Sunday, October 24, 2004

Easy As 1, 2...Huh? 

The following are my (preliminary) thoughts on the Citizens' Assembly recommendation on BC's future electoral system, verbatim from my post on the AMS message board.
Well it's official: there will be a referendum in the next provincial election on a new electoral system. The proposed system is a Single Transferable Vote system (in use in Ireland and the Australian Senate).

I personally don't have any particular preferences within the different Proportional Representations systems out there (my view on PR in general is that it's overrated). But I have a feeling that STV is something that looks great on paper but tends to be a bit less impressive in practice.

STV works okay when all is said and done, but it is a bit confusing for people to understand. I didn't get how it worked until I had to do some extensive research for a POLI paper. I wonder how many people like the idea of an electoral system that they might not really actually get.

My biggest procedural unease with STV is the slow counting process. First you have to count how many ballots are out there, then you start a very slow distribution process. Even with computers, it takes a while to get it all done. The Australians are still figuring out their Senate results, two weeks after the vote (although their ridings are larger, having the entire state as a single Senate riding). If I recall correctly, the Irish results took a few days as well.

That being said, STV is a system that balances out proportionality with emphasis on candidates over parties, which takes the best of both worlds. So that's a big plus for the system right there.

Ireland and Australia haven't fallen into chaos because of vote counting complexity, so I'm sure BC will adapt. But it'll probably take one or two elections with many people going "huh?"

PS: I just heard Adriane Carr denouncing the Assembly as out of touch and that she's "disappointed" with the decision. Considering the failure of the GP's shameless attempt to sneak in a closed list MMP system whose democratic improvements are flawed at best (You want Green but not Carr? Or Liberal without Campbell? Can't do that because you can't control the lists), I think that the Assembly's decision is worthy just for the slight to Carr's ego.

Of course, this may all be for moot if the referendum fails.

Confused? See:
Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform
ACE Project on Electoral Systems
Public Eye Online has more on the backroom intricacies behind Adriane Carr's support for MMP over STV and consequent lashing out at the Assembly.
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