Journal: News & Comment

Friday, May 13, 2005
# 10:02:00 PM:

If you're a B.C. voter, support STV in Tuesday's referendum

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05.05.05Yes, more politics. On Tuesday we're having a provincial election here in British Columbia. I'm supporting the New Democratic Party (NDP), led by Carole James, which is roughly equivalent in policy and philosophy to the Social Democrats in various European countries. (There is no equivalently left-wing analogue with any clout in the United States.)

But I'm not writing more about that now. If you're a Canadian citizen and B.C. resident—and regardless of which candidate you're voting to join the Legislature on May 17—I'm instead encouraging you to vote in favour of changing B.C.'s electoral system to use the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system in the referendum that same day. STV is not a perfect system, but it is used successfully in places like Ireland—and we both have a population of about 4 million.

Voting is simple: rank your preferences with numbers. The counting process is a little complicated, but it's not inscrutable, and certainly less obscure than some of the statistics involved in opinion polling, for instance. And it is much more likely to make the Legislature reflect the proportion of votes cast by citizens, which is the main point.

More important still is that, if STV wins on Tuesday, it will have set a precedent that the electoral system can change in B.C. (and the rest of Canada), rather than stagnating in the easy-to-count but remarkably skewed Single Member Plurality (a.k.a. first-past-the-post) system we have now. Even if STV comes into effect and turns out not to work as it should, we will have established that we can try something new—so in a later referendum we could try something else. If STV fails, we're likely to be stuck with SMP for a long, long time to come.

I've made my opinion of Liberal party leader and current B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell pretty clear here before, but in this case he deserves thanks and kudos for starting the process of reforming B.C.'s voting system, and sticking it out to make sure it ended up on the ballot. I wish he'd actually endorse STV and lobby for it, but still. So thanks, Mr. Campbell. Now please lose the election. (Sorry, had to drop that in.)

If you're not convinced about STV, read Darren Barefoot's post on the subject, and make sure to skim through the comments too. I think STV is likely to be a good voting system. It's certainly worth a shot.


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