STV for BC - Vote Yes!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

STV Referendum Post (not-so) Mortem

Note: cross-posted to Crawl Across the Ocean


Where do we go from here?
The battle's done,
And we kind of won
So we sound our victory cheer

Where do we go from here?
Why is the path unclear?1

After thinking it over for a couple of days, I have to say I'm pretty positive about the outcome of the referendum on Tuesday. True, STV getting 60% and passing would have been ideal, but I think when you consider that 60% is a pretty high bar to begin with, it was always going to be tough to reach that level, especially when trying to explain a complicated system like STV to the entire population - especially with no real budget for educating the voters and in competition with an election going on simultaneously.

Another complicating factor was that the process was designed so that elections BC would design the electoral boundaries only after the referendum. This allowed people to rightfully ask how they could vote on an electoral system when they wouldn't even know how it would affect the riding they would vote in.

A final factor was that, undeniably, some of the people who argued and voted against STV did so not because they preferred the current system to STV but because they wanted to have a chance to vote for a third system, the Mixed Member Proportional system, which was the second choice of the Citizen's Assembly. One of the reasons the Citizen's Assembly did not choose STV was that they were constrained by their mandate to not increase the number of MLA's elected in B.C., an arbitrary and unnecessary restriction.

So the real question now is, what next? The rule of 60%, while I think it is overly high2, was set before hand so it would not be right for the government to take the 57.39% Yes vote and treat it as close enough and go ahead with STV. But on the other hand, given the 57-43 vote in favour, as well as the fact that a majority voted in favour of STV in 77 of the province's 79 ridings, clearly the population of B.C. has an interest in reforming the electoral system.

Under the circumstances, the course I recommend to the B.C. government would be as follows.

1) The Assembly should be reconvened, freed from the no new MLA's restriction and allowed to present two complete systems.
2) Elections BC should be directed to draw up suitable electoral boundaries and voting rules for each of the proposed systems so that voters would know exactly what they are voting on.
3) There should be a second referendum which would allow voters a choice between the 2 systems recommended.
4) This referendum should be held on its own without being linked to another election going on simultaneously.
5) Funding should be provided to mount a campaign for both options presented as well as a 'No' campaign.
6) The ballot should ask voters two questions: The first would be: 'Which of the two electoral options presented do you prefer?' ('Neither' would be an option here). The second would be 'Do you believe B.C. should change it's electoral system to whichever of the options in question 1 gets the most votes? Possible answers would be, "No", "Yes", "Yes, but only if the preferred system is option 1", and "Yes but only if the preferred system is option 2"

Then whichever system got more votes in question 1 would have to get 50% Yes (or at most 55%) on question 2 (adding up the unconditional 'yes' votes and the 'yes' votes conditional on that system being chosen).

There's probably a simpler way to accomplish this (I'm no political scientist), but you get my point. Given the expressed desire for change among B.C. voters, they should be given a second chance to vote for electoral change, in a properly funded referendum, one which gives citizens a choice between the two systems which have a strong base of support in the province.

Note: Rafe Mair articulately makes some similar points to mine over at the Tyee.

1 From the song "Where Do We Go From Here", from the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Season 6, Episode 7).

2 See Wikipedia for some interesting history on referendums. Following from there to the article on Canadian referendums it seems we've only ever had 3 (at the federal level): One on prohibition, one on conscription and one for the Charlottetown Accord. So in the history of the federal government only 3 questions have been deemed to be of enough significance to warrant having a referendum at all. And *no* question was ever been deemed important enough to require a super-majority from a referendum vote, not even the government forcing the nation's youth to fight and possibly die in a foreign country or changing the nation's constitution.

Similar commentary from a "Yes" campaign press release:

• No other province, or country we know of requires such a high threshold for approving a referendum on electoral reform.

• PEI's referendum on electoral reform requires a simple majority.

• New Zealand’s referendum on electoral reform passed with 54%.

• The two Irish referendums to replace STV with First Past the Post used a simple majority

• The BC Referendum Act stipulates a simple majority for any other referendum.

• The recent BC Referendums on Aboriginal Issues, and on Initiative and Recall all passed based on a simple majority of votes

• No former BC referendum has ever required more than a simple majority.

• The two referendums on Quebec separation required a simple majority

• The Charlottetown Accord referendum concerned very significant constitutional issues, yet required no more than a simple majority.

• Nearly all governments in British Columbia are themselves elected with considerably less than 50% support.

Archive Note / Signing Off (for the most part anyway)

My next post here (the Post not-so Mortem) could well be my last one on this blog (depending on how things go) - I will of course keep blogging about politics in general and electoral reform in particular over at Crawl Across the Ocean.

