Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Last Glimpse At BC-STV

Oh, well, what did Winston Churchill say about people getting the kind of government they deserve? If almost half of those who supported fair voting system four years ago choose either to stay home or to support the status-quo - well, that's their choice. Except, they better don't complain when they are the ones facing a tough choice between voting their conscience and supporting the front-runner they hate the least. Next time when their least-favorite party wins majority with 40% of the vote (not to mention - with fewer votes than the other front-runner,) let them remember the day when they could have made a difference, but chose not to.

But let's take the last glimpse at a system that BC is not going to have. Back in 2005, STV came just 39,262 votes (2.3%) short of the 60% "super-majority" threshold. If let's say 39,500 voters had changed their mind and supported STV or, if the threshold had been 55% (let alone 50%+1 vote,) BC would have used Single Transferable Vote to elect MLAs in this election. So what the results would have been like?

Obviously under different electoral system, voting pattern would have been also different. With only 20 constituencies instead of 85, both BC Conservatives and the BC Refederation Party could have had a candidate in every constituency. Other small parties too would have had greater exposure with their 1 to 6 candidates. Considering possibly higher voter turnout as well as far less concerns about vote splitting - their share of vote would have been much higher.

But even if we take the numbers as they are and redistribute them using the proposed STV constituencies - the results would be a lot more proportional than under FPTP. Considering all the close seats, where the outcome could have been different, depending on voters' second, third and subsequent choices, the Liberals would have had 42-44 seats, the NDP - 38 to 40, the Greens 2 or 3, with 1 or 2 Independents.

Again, with vote-splitting no longer being a concern (moreover - with small parties and Independents likely to benefit from surplus transfers from the major parties,) the closely contested seats are likely to go to the Greens and Independents. Thus it could have been 42 for the Liberals, 38 for the NDP, 3 for the Green party with 2 Independents. (When was the last time an Independent actually got elected in BC? Not to mention - 2 Independents.)

In other words - it would have been a Liberal minority or a tie between the government and the opposition, with either an Independent or one of the Greens as a Speaker. A shaky unstable Legislature with a possibility of an early election in a year or so? Not really. Since the STV leaves no chances for a landslide majority following a minor electoral swing, there would be no incentives for any of the major parties to seek a "re-vote".

At the same time, the Legislature would have been a lot more representative. Every constituency would have been represented both in the government and in the opposition. Less than 3% of BC voters would have had their first choice party completely shut out of the Legislature (as opposed to 12% under FPTP). And even those 3% could have had their vote transferred to their second of third choices, instead of just being discarded.

Just yesterday, all that was still possible. BC could have had STV, if not for 2009 (just 39,262 votes!!!) then for 2013. Unfortunately, overall voters' indifference (towards electoral reform and towards voting in general) has shut the door on fair voting for good, not just in BC but from coast to coast.


Mike Summers said...

I am glad BC STV is finally dead. I am glad because now we can get to the task of empowering citizens to CONTROL policians.
STV was complicated and still would not give voters what they really want which is CONTROL of politician between elections.
BC Refederation is elated that we got a 500% increase in vote count since 2005. How many other parties can make such a claim?

Leonard said...

I wonder how do you plan to CONTROL the politicians when everybody keeps telling you that voting your conscience means splitting the vote and literally handing the seat over to the guy you hate the most?

BC STV would have allowed protest votes for small parties and Independents to add up into something substantial - that would have been a perfect empowerment to the voters and a perfect way control the MLAs. But you, together with most BC'ers, have just rejected that opportunity.

Oh, well, good luck convincing voters that they should vote BC Refederation, rather than throwing their support behind a Liberal; that it's more important to vote for someone who has better policies rather than for someone who's there just to prevent the NDP candidate from winning the riding.

As for your 500% increase (from 0.039% all the way to 0.23%) - oh, sure, a 3 year-old next door has found a nickel on the sidewalk. Since he used to have a penny before - that's a 500% increase in net worth! Woohoo! I wonder who else in the neighborhood could make such a claim... Definitely not the little boy's father who has added $10,000 to his RRSP. That's a mere 5% increase, not to mention that it took him an entire year to achieve that...

