How STV works
Submitted by editor on Sat, 13/10/2012 – 16:17
Although http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=y-4_yuK-K-k was produced for Canadians in the context of how to elect the Parliament of British Columbia, it contains a clear explanation of STV, which is well worth watching.
I regret that there is an inaccuracy in the explanation. “((votes/seats) + 1) + 1” should be “(votes/(seats + 1)) + 1”. In other words, to calculate the quota, you add one to the number of seats and then divide the number of votes by the result of that addition. Then you add one.
Black votes or value votes
Submitted by editor on Sat, 13/10/2012 – 16:05
The BBC reported today that Operation Black Vote in Hackney (East London) and a Ladywood (Birmingham) Church are trying to persuade black people to register to vote and to vote. It is said that voting turn-out by black people is often lower than the turn-out by white people.
We wish the campaigns success. It cannot be bad to encourage people to vote, but we wonder whether it will lead to more frustration later when the new black voters realise that, in most constituencies, their votes will be wasted just like white people’s votes are wasted.
Under the old First Past The Post voting system, only votes in marginal constituencies can have any value and affect the result. Even then, only a vote for a candidate with a realistic chance of winning is of real value. Voting for an outsider, even in a marginal constituency, will not achieve anything.
By all means encourage more people to vote, but the greater priority is to give value to existing votes before giving worthless votes to more people. The voting system should be changed to STV.
SV (Silly Voting?) for Police Commissioners
Submitted by editor on Mon, 08/10/2012 – 16:21
Police Commissioners will be elected on 15 November by SV which is supposed to stand for “Supplementary Vote” but might as well stand for “Silly Voting”. It is the most stupid system we have come across. Labour introduced it for mayoral elections and the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition has introduced it for Police Commissioners.
Its silliness is that it recognizes the faults in first past the post but, unlike the Alternative Vote (AV), fails to deal with them. It was hypocritical of the politicians who opposed AV in the referendum last year to introduce SV.
Unlike first past the post, SV attempts to ensure that the winner represents over half the voters. Each voter has two votes. All the first votes are counted. If a candidate has more than half of them, that candidate is elected. If not, all except the leading two candidates are excluded. Then those of the 2nd votes of the excluded candidates that are for one or other of the leading two candidates are allocated to them and the one with more votes is the winner.
SV is less effective than AV and is much more complicated for voters. If they want to use their votes effectively, they first have to guess who will be the leading two candidates in the first round of counting. Based on what they guess, many will then vote tactically, perhaps against the candidate they really want. Moreover, if their guess is wrong, they will have wasted their vote. They may even have voted unnecessarily against the candidate they really supported.
Of course, voters do not have to do this with AV. They simply rank as many or as few of the candidates as they wish in order of choice. If they do that, they cannot vote against the candidate they really support and, if they express enough choices, their vote will go to one of the candidates in the final round of counting.
Another problem with SV is that it automatically excludes the candidate placed third in the first round of counting, no matter how close he is to the second candidate or how popular he is with supporters of the excluded candidates. For example, the result of the first round may be A 27%, B 27%, C 26% D 12%, and E 8%. In that situation, a majority may prefer C to both A and B and AV would reveal that but SV would not.
Of course, AV’s more sophisticated cousin, STV, would be better still for electing a representative parliament or council, but it is not suitable for electing one person as a Mayor or Police Commissioner.
Elections for Police Commissioners – How best to waste my vote
Submitted by Anthony Tuffin on Mon, 08/10/2012 – 15:23
This is a personal view; not the view of STV Action.
As you are reading this, you are probably interested in politics and knew that there were going to be elections for Police Commissioners but not many people know that. Even you may not know how soon the elections are – on Thursday 15 November.
I think that electing Police Commissioners is a very silly idea. It is inherently undemocratic by giving too much power to one person and the position should not be party politicized. That’s quite apart from the very silly voting system – Supplementary Vote (SV) – that is being used.
My problem is how best to waste my vote. I seem to have three choices:
1. Stay away from the polling booth and abstain.
2. Spoil my ballot paper.
3. Vote for my two preferred candidates, neither of whom has a chance of winning.
My completely random and unscientific straw poll has revealed three main groups of people on this subject:
A. The vast majority who are totally unaware of the elections so they will abstain by default. (Indeed, they are more likely to be aware of the USA Presidential election.)
