In response to David Schreck on BC-STV

A letter opposing BC-STV appeared yesterday in the Parksville Qualicum News. It was written by David Schreck, secretary-treasurer of the No BC-STV Campaign Society.

Full Disclosure: I have joined the Pro STV campaign as a volunteer in the Alberni-Qualicum riding. Here is my response to Mr. Schreck

He says:

[BC-STV] replaces local representation with regional representation on a huge scale…. North Island-South Coast, with four MLAs, would be as large