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STV Around the World

Supporters of the single transferable vote (STV) frequently refer to its uses elsewhere in the world, but there are few such places. Apart from some municipalities, STV is used for the Australian Senate, Ireland, Malta and Tasmania. The first past the post (FPTP) voting system currently used in BC, is used throughout Canada, throughout the United States (federally and in state elections), the United Kingdom and India. More of the world's population uses FPTP than any other system.

It is interesting to ask why STV has not been adopted anywhere with large populations. Ireland's population is 4,156,000, Malta's is 403,532 and Tasmania's is 497,312. Australia has a population of 21,007,310 but STV is used for its senate, not for its lower house, and 98% of all voters for the Australian senate don't really use STV, they simply mark an "X" in what is called an "above-the-line" vote that accepts the list or "ticket" filed by the voter's preferred party. Why hasn't the Australian lower house adopted STV since Australians are presumably familiar with the system? Australia has 6 states and two territories. Why have 5 of Australia's states refused to adopt STV? Do they know something British Columbians, including members of the former Citizens' Assembly, don't know? Perhaps the answer is they know too much. Understanding STV can be a reason for rejecting it as an alternative to our current system.

STV has been in use in Ireland for over 80 years. Despite its use, one party, Fianna Fáil, has formed the government in all but 19 years since 1932. From 1932 to 1989 it formed a majority government after all but 5 elections. Since 1989 it has been the major party in 7 coalition governments, failing to form government only from 1994-97. It is currently government in coalition with the 6 Greens and 2 Progressive Democrats. Canadians recently reacted strongly against the idea of a coalition government.

In Malta since 1966 only two parties have succeeded in electing candidates. In 1981, 1987, 1996 and 2008 a major party received a smaller percentage of seats than its percentage of the vote. That prompted a constitutional crisis in 1981 when the party that formed government received more seats than its vote. A constitutional amendment was then adopted to add extra seats if the results were so disproportional so as to change which party formed the government, hence four extra seats were added after the election in 1987, 1996 and 2008. BC-STV supporters maintain that such a distortion would not occur, and the Citizens' Assembly recommendation of BC-STV makes no provision for it.

Tasmania elects 25 representatives, 5 from each of 5 electoral areas, but its population is only 497,312. If BC had the same number of MLAs in proportion to population, we would see an increase from 85 to 210 MLAs. That makes it hard to generalize from Tasmanian experience to BC, but when you think of it Ireland has 166 members in its lower house even though it has the same population as BC. Maybe any differences have more to do with have two or three times more politicians rather than on the voting system that elects them. Malta has 69 representatives (65 normally elected) for a population less than a tenth of BC's.

Use the links below to research some of the primary sources for elections in the jurisdictions that use STV.

Newspapers where STV is used (showing politics is the same everywhere)

Background on STV where it is actually used

  • Australian Senate (ticket voting above the line)

  • Ireland (ElectionsIreland.org shows their vote count.)

  • Ireland (Watch Ireland's Dáil (lower house) and see if STV makes a difference in politics.)
  • Malta (disproportionality)

  • Malta (re-election of incumbents - safe seats with STV)

  • Tasmania (Tasmanian Parliamentary Library)

  • Tasmania (electoral commission)

  • Tasmania (safe seats with STV)

 


 

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