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British Columbia Votes 2005,  Voting Day May 17, 2005
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Election Colombie-britannique 2005
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STV: Comparing apples and pears
By Gary Graves | April 22, 2005

B.C. Voters will cast special ballots on May 17th in a referendum on electoral reform.

A "Yes" vote could have a profound impact on the way you vote in the future and how you think about your vote and democracy. A "No" vote means the system stays the same as it is now.

It's not fair to say the two systems are like apples and oranges. They have much in common. It's more accurate to think of them as cousins, like apples and pears:

  • Every eligible voter gets one ballot and one vote.
  • There are political parties.
  • The government is formed by the party with the most MLAs, and the premier is that party's leader.
  • The opposition is formed by the party(s) that elect fewer members.
  • The lieutenant governor is the royal representative in the province.

A "Yes" vote means the BC-STV system would be adopted for the 2009 election. Even though the way votes are counted would change, the size of electoral districts would change and the number of MLAs from a district would be increased, some things would not change:

  • Elections BC, the independent legislature body, would still administer elections.
  • Your eligibility to vote would be the same.
  • The mechanics of voting, such as Election Day, advance polls and opportunities to vote would remain the same.
  • The total number of MLAs (currently 79) would not change unless the provincial population changes dramatically. Increasing the number of MLAs occurs every decade or so, as a normal part of democracy.
  • The role of the lieutenant governor, the government, the cabinet and the legislature would not change.
  • There would still be elections every four years in May.

Our table compares the existing system of Plurality – sometimes called "First Past The Post" because it elects only the one candidate who receives the most votes – with BC-STV, which is a form of Proportional Representation that elects candidates based on the proportion of the population that voted for them or their party.

Critics of the current FPTP system claim that it can elect candidates who do not represent the popular vote of an electoral district. For example, if there were three candidates running and all ten votes in a riding were fairly equally split, the winner would need only four out of ten votes to be victorious. The two losers might have three votes each.

This means that the winning candidate, who is elected to represent all people in the district, came to office when 60 per cent of the population did not want him or her.

In an STV system, perhaps two candidates would receive four votes, and both would be elected to the legislature.

Critics of STV say that it could lead to more minority or coalition governments.

(See the Election Dictionary for definitions of terms.)

(First Past The Post)
Current system
Single Transferable Vote
Proposed system
Number of MLAs elected
in each district
1 Between 2 and 7, depending upon density of population and geography. Generally, urban areas would elect a higher number per district, and rural areas would elect a smaller number.
Number of electoral
districts in the province
79 Unknown until decided by Electoral Boundary Commission – likely between 15-25.
Geographic size of electoral districts Large differences between urban and rural districts, from 9 km2 to over 100,000 km2. Average size would be larger than currently, because more than one MLA would be elected from each district; there would still be relatively smaller urban districts and large rural districts.
Proportionality of results Can vary widely. Proportionality is not a goal of this voting system.
Fairly high degree of proportionality; some variance depending upon district magnitude.
Size of ballot
Ballots in most districts have 5-8 candidates.
Would be larger, likely between ten and 25-35 candidates, depending upon district magnitude.
Ballot design Candidates listed alphabetically, with party affiliation noted.
  • Candidates would be grouped by party.
  • Independents would be listed together.
  • the names of candidates within a group would be rotated at random.
  • the order of groups would be rotated at random.
  • How to vote Voters mark an X next to their preferred candidate. Voters rank as many candidates as they wish (1,2,3,4 etc.)
    Counting the vote One candidate with the most votes wins that electoral district.
  • First preferences are counted and the electoral quota established.
  • Any candidate reaching the quota is elected.
  • Vote transfers take place to determine further successful candidates.
  • Source: Elections BC

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