Wayne Smith said...

So once again, one political party has ALL the power, even though most people voted against them.

Most of us are "represented" by somebody we voted against, and most MLAs "represent" mostly people who voted against them.

And apparently, most people in BC think all this is OK.

I don't think it's OK, and I am not going to stop saying so.

Mike Summers said...

Okay, how 'bout we try this. How about electing one party just once, who sole disclosed aim is to give the people of BC CONTROL of politicians through Direct Democracy legislation followed up by a citizen ratified constitution that locks in voter's rights for ever? So that it doesn't matter which party is in governance, but that the ultimate control of ALL politicians in BC, lays with the people. Of course that party is already in existance.

Leonard said...

>>Okay, how 'bout we try this. How about electing one party just once, who sole disclosed aim is to give the people of BC CONTROL of politicians through Direct Democracy legislation followed up by a citizen ratified constitution that locks in voter's rights for ever?<<

Are you sure you have THE PERFECT FORMULA that would leave no room for abuse or misrepresentation? (For example: an outcome of a referendum often depends on the way you word the question.)

If you believe you have all the right answers - go for it. But here's your biggest obstacle: Since BC STV is dead (and so is its primary advantage - preferential voting) - when the voting day comes you must convince the voters that your party is the front-runner in every riding where it runs candidates.

Otherwise, no matter how great your program is - people will be reluctant to support you and will dissuade others from doing so. Because of - that's right - their fears that voting for you may split the vote and make it easier for a party they dislike to win the riding.

Next BC election is exactly 4 years from today (May 14, 2013). If you think you can build your party's image as a front-runner (from some 3500 votes) in just 1460 days - I wish you luck.

Mike Summers said...

Are you sure you have THE PERFECT FORMULA that would leave no room for abuse or misrepresentation? (For example: an outcome of a referendum often depends on the way you word the question.)ASKS Leonard...

Does anyone have such a system? If you wanted an easy to understand preferential ballot, why not a single member STV ballot where counting is relatively simple, just like political parties use at convention to elect their own leaders?

But Leonard, you are missing the whole point. And you are missing the big reason why I advocated to rejection of BC STV.

As bad as our BC system may be to you, STV would NOT do the one thing BC voters really wanted. That was to offer them absolute control of politicians DURING their term.

BC STV was only going to be a more complex, and expensive way to do what we are already doing now, after the politicians are elected.

Merely electing politicians in a new way, and not being able to control the buggers when they are in, is just stupid if it costs you more in the process.

Leonard said...

Single-member preferential ballot would narrow the politics down to two major political parties. That's the way it is in Australia, where the National party effectively operates as a branch of the Australian Liberals and the two are known as a Liberal/National coalition.

A multiple-member preferential system (which is the STV) is just slightly more complicated compared to the single-member preferential voting, but it gives a lot more room for minor political parties. Thus - a vote for a third party is a lot more than mere protest vote which eventually gets transferred to one of the two front-runners.

As for controlling elected members DURING their term - how could that actually be accomplished? By allowing recalls? But unless a candidate is elected with absolute majority, we'll always have some 60% of the voters eager to initiate a recall, but then those remaining 40% are going to vote the same candidate back in.

I've already mentioned referendums which could bring different results depending on how the question is worded. (And, as we've seen in California, officials that have the power to decide on the exact wording, aren't always fair and impartial.) What else? Having some sort of satisfaction surveys? Mandatory performance reviews? It would be the same as asking a business to file progress reports every hour.

Let's not forget that a right decision is not always the popular one. Great example is the GST: a decision to replace all the hidden taxes on production with a broad-based sales tax was the right decision (businesses are a lot better off without all those manufacturers' taxes) but from the voters' prospective, it was nothing but a 7% tax hike - and they responded accordingly.

So, if we enhance control over elected members during their term, if their performance will be under a constant scrutiny - how much room will that leave to any long-term planning? What's going to happen to an MP/MLA who chooses a decision which is right (as it solves the problem on the long run,) but which is extremely painful and thus - unpopular and controversial on a short run?

Mike Summers said...

Nice to see that you make assumptions based on things you are not clear on.

The answers to your logistical questions are detailed at