B. Politically activists who feel committed to vote for their party whenever it contests an election.
C. The politically aware but not committed who will mostly abstain on principle from these unwanted elections with a silly voting system. Sadly, for the first time ever, I expect to be in this category.
So it looks as though a coalition of groups A & C will form an overwhelming majority and I look forward to the very rare occurrence of being on the winning side.
AV could have helped Tories
Submitted by editor on Mon, 08/10/2012 – 14:59
I wonder how many Conservatives, at their Birmingham conference this week and worried about losing votes to UKIP and losing the next election to Labour, realise that AV (which they opposed in the referendum last year) could have solved their problems.
Let’s look at a couple of examples under First Past The Post:
In Constituency X, Conservative and Labour are neck and neck to win. If the voters move to the right and more anti-EU, some Conservative supporters will switch to UKIP and that may let in Labour – more to the left and more pro-EU. What a silly paradox!
In Constituency Y, Labour and Lib Dems are the leading candidates. If enough Lib Dems move to the right by switching to Conservative, Labour will win for the left. Another silly result!
This should not happen with AV. In X, most Conservatives who switched to UKIP would probably still rank the Conservative candidate as their 2nd choice, who may then have enough votes to beat Labour.
In Y, the Lib Dems who switched to Conservative would probably still rank the Lib Dem candidate as their 2nd choice, who may then have enough votes to beat Labour.
Of course, AV’s more sophisticated cousin, STV, would be better still as it would give voters much more freedom of choice of candidates across all the parties and would create a much more representative Parliament.
STV debate in BC
Submitted by editor on Sun, 30/09/2012 – 18:56
STV is being debated again in British Columbia as you can see at
The author describes STV as “too complex”. What exactly is complex about simply numbering candidates in order of preference? Not that even counting STV votes is all that complex, but that’s for professional returning officers; not for voters. Voters, as in Ireland, can see for themselves how fair and efficient STV is simply by comparing the results with the votes.
STV supporters in British Columbia “almost succeeded in 2004 when 58 per cent of voters voted in a referendum in favour of STV”. With 58% of the votes, they should have succeeded but the provincial government had set an artificial threshold of 60%.
“Successful candidates could be elected with as few as 12.5 per cent of the votes cast.” That’s true of First Past The Post (FPTP) elections when there are 8 or more candidates and then they are deemed to represent all the voters although, in practice, 87.5% of voters would be unrepresented.
In contrast, when a candidate is elected by 12.5% of the voters in an STV election, other candidates are each elected by a different 12.5% of the voters and, between them, they all represent a large majority of voters.
He accuses STV of “diminishing local accountability”. On the contrary, STV increases local accountability. It reduces party power, empowers local voters, gives local voters real choices and allows minority representation.
“Minority governments would almost certainly have become the norm”. With STV, that would be up to the voters. If a majority of them wanted a single-party government, they could have it, but why should one party have a majority in parliament when a majority of voters voted against it? That is the norm with FPTP and it is simply not democratic.
The author recommends “a majoritarian system whereby successful candidates need to achieve more than 50 per cent of the votes cast to be elected.” That sounds like the Alternative Vote (AV) system that UK voters rejected in a referendum last year. Although more democratic than FPTP, it is much less democratic than STV. It would still be possible for a party to win majority rule on a minority of votes and minorities would still be underrepresented.
We wish success to the STV campaigners in British Columbia.
ERS changes constitution
Submitted by Anthony Tuffin on Sat, 14/07/2012 – 22:14
The ERS passed a Special Resolution at its General Meeting today to change its constitution.
Despite the tone of some of the online debate and the strength of feelings on both sides, the debate this afternoon was quite civilized.
Although I vigorously opposed the resolution, I hope that we shall not spend a lot of time trying to reverse all the changes but shall unite to obtain STV for local government in England and Wales and STV for a reformed House of Lords if it is to be elected.
Some supporters of the resolution said that they would like some improvements at a later meeting, so there may be scope for some changes that would attract broad agreement, but I suggest that we all pause and take stock first.
The late Lord Kitchener
Submitted by editor on Sat, 07/07/2012 – 13:13
I have posted a reference to his memorial service on http://stvaction.org.uk/node/416 7 July 2011, p10
ERS Spring Clean – not quite so routine as expected
Submitted by Anthony Tuffin on Tue, 03/07/2012 – 09:39
Vote AGAINST the Special Resolution.
