Thursday, April 16, 2009

STV

There's a lot of buzz out in the blogosphere about the latest poll. No, not that one - this one:

Vancouver, B.C. – The numbers are in and British Columbia voters are giving a big thumbs up to electoral reform with 65 per cent saying they will vote for BC-STV in the upcoming referendum on May 12. That is the top line result of a major survey conducted by Angus Reid Strategies. Support for a new way of electing our MLAs is particularly strong among younger voters – those 18 to 34 – at 74 per cent.


Now, before people get all wound up on this one, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the poll is over a month old. Second, according to this recap, the poll was partially loaded up by asking people to rank a series of (largely pro-STV) voting system characteristics first. And the fact that STV support is strongest with young voters - who don't usually vote - will also hurt its chances of passing.

If we compare to the last election four years ago, the April Ipsos poll had STV at 53% among decided voters, with their May poll at 57%, and the referendum question drawing 58% support in the end. So there's certainly some growth potential, especially if we assume that people grow fonder of the system as they learn more about it. Add it all up, and the odds probably favour STV passing, but it's hardly a done deal.

And, as for the system itself?

My biggest beef with a lot of the electoral reform ideas out there, like mixed-member, is that you'd have a class of MPs not directly elected and, as a result, not directly accountable to the voters. STV keeps the accountability and principles of FPTP in play, but should produce a more representative outcome.

So while I do like first past the post, there's something to be said for making BC the guinea pig of Canada, and seeing how the system works there.

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33 Comments:

  • It almost passed last time, and would have had people been a little better informed and educated on the proposed system. I was a DRO for Elections BC, we had a lot of spoiled ballots for the referendum, and confused voters. With four years to get the word out, I think STV should pass this time.

    And someone has to be the guinea pig, as you say. So let's hope BC takes the plunge.

    By Blogger A BCer in Toronto, at 10:10 PM  

  • A few other good things:

    The ballot this time will ask for which system people PREFER (FPTP or STV). That means, the question is no longer a loaded "yes" or "no" proposition for STV. This may change how people vote.

    The biggest disadvantage to STV is the big ridings it produces in rural areas. Hopefully if it passes we will see more MLA's in the legislature, and consequently, a more diverse amount of viewpoints.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:15 PM  

  • I'm leaning towards the BC STV... It's a little different than most examples out there...

    Always willing to be a "guinea pig" (do you hear that Apple Computer, Nintendo, et al?)

    By Blogger WesternGrit, at 10:40 PM  

  • "Hopefully if it passes we will see more MLA's in the legislature, and consequently, a more diverse amount of viewpoints."

    Or more "yes" people spouting their parties talking points.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:43 PM  

  • About 9 years ago, back when I did a job that didn't give me enough to do during the day, I did a lot of research into different voting methods. STV was my absolute favourite, and my opinion hasn't changed.

    It maintains the direct representation from voter to MLA, and where mixed member actually increases the degree of control the political parties have, STV considerably reduces it, which I consider to be a good thing.

    I also think that it puts independent candidates on a fairer footing, which is more or less the litmus test of the democratic nature of an electoral system, for me.

    I'm hoping it goes through this time. Being able to point to a real-world Canadian jurisdiction that uses a different electoral system will be a huge boon to organizations like Fair Vote Canada, who struggle just to let people know that alternatives exist, much less to show people how much better they are.

    By Blogger Gauntlet, at 12:33 AM  

  • I was eager for Ontario's flirtation with reform, but I do prefer STV, and I hope BC will give it a shot.

    By Anonymous Jason Bo Green, at 1:24 AM  

  • "class of MPs not directly elected and, as a result, not directly accountable to the voters. "

    That's a bit of a myth I feel. There are all kinds of MPs that *I* can't vote for directly, and aren't accountable to me directly. List MPs would be little different -- they are still anointed by the party leaders after democratic party members put them on the list. Correct?

    By Anonymous Saskboy, at 10:03 AM  

  • I am keeping my fingers crossed. STV is a good compromise between FPTP and MMP and it deserves a chance. Good luck to the yes forces in BC.

    By Blogger Greg, at 10:49 AM  

  • "a class of MPs not directly elected and, as a result, not directly accountable to the voters."

    Ha! You think we have that now with FPTP? As SaskBoy points out, that's a myth. MPs are far more accountable to whoever ponies up their re-election campaign funds, and the party's organizational leaders, AND the PMO, AND the Whip, than they are to any "mere" constituent.

    The dissillusionment of many with respect to the political process has much to do with the wide variance of myth wrt reality.

    By Blogger Party of One, at 11:04 AM  

  • I have to agree with Saskboy and Party of One, just look at Rob Anders, clearly in many ridings the MP is just a puppet for their party, even if people really don't like him/her there.

