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BC-STV Vote Count Confusion

Voting with BC-STV is like ordering a steak and a beer but your neighbour determines the size of the steak and whether you get a pint or a glass. STV breaks your vote into fractions with the size of each fraction determined by how others vote.

About 90 people gathered in Surrey on April 8th to listen to a debate on whether B.C. should adopt the Single Transferable Vote. The audience heard that BC-STV would mean replacing our 85 constituencies, which each elect just one MLA, with 20 large areas that would elect between 2 and 7 MLAs. The audience had many questions on how the vote count works.

With STV everyone gets one vote, but you mark numbers to indicate preferences and those numbers are used in the vote count. First all the "1s" are counted. If a candidate receives the number necessary to be elected (12.5% to 33.3% of the vote), the excess votes are reallocated to the next preferences of the people who voted for that candidate, in proportion to the excess. If a candidate is eliminated, the full value of a vote is reallocated to the next preferences of the voters for that candidate.

Your second preference could get counted as 10% of a vote while your neighboour's second preference could get counted as a full vote, as some value in between, or not at all. With BC-STV you cannot control what fraction of your vote is given to each of your preferences because how your vote is counted is determined by how other people vote.

If this sounds confusing it is, and no one should vote for BC-STV without understanding how the count works.

It gets even trickier when you try to trace what happens to the third preference of voters. For many voters, the count never gets to their third preference, for others, it may result in as little as 1% of a vote being transferred, for example when preferences one and two each win by 10%.

The more questions are asked about the details of the count, the more people are likely to want to stay with the current system, which is easy to understand. Most people think our current system is fair since it elects the candidate who gets the most votes, but many don't think it is fair for their neighbour's second preference to count 10 times, or more, as much as theirs.


BC-STV Counting Procedure Rules
taken directly from Pages 18-20,
Citizens' Assembly: Technical Report

1. Once the total number of valid ballots is established in each multi-member district, the minimum number of votes required for a candidate to be elected is calculated using the Droop quota formula.

The quota formula is:

2. All ballots are counted and each ballot is allocated as a vote to the candidate against whose name a first preference (i.e., "1") is shown on the ballot.

3. If a candidate(s) on the first count has a number of first preference votes exactly equal to the minimum number of votes needed to be elected, then that candidate(s) is declared elected and the counted ballot papers indicating that candidate(s) as a first preference are put aside and the other preferences recorded on the ballots are not examined.

4. If a candidate on the first count gains more than the minimum number of votes needed to be elected, the candidate is declared elected, and the number of votes in excess of the number of votes needed to be elected (the surplus) is recorded. All of the elected candidate's ballots are then re-examined and assigned to candidates not yet elected according to the second preferences marked on the ballots of those who gave a first preference vote to the elected candidate. These votes are allocated according to a "transfer value."

The formula for the transfer value is:

5. If two or more candidates on the first count gain more than the minimum number of votes needed to be elected, all of those candidates are declared elected. The ballots of the candidate with the largest number of first preference votes will be re-examined first and assigned (at the transfer value) to candidates not yet elected according to the second preferences marked on that candidate's ballots, or the next available preference, if the second preference candidate has already been elected. The ballots of the other elected candidate(s) will then be re-examined and their surpluses distributed in order according to the number of first preference votes each candidate received.

6. If a candidate reaches more than the minimum number of votes needed to be elected as the consequence of a transfer of votes from an elected candidate, the number of votes in excess of the number of votes needed to be elected (the surplus) will be transferred to other candidates. This transfer will be to the next available preference shown on all of this candidate's ballots. These ballots now include 1) the candidate's first preference ballots, and 2) the parcel(s) of ballots transferred to the candidate from one or more elected candidates.

The transfer value for the candidate's first preference ballots is:

The transfer value for each parcel of ballots transferred to the candidate from one or more elected candidates is:

7. If no candidate has a number of votes equal to or greater than the minimum number of votes needed to be elected, the candidate with the smallest number of votes is excluded. All of that candidate's ballots-both first preference ballots and any parcel or parcels of ballots transferred from other candidates-are transferred to candidates who have not been elected or excluded according to the next available preference shown on the excluded candidate's ballots.

The excluded candidate's first preference ballots are transferred to the second (or next available) preferences at full value. Ballots received from previously-elected (or excluded) candidates are transferred at the transfer value at which the ballots were received.

8. Counting continues in the described sequence: the surplus of elected candidates is assigned until no more candidates are elected, then the ballots of excluded candidates are assigned until another candidate is elected.

When all but one of the candidates to be elected from the district have been elected, and only two candidates remain in the count, the candidate with the most votes is declared elected, even though the candidate may not have reached the minimum number of votes (the quota) needed to be elected.

9. If, during the transfer of preferences, a ballot paper does not indicate an available preference, the ballot is put aside as "exhausted." This can occur because:
o the voter only indicated one, or a small number of preferences;
o all the preferred candidates have already been elected or excluded; or
o there are gaps or repetitions on the ballot in the sequence of numbering preferences.

Provisions for tied votes

10. Where two or more candidates have the same number of first preference votes at the end of the first count, and this number is more than the minimum number of votes necessary for election, then the candidate whose surplus is distributed first will be decided by lot.

11. Where no candidate has a number of first preference votes equal to or greater than the number of votes necessary for election at the end of the first count, and two or more candidates have the same number of first preference votes, this number being the smallest number of first preference votes gained by any candidate, then the candidate who is excluded first will be decided by lot.

12. If, at any stage of the count other than during the first count, two candidates have the same number of votes, the candidate who is declared elected first, or who is not excluded will be:
a. the candidate with the larger number of votes in the previous or immediately next preceding count where there is a difference in the votes between the two candidates; or
b. the candidate whose name is drawn by lot, where there is no difference in the number of votes between the candidates at any preceding count.

 


 

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