

So to answer your question, you are looking at two completely different systems, designed to create completely different results. You are also looking at culture that has changed dramatically from 1952. The needs of today and tomorrow also need to be considered.

AT
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Urbane
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Re: BC-STV Electoral Reform Referendum May 12, 2009

Post by Urbane »

Thanks, AT, for your thorough and enlightening answer. I've been opposed to BC-STV but because of your answer I will have another look at it and give it my consideration.
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Re: BC-STV Electoral Reform Referendum May 12, 2009

Post by Assembly Talker »

Thank you,

One down, 4.3 million to go!!! :sunshine:

AT
parachute
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Re: BC-STV Electoral Reform Referendum May 12, 2009

Post by parachute »

In the thread titled “Single Transferrable Vote” I posted a tongue-in-cheek suggestion for a different electoral system. Here I present an idea that is not supposed to be a joke.

How about an electoral system that contains the best, and avoids the worst, features of both FPTP and STV?

The rules for this system would be as follows:

1. Retain the existing 85 districts, each with one MLA, and keep the same type of ballot that we are used to. The successful candidates would be the 85 candidates who obtained either a majority or plurality of votes.

Then make the following change to the legislature.

2. Increase the membership of the legislature to 100 seats. The members filling the added seats would be the 15 candidates (from anywhere in the province) whose vote totals placed them in the closest second place (the ratio of their votes divided by the winning candidate’s votes) for any district in B.C. And add the following codicils to this statement. Those 15 members must be picked from parties in such a way as to produce the closest match possible between the percentage of house seats and the province-wide vote totals. Further, no more than two MLAs per district allowed.

Here is an example application of those (relatively simple) rules. The B.C. election results of 2005 were: Liberal=46% of vote, NDP=42%, Green=9%, and all other serious parties had less than 1% each but totaling to about 3%. FPTP voting elected 46 Liberal and 33 NDP members. Therefore, to closely match the province-wide vote percentages, the additional 15 seats would be allocated as follows: 9 to NDP, 9 to Greens and 3 to others. The legislature would then consist of 46 Liberal, 42 NDP, 9 Green and 3 Independent. (see the match between vote totals and party MLA numbers?)

The end result of that sort of system? Full proportionality; a ballot and voting scheme identical to that which we have used for many years; a simple system; perhaps a majority government but not necessarily; fairness for sure; every vote would be important; effective opposition.

Further, such a system would NOT need six typewritten pages to describe how to count and transfer surplus votes; elections would NOT require $4,000,000 worth of scanning and computer equipment; counting would proceed exactly as it has been done for many years; transparency is assured; fringe party or single issue candidates would probably NOT get a seat at the table; and FINALLY (and perhaps most importantly) the system would NOT need 100 civil servants to administer.
parachute
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Re: BC-STV Electoral Reform Referendum May 12, 2009

Post by parachute »

Would someone please critique that system I just proposed? And tell me all the things that are wrong with it.

The advantages I see might be: retain the same smaller districts we are used to; only 15 out of 85 districts would have 2 MLAs to share accountability; simple ballots without a list of 12 or 16 or so names; easier to conduct candidate debates; easier to choose which candidate I prefer to vote for (I don’t have to study 7 or 8 candidates and try to rank my preferences) …… other advantages …. or disadvantages ..... ???

Downside is increased size of legislature. (Darn!)
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Homeownertoo
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Re: BC-STV Electoral Reform Referendum May 12, 2009

Post by Homeownertoo »

parachute wrote:Would someone please critique that system I just proposed? And tell me all the things that are wrong with it.

The advantages I see might be: retain the same smaller districts we are used to; only 15 out of 85 districts would have 2 MLAs to share accountability; simple ballots without a list of 12 or 16 or so names; easier to conduct candidate debates; easier to choose which candidate I prefer to vote for (I don’t have to study 7 or 8 candidates and try to rank my preferences) …… other advantages …. or disadvantages ..... ???

Downside is increased size of legislature. (Darn!)

I think I preferred your tongue-in-cheek suggestion. Problem here is electing members who were rejected by the voters.
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FunkyBunch
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Re: BC-STV Electoral Reform Referendum May 12, 2009

Post by FunkyBunch »

Do you really think it will make that big of a difference? If there are more reps/riding then parties are going to be running more candidates/riding. Won't people be voting for the same parties, just with votes spread out among multiple candidates? It will make a marginal change, possibly, but I can't see it making a significant change anytime soon.
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Re: BC-STV Electoral Reform Referendum May 12, 2009

Post by parachute »

Thank you Homeownertwo and FunkyBunch.

