The most important outcome of the May 12th BC provincial election will not be which party forms the government, but the results of BC's second referendum on changing to a proportional voting system.
A very similar referendum question, in 2005, was very narrowly defeated, with "yes" coming in at 57.69% of the total valid votes cast instead of the required 60%. The rules also required at least 48 of 79 electoral districts to approve the change by more than 50%, and in 2005, 77 out of the 78 ridings did so. The results were so close to passing that Premier Gordon Campbell decided that BC's Single Transferable Vote (STV) should have a second chance, in the 2009 election.
For 2009 the two thresholds are:
- At least 60% of the total votes province-wide, and
- more than 50% of the votes in at least 51 of the province's 85 electoral districts.
In order to help British Columbians better understand electoral reform, Elections BC has distributed $500,000 each to two groups: British Columbians for BC-STV (stv. ca/), which supports electoral reform, and No STV (www. nostv.org). No STV is lead by Bill Tieleman and David
Schreck, NDP strategists under Glen Clarke, but the organization notably includes former Green Party member and environmentalist Andrea Reimer. Fair Vote BC is part of the non-profit Fair Vote Canada which has been working for proportional representation for years.
Opponents of STV argue that it won't work, won't help with representativeness, hardly anyone in the world uses it and BC should at some time in the future look for a different system. Proponents argue that the current "First Past the Post" system is so unrepresentative that it often delivers governments with no real majority of voters, and that no system is perfect but this one was designed specifically for BC by the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform to meet BC conditions and to minimize the power of the political parties.
To Learn More
The government's Referendum Information Office http://www.gov.bc.ca/referendum_info/ info/ has a map of current ridings and the new ridings proposed under the STV. www.bc-stv.ca is the new site of the now-dissolved Citizens' Assembly, where members mount advocacy for their choice. For a flash video animation on how votes would be counted under STV see http://www.fairvote.org/ To dig deeper into the details of counting and attributing votes, go to Barrodale Computing Services STV simulated vote: www.barrodale.com/bcstv/
-Facebook – BC STV
We currently use a "first-past-the post" system where only the candidate representing the largest block of voters wins. Candidates from one party can sweep a whole region even if a majority of voters choose other parties. Smaller parties and independents are shut out entirely. Parties often win 60% of the seats with 40% of the votes. At best only half of voters get representation and because parties run head to head for each seat, elections are often negative and politics is centralized.
-British Columbians for BC-STV. www.stv.ca/
10 Reasons Why STV Makes Sense
by Guy Dauncey
1. The Citizens' Assembly that recommended STV was created by a unanimous vote of the BC Legislature in 2004.
2. After studying many possible ways of voting, the members of the Citizens' Assembly chose STV by a 95% margin.
3. STV is very simple: you put a "1" by your first choice of candidate, and rank more candidates if you want to.
4. More women get elected under STV (50% more in Australia), and people from minorities stand a much better chance of being elected.
5. Voting does not require a computer, unless you want to tally the votes faster.
6. Under STV, almost no votes are wasted. 90% of voters will see one of their choices elected, compared to less than 50% in the current system.
7. STV does not cause more minority governments. It causes more coalition majority governments. This creates more respect, since parties need the support of other parties to form a government.
8. In most ridings, voters will elect MLAs from different parties, giving them a choice of who they can turn to.
9. STV will encourage less negative campaigning, because parties may need to cooperate to form a government.
10. STV does not encourage the election of fringe candidates. Each candidate will need around 20,000 votes out of 100,000 to be elected – and if they have that much support they deserve to be elected.
Watershed Sentinel, March/April, 2009