    By Blogger Ian, at 11:26 AM  

  • If people really don't like Rob Anders, they can vote him out.

    For what it's worth, I still think a run-off or preferential ballot is the only change we need to make to the current system we have. First person over 50% gets the seat.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:37 AM  

  • I dread the talk about "unaccountability"... Don't want to see what we have in the states where the corporate class (with a lot of money and media control) has roused the conservative "rabble", or so to speak, and everyone is crying about "taxation without representation". Those idiots are so butt-stupid that they claim Obama is not representative of what the American people voted for - as a majority.

    Love watching the 50yr old welfare granny screaming about the new "welfare state"... Do these people even know what they're talking about (sound like Canadian Conservatives)? If anyone is on "welfare" in the US, it is the very corporations that are paying for these protests (however small they were). The tiny tax increment was to what I call the "rich" - ie people making OVER $250K/year. 99% of the morons in the protests shouldn't have even been there, except for their rabid compulsion to support one particular political party.

    By Blogger WesternGrit, at 12:32 PM  

  • " If people really don't like Rob Anders, they can vote him out."

    No, not really.
    If someone beats Anders, Harper will just not sign his papers. They'll have another election in the party until Anders wins. That's the system we currently have, but is being touted as a fear in the "unknown". It's a myth other systems are less accountable.

    By Anonymous Saskboy, at 1:07 PM  

  • As much as it pains me to defend Anders, the voters of Calgary West have still marked an X next to his name every election he has run in. I certainly agree that the nomination procedures should be opened up a bit, but it's a direct election.

    Having MPs put on a list, either by the party leader or even party members, to me, breaks the principle of our electoral system. And I think the principle is important. And it sounds like the lists was the main reason MMP went down in Ontario.

    But, as mentioned, STV is a nice way around this, which is why I'd probably vote in favour of it, if I lived in BC.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:38 PM  

  • Yes, really. We still have these things called elections in this country. If the people in his Calgary riding choose any of the other candidtes instead of Rob Anders, then Rob Anders no longer gets to be the MP. It may seem strange, but I am sure if you ask Rahim Jaffer he may have figured it out by now.
    Ironically, the best system to keep a guy like Anders in office is probably proportional representation, where a guy like Harper gets to put a guy like Anders near the top of a list to keep him safe. Then nobody can get rid of him. But that's for another day.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:42 PM  

  • BC is probably one of the closest provinces to having a two-party system, so STV vs. FPTP (or vs. PR) won't make much of a difference.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 1:49 PM  

  • I'm in BC and will be voting against STV. I agree with you -- direct accountability is too obscured in that system.

    Under the current system, imperfect as it is, we can throw the bums out. Under STV, it becomes too hard to figure out who the bums are.

    (Love your labels, BTW, you're going to show up on some interesting search results).

    By Anonymous Peter Jay, at 1:58 PM  

  • I have no idea what any of this has to do with Kinsella's hair plugs. But see for yourself how his latest Youtube appearance gives away nothing. Curious how he strategically keeps 2/3 of his gaping forehead off-screen:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/kinsellawarren

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:55 PM  

  • "Under the current system, imperfect as it is, we can throw the bums out. Under STV, it becomes too hard to figure out who the bums are."

    That's all we can do in our present system. Its a never ending lesser of two evils question. Under STV, positive voting and the ability to actually support candidates that accurately reflect your values is possible. It would do a lot to improve the decrepit political culture here which is reflected in increasingly low voter turnout and public cynicism.

    "BC is probably one of the closest provinces to having a two-party system, so STV vs. FPTP (or vs. PR) won't make much of a difference."

    BC has perhaps the strongest Green party in the country, it also has very shaky coalitions existing in those two parties with strong divisions between their Vancouver and rural wings. I think STV would have an effect, it certainly is possible that the two dominant parties could adapt to the new system but it would probably require a greater candidate focus on local issues and a more flexible party discipline than what we see now.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:47 PM  

  • For what it's worth, I still think a run-off or preferential ballot is the only change we need to make to the current system we have. First person over 50% gets the seat.Whereas I too prefer a straight preferential ballot, it is unfortunately not an option. As such, I'll be casting my vote for BC-STV as it is much more preferable, IMO, to what we now have.

    By Blogger Jim R, at 3:50 PM  

  • "a guy like Harper gets to put a guy like Anders near the top of a list to keep him safe. Then nobody can get rid of him. But that's for another day."

    Then join the party and turf the leader.

    Surely someone from another country with a PR system has developed an acceptable answer... this PR stuff is only new to Canada because the States don't use it and our media and theirs don't really talk about how backwards we are.