“problem is electing members who were rejected …” ----- No, that is not the case. To get elected as one of the extra 15 the candidate wouldn’t be “rejected”. They would have simply received slightly fewer votes than the winner in their particular district.

“will it make a big difference?” …. I don’t think it would make a BIG difference but there would be no question what-so-ever about proportional representation and I think the simplicity would be SO MUCH more than BC-STV.

“running more candidates…” ---- There would not be as many candidates as might possibly run under BC-STV. If parties ran too many candidates then those candidates would split the party vote and none of them (if they came in second or third instead of first in the FPTP vote) would have a chance to be chosen as one of the 15 extras.

The other thing to consider is that all of the extra 15 would be FORCED to receive considerable support from the electorate and back room politicians would not be choosing who could be considered to be among those 15.
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FunkyBunch
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Re: BC-STV Electoral Reform Referendum May 12, 2009

Post by FunkyBunch »

What I'm saying is: Say the Liberals run 5 candidates in one riding of 8 candidates and the NDP ran 5 with an offshoot candidate or 2.
Since the regional area is greater the same amount from each party would get chosen as we have now, there may be a marginal increase in a fringe party seat or 2, but the current 2 party problem we have now would not be solved.
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Re: BC-STV Electoral Reform Referendum May 12, 2009

Post by parachute »

Hi FunkyBunch,
FunkyBunch wrote:What I'm saying is: Say the Liberals run 5 candidates in one riding of 8 candidates and the NDP ran 5 with an offshoot candidate or 2.

That is not correct.

Look back at Rule #1 of what I was proposing. I say keep the EXACT same system we have now. No such thing as large districts. No such thing as running more than ONE candidate per political party per district --- just exactly like the FPTP electoral process we will be using this May 12.

Then after the election is over, say May 13, i.e., the next day, the vote totals and seats per party will be known for those 85 seats and then activate Rule #2 to increase the number of elected MLAs for the parties who (AT THAT TIME) are not proportionally represented in the set of 85 MLAs elected on day May 12 (those who were elected using the simple FPTP system).

Make use of all the votes that various candidates received on May 12 to make a decision as to who will be allocated one of the 15 seats. Only those candidates that stood for election on May 12 and had their names on the ballots for people to support, or NOT support, will be eligible candidates for these seats.

Have I explained my suggested system a little better now?
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Glacier
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Re: BC-STV Electoral Reform Referendum May 12, 2009

Post by Glacier »

The current system and even STV are better than the system you propose. The main reason is that basically the smaller populated areas will get less say since the Lower Mainland (being the major population base) will determine where most of those extra MLAs come from.

also, independents get less of a voice under your proposal.
Last edited by Glacier on Apr 8th, 2009, 9:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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FunkyBunch
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Re: BC-STV Electoral Reform Referendum May 12, 2009

Post by FunkyBunch »

And here I was talking about STV. You're way kinda makes sense. I'll have to think on it some more.
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Re: BC-STV Electoral Reform Referendum May 12, 2009

Post by parachute »

Hi Glacier (and thank you for responding)
Glacier wrote:The current system and even STV are better than the system you propose.

How could that be? What I propose is exactly the current system BUT I have added Rule #2 which says to INCREASE representation for those parties under-represented in the group of 85 MLAs. I should think that is an improvement over FPTP.

Then compare with STV --- BC-STV only says it will produce largely proportional results, whereas my suggestion FORCES proportional results.
Glacier wrote:The main reason is that basically the smaller populated areas will get less say since the Lower Mainland (being the major population base) will determine where most of those extra MLAs come from.

Please reconsider my Rule #2. The extra 15 must be chosen from the group of non-elected candidates with the highest RATIO of their number of votes divided by the winning candidate’s number of votes. Think about two districts, a small population (District S) and a large population (District L):

District S ---- Elected MLA got 2000 votes, Next was Candidate Bob with 1900 votes
District L ---- Elected MLA got 8000 votes, Next was Candidate Suzie with 7500 votes

Suzie’s total is much higher than Bob's because she is from the lower mainland but her RATIO doesn’t match Bob’s who, perhaps, comes from Kelowna, so Bob is one of the extra 15.

Glacier wrote:also, independents get less of a voice under your proposal.

In the example STV’s I looked at the independents did not fare too well. My proposal would INSIST on their representation.

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