Following the election of a new Council at the Electoral Reform Society AGM last September, there has been a tremendous effort put into breathing more life into the organization, with more focus on campaigning. Furthermore, the Council and staff have addressed the rather dry subject of bringing the Articles and Byelaws up to date. A Special Resolution is being put to a General Meeting for ERS members on Saturday 14 July, 2012 to approve the new documents.
I was fortunate to be returned to the Council and I have worked hard with Council and staff to collate and tidy up the current documents and, all in all, the resulting package is a good job which I generally support.
However, rather than this being a simple decision to agree a tidying up exercise, there are a few controversial changes included which some members might not want to support. They have turned an expected routine debate into a rather more deliberative one.
For example, the new documents would:-
1. Abolish the well established roles of President & Vice-presidents;
The current Articles which set out their roles have been deleted and replaced by a new Article 28 which would replace them with ill-defined “Ambassadors”; and create a new and ill-defined “Advisory Committee” of people who might not even be members or support STV;
2. Let the Council expel democratically elected Council members for reasons not laid down in advance in the rules (against the rule of law); and to do so and to expel ordinary members both without appeal;
New Articles 27.10, 27.11 and 30.2.5 would remove the right of appeal in both cases.
3. Transfer some powers from ERS members to the Council in contrast to the intention to involve members more in decision making.
New Articles 14.1, 14.4.3, 29.1.1, 29.3 and 29.4 would transfer powers to decide:
o standing orders for Members’ own general meetings, and
o membership application wording (which helps to underpin and secure the Society’s Objects)
o subscription rates.
These changes might not have caused much problem if they had been proposed and voted on separately, as the election of the President was last year or as happens in other organizations, but the proposed changes have been structured in such a way that is not possible in this case. The Special Resolution invites members to vote simply for “All or Nothing”. Even proposing an amendment to consider a few clauses separately and accept the majority of the documents has been ruled out.
That is a great shame as the new documents are in the main needed and make good sense for a revitalised Society. However, I cannot accept that the explanation of, and reasons for, the changes sent with the papers are set out clearly enough for Members. They have not been told enough for informed debate and considered decision. I think members should have been given an opportunity to accept or reject each change separately.
If you are an ERS member and are not being given that opportunity, with much regret, I believe I must recommend you to vote AGAINST the Special Resolution.
At the very least, you should look at the individual changes and decide whether you support them or not.
Rejecting the present package need not prevent its good parts from being adopted very soon, later this year. If the Special Resolution is defeated by your votes, Council can still bring its proposals back to a future meeting, perhaps the AGM in September, and then let you decide separately on each change. It can be done. Other organizations have done it.
If you have any queries, you can e-mail me.
Inferior voting system for England, Scotland & Wales
Submitted by editor on Thu, 28/06/2012 – 09:52
The Government proposes that Northern Ireland will elect members of a reformed House of Lords by STV. It proposes that the rest of the UK will elect them by an inferior party list system! This is in the House of Lords Reform Bill published yesterday.
What have England, Scotland and Wales done to deserve such shabby treatment? Dare we suggest it’s because the English, Scottish and Welsh have not resorted to violence to complain about their democratic deficit?
We are especially disappointed that a coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats has proposed a party list system. Although they have their differences, they both claim to believe in freedom and choice. STV provides freedom and choice. Party lists deny freedom and choice.
A mainly elected House of Lords may provide a marginally better democracy for those like Unlock Democracy with very broad aims, but party list voting will most certainly not provide better elections for STV Action and other organizations and individuals, whose main object is a fair voting system.
Moreover, it is difficult to see how a House of Lords, elected mainly by party lists, would be an improvement, other than cosmetically, on the present unelected house.
Party lists encourage party domination. Despite the proposal that members would serve for fifteen years and not be eligible for re-election, the vast majority would almost certainly be party hacks. Despite the obvious faults in the present House of Lords, one of its strengths is its independence. Party list voting would severely compromise that.
We shall support any amendment to give England, Scotland and Wales equal rights with Northern Ireland to elect members of the reformed House of Lords by STV; to be able to vote for individual candidates of any and no party.
There may be scope for the party lists to be open instead of closed. Although not as democratic as STV, that may be worth considering.
If the Bill retains party list voting and certainly if the lists are to be closed, many reformers will feel obliged to oppose it.