    By Anonymous Saskboy, at 3:55 PM  

  • Somehow my above comment was mangled. The italicized part is someone else's comment that I am commenting on.

    By Blogger Jim R, at 3:55 PM  

  • "Under STV, positive voting and the ability to actually support candidates that accurately reflect your values is possible."

    This is still possible under FPTP. You make it sound like most voters are voting for a party they don't really support. Could it be that we are all secretly Green supporters but just don't know it?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:10 PM  

  • "This is still possible under FPTP. You make it sound like most voters are voting for a party they don't really support. Could it be that we are all secretly Green supporters but just don't know it?"

    Well, less people are voting too. You don't see a lot of positive campaigning under FPTP, it usually is about tearing the other parties down maybe you haven't noticed this? A nice thing about STV is that there will be more than one candidate from each party in each riding since they are multi-seaters so you can vote for the candidate which is most in line with your views. So it becomes important to be the best candidate possible and not just attack the opposing party.

    This will also have a positive effect on the way ridings which elect MLAs from the governing party receive special treatment and funding for projects as multi-seaters guarantee that most ridings will have at least one representative from the governing party.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:21 PM  

  • "Then join the party and turf the leader."

    How many people would joint a party or turf a leader to get rid of one member they dislike?

    A better answer would be to say that you can get most of the proportional effects of PR with multi-member districts.

    It is also possible to have open list PR, of which Brazil is one example. Members in the same party run against each other.

    Alternately, internal party constitutions could be set in a way that list selection is more democratic if there is demand for that. I mean there is no legal reason Stephen Harper has to care at all about local riding associations.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 6:11 PM  

  • "You don't see a lot of positive campaigning under FPTP, it usually is about tearing the other parties down maybe you haven't noticed this?"

    What about Barack Obama? I can pull examples of both positive and negative campaigning from both systems from parties on both the left and right to support whatever stance I'm taking.

    I don't see how STV and proportional representation changes the incentive of political parties to go negative. Rather than having two or three large parties try to tear each other apart we now get to watch six of them do it. It'll be like the federal debate all over again.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:39 PM  

  • "I don't see how STV and proportional representation changes the incentive of political parties to go negative."

    Well, part of the change in dynamic will be that you aren't just voting for the party but also the best candidate from each party in your riding. In a 4 seat multi-seater there will be 4 Liberals and 4 NDP candidates to choose from, the candidates won't be attacking the other candidates from their party but they will have to give positive reasons for why they should be ranked as high as possible.

    I'm not an Obamamaniac, I wouldn't have voted for him but I agree he ran a pretty positive campaign. However, the Democrats have a standard response to people who are to the left of them and they do their best to keep them off the ballot and out of debates-to me this can be described as anti-democratic. However, I think a diversity of opinions should be represented, if you think the opposite then obviously FPTP is going to appeal.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:20 PM  

  • If at least one of you clicks "Name" instead of "Anonymous" we might be able to follow the conversation of who is saying what.

    By Anonymous Saskboy, at 7:37 PM  

  • Let me get this straight - the people who suggested that our current system is flawed because you can't get rid of an MP are now saying (on this same comment thread) that STV or PR is better because you can, instead of voting out the MP, as in our present situation, do the following: (a) join a party you don't like to (b) try to turf a leader you don't like who (c) lists candidates you don't like in order to (d) finally get rid of said candidate.

    This is supposed to be a convincing argument?

    By Blogger Mark, at 9:57 PM  

  • It is moot anyway, because the point is that the "weakness" in PR lists are also found in our current FPTP system!

    What'd be nice if some Europeans who know how to run democratic elections stopped by with answers from their more enlightened electoral systems. It looks like we're mostly just going by guesses.

    By Anonymous Saskboy, at 1:36 AM  

  • Eurocentrism. It never ends.

    By Blogger Mark, at 11:08 AM  

  • With respect to Anders, it's true that under the current system, the voters could vote for someone else, but only by *voting for another party*, which they clearly don't want to do.

    With the current outdated system, it's like you just want to buy a Progressive Conservative phone, but can't get one without an Anders contract coming along with it.

    STV fixes this by allowing voters to vote for a PC Candidate other than Anders, giving even people in 'safe' ridings a chance to exercise some choice and enforce some accountability.

    By Blogger Declan, at 12:41 PM  

  • Anonymous says:
    "That's all we can do in our present system. Its a never ending lesser of two evils question."

    You present it like that's a problem. But to most, it's the definition of politics. No change in voting system will magically change that. But hey, keep thinking positive.

    By Anonymous Peter Jay, at 7:07 PM  

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