I'm leaving this site online as an archive and resource for people looking for links on electoral reform and wondering what bloggers had to say about the referendum. Speaking of archiving, Dean from 'dean rushes the vote' has a good list of election/referendum related links (from his usual left-leaning, MMP preferring perspective) on his own archive post here (it's in the May 20 post, he uses that Blogger template where I never know how to find the permalink).

Anyway, I appreciate everyone who visited and commented and especially those who linked here. I remain optimistic that by the time the next referendum rolls around, all B.C. residents will have discovered the magic of google and will simply do a quick online search for information instead of complaining about being uninformed by the mainstream media. The mainstream media isn't going to change between now and then, but the world of blogs and independent informational sites is getting stronger by leaps and bounds with each passing day and month.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Final (almost ) results

With the vast majority of the votes counted, the 'Yes' vote is sitting at 57.38%, 2.62% or about 40,000 votes short of the required 60%. 77 of the 79 ridings in the province voted in favour (with the 2 Kamloops ridings being the exceptions).

I expect to get irritated with newspaper stories about how voters "turned down" electoral reform in the next few days, hopefully the media will prove my cynicism wrong.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Referendum Results Update

Well it's 11:45 pm, I'm watching the STV results on the Vancouver Sun ('s election tracker (link via here). So far the 'Yes' side is at 56.7% although that figure has been slowly climbing over the last half hour so maybe there is (slim) hope yet.

Either way, it sure looks like a strong vote for change and a strong vote against the status quo. It will be kind of amusing if STV gets the same level of support (57%) that the Liberals got in 2001. I guess 57% is good enough to give a party 77 out of 79 seats in the legislature which runs the province for 4 years but it's not enough to change the electoral system. I'll say this, as long as our archaic First-Past-the-Post system clings to life, I'll keep pushing for us to leave it in the past where it belongs and I hope you'll do the same.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Last Word Before the Referendum...


Friday, May 13, 2005

How to Use This Site

In case you are here for the first time, I thought I would explain the layout of this blog.

The main column down the centre includes all my various thoughts (posts) about STV over the last few months. It includes links to useful sites, interesting essays, various stuff which has occurred to me, rebuttals of some 'no' arguments and so on. Posts are listed in reverse chronological order (most recent first and then going back in time). Older posts can be accessed by the monthly archive links down near the bottom of the siebar on the right. You can also search the blog using the search field in the upper left corner.

The sidebar on the right contains a lot of links. The first 4 under 'The Basics' explain in my own words how we've come to this point, what STV is and why I am going to vote 'Yes'. Under 'Essential Links' I picked a few sites which I feel have the most information to offer (most of these, with the exception of 'Understanding STV' are tilted in favour of a 'Yes' vote).

Below that I have a list of links to any blog posts I found which discuss STV in B.C. They vary from one line assessments to thorough and eloquent analyses. Click and see for yourself.

Anyway you get the picture, continuing on down I have links to some FAQ's on STV as well as some links to lists of links on STV (there's just too many links to put them all in the sidebar).

The aim is to help people make an informed decision and also to explain why I support a 'Yes' vote. Hope it helps!

Note: I will be out of town for the weekend so if you email me and I don't get back to you until Sunday night, that's why. Have a good weekend all.

The Blogs Have Spoken

The way I figure, one factor to consider in making a decision on whether to vote yes or not is to consider what decision other, ordinary people have come to after thinking about the problem. Of course one such group of people was the Citizen's Assembly itself, a group of 160 randomly selected B.C. residents who studied electoral systems for over a year and at the end of their work held 3 votes:

October 23, 2004: Which of the two alternatives would best serve British Columbia?
MMP - 31, STV - 123.

October 24, 2004: Do we recommend retaining the current First-Past-the-Post electoral system in British Columbia?
YES - 11, NO 142.

October 24, 2004: Do we recommend the STV (BC-STV) system to the people in a referendum on May 17, 2005
YES 146, NO 7.

Another group of people who probably pay a little more attention to politics than the average citizen are bloggers. I've been keeping a running count of blogs in favour / neutral / opposed (as you can see on the sidebar on the right). I've just added links for any blogs I came across or saw linked anywhere, supplemented by regular google searches for 'STV' + 'blog' and so on as well as technorati searches for 'STV' and 'Single Transferable Vote'. As far as I know, there wasn't any inherent bias in my method, at least not a significant one.

Anyway, as you can tell by my sidebar, bloggers are overwhelmingly in favour of a 'yes' vote with 49 in favour, 13 opposed and 13 neutral (the neutral includes some group blogs which can't really be said to have a position one way or the other since members of the blog may disagree).

