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British Columbia Votes 2005,  Voting Day May 17, 2005
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STV: Frequently Asked Questions
By Duncan Speight | Updated May 9, 2005

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BC-STV AND FPTP?

While the number of MLAs remains unchanged, there will be fewer ridings, each electing between two and seven members. Instead of just voting once as you do in a first-past-the-post system, you rank the candidates in order of preference -1,2,3 4 etc. That way, your vote doesn't just count once - allowing second, third and subsequent preferences to have an impact on the results.


WHAT'S THE BENEFIT OF CHANGING SYSTEMS?

STV would make election results proportional. A party's share of legislative seats would more closely match its share of the popular vote. That should deal with concerns about governments winning majority governments with less than half of the popular vote.

It would also mean that independents and candidates from smaller parties are more likely to be elected, creating greater diversity in the legislature.

Candidates would also be more likely to focus on local or regional issues. And since ridings will elect more than one MLA, citizens will have more choice if they need help in dealing with government.


WHO SUGGESTED THE CHANGE?

The Citizens' Assembly on Electroral Reform was an independent non-partisan group of 160 randomly selected British Columbians - 80 women and 80 men - plus the appointed chair.

The Citizens' Assembly was initiated in May 2003 by the provincial government. It held 50 public hearings around the province and reviewed more 1,600 submissions

Assembly members voted 95 per cent in favour of the BC-STV system.

HOW WILL MY VOTING BE ALTERED?

Instead of just voting for one candidate with an X, you will rank the candidates in your riding 1,2,3,4 etc.

Your number one choice is the most important; the other preferences will be used to support another candidate if and when your first choice has no chance of getting elected or has more than enough support to get elected.


WHAT EFFECT WILL THIS HAVE ON POLITICAL PARTIES?

Governments would usually continue to be formed by large parties, though perhaps in coalition with another party or parties. This could lead to a less adversarial form of government.

Candidates would be grouped by party on the STV ballot to aid people in selecting their preferences.

A key difference in a BC-STV election is that the system is candidate-based, rather than party-based - and that means voters would choose which of the party's candidates they prefer to represent them.

WILL BC-STV BE COUNTED BY COMPUTER?

The Assembly has designed BC-STV so the count could be done by hand. However, counting the results could be also be done via computer voting or machine-readable paper ballots.

WHERE ELSE HAS THIS SYSTEM BEEN TRIED?

Currently, STV is used in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, Malta and in some Australian elections. It was also used in local elections in Estonia in 1989 and 1990. A report was done for the Scottish Parliament on how STV works in those countries

LINK: Scottish Parliamentary Report

This system has already been used in Canada. At the provincial level, Calgary and Edmonton MLAs were elected this way from 1926 to 1959. And the new Conservative Party of Canada used a single transferable ballot in electing its new leader, Stephen Harper, in March, 2004.

WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR THE REFERENDUM?

To pass and become binding on the provincial government, the May 17 referendum has to win a double majority:

  • Approval by at least 60 per cent of the validly cast ballots province-wide.

  • And approval by more than 50 per cent of the validly cast ballots in at least 48 of the 79 constituencies. (A simple majority in 60 per cent of the ridings).
If the referendum passes, the government would bring legislation to ensure the new electoral system is in place for the election of May 2009.


FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Call the B.C. Referendum Information Office:

E-mail: AGrefinfo@gems1.gov.bc.ca
Phone: Toll-free: 1-800-668-2800
In Vancouver: 604-775-2800
Hours of operation: 7:30am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday.
Fax: 250-387-1444
Mail: PO Box 9232 Stn Prov Govt,
Victoria, BC
V8W 9J1

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