Just one more piece of evidence that when you sit down and think about the alternatives, STV - with fairer results and more choice for voters - just makes a lot more sense than keeping the old First Past the Post system.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Support for STV from Sea to Shining Sea...

...metaphorically that is. Here's a recent quote from Jamie Lee Hamilton, East side activist and author of the 'Downtown Eastside' blog,
"if we elect to change our system to Single Transferable Vote (STV) our vote will have greater impact and provides for greater representation.

How so you ask?

Well for starters, it will make our candidates more responsive to our needs as citizens of this province. In short, it returns Democracy to the People.

STV will ensure broader democracy and greater representation for the people. More women and minorities will be elected. Smaller parties will have a better chance of electing their candidates. Independent minded citizens can run and actually have a chance of winning seats in STV elections. Citizens will be heard and politicians will have no choice but to be accountable to us, the people. Make no mistake Representation Makes a Difference."

and here's a quote from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) (via Joel Johannesen on ''),
"Since 1997 your CTF has been pushing for a referendum on voting change. This came in the wake of the 1996 election where the party receiving the most votes actually lost the election! A BC supporter survey in 2003 revealed 56% of you wanted the CTF to make voting reform our number one democratic reform issue.

After helping found the Electoral Change Coalition of BC in 1997 the CTF presented to the Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform in May 2004. In April 2005, director Troy Lanigan embarked on an Interior speaking and media tour in support of a YES vote for the Single Transferable Vote (STV) on May 17th. (Click here for video on STV).

The CTF argues a change in the voting system will provide greater government accountability, provide more choice, strengthen local representation and weaken party discipline."

My (obvious) point is that support for STV stretches pretty broadly across the entire political spectrum. It also stretches across borders: the following is an editorial from former Nirvana bassist, turned activist Krist Novoselic:

"On May 17th, British Columbians will vote on a matter of resounding importance.

Your province will decide whether to upgrade its electoral system by adopting the Single Transferable Vote method.

A yes vote is important for the province. It’s important for Canada. And as a citizen of the USA, I want to tell you how important it is for all of North America.

The United States House of Representatives is an important institution. But if we judge it by competitive races, media coverage and voter participation, the US House falls off the radar. Out of 435 House races, less than 20 were competitive in 2004. The position of House Speaker and majority party were a done deal before any votes were cast and the resulting lack of media coverage confirmed this. In 2002, a scant 37% of Americans turned out for uncompetitive House races. And 2006 doesn’t fare much better

The root of this problem is the single member riding (or district, as it’s called here) with the first-past-the-post electoral system.

The actions of Tom Delay, our controversial Republican House majority leader, are one example of why so many races are uncompetitive. He led the effort to redistrict his home state of Texas to the benefit of his party. (He basically undid the craft of Democrats who tilted things in their favor when they enjoyed the majority.) Using sophisticated demographics, he drew political boundaries that made most Texas Republican voters winners. As a result, many Texas Democrats do not have any representation in their Federal government. And let’s not forget Independents, Greens, Libertarians and others handicapped by skewed single member districts.

The US House is lead by the ethic of “pay to play” politics where special interests buy access to the levers of power. Never mind the democratic principals of fairness and inclusion, redistricting in Texas was nothing less than keeping a tight grip on the lucrative reigns of majority status.

It’s no surprise to say politics and power can breed corruption. STV is not some kind of cure-all but it clearly provides more benefits than the current system used in the USA and Canada.

Because a voter ranks candidates in order of preference, STV provides more real choices, thus increasing competition. Multi-member districts are inclusive – inviting new people and ideas to the table. The lower threshold for election makes better opportunities for grass roots organizing. Multi-member districts temper the problems of drawing political boundaries because it’s harder to exclude people when seats are allotted to reflect the politics of a diverse electorate.

Upgrading to a proportional system like STV takes the power of sophisticated technologies out of the hands of politician demographers and puts it where it rightly belongs – with the voters.

By voting yes on STV, British Columbia will fire the shot heard across the continent. And the sound will carry across North America to Ottawa, Washington DC and all provincial and state capitols in between.

The message will be clear – politics as usual are over.

British Columbia can make history by voting yes on STV. Please lead our continent with the vision of a more inclusive, competitive and 21st century democracy."


And yes, maybe it's true that I've run out of (new) things to say about STV so I'm resorting to quoting others :) Good thing the vote is coming soon - this Tuesday Vote Yes!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Understanding STV

Just a quick note to (highly) recommend this site: Understanding STV which does an excellent job providing a non-partisan (not to mention colourful!) explanation of how STV will work in B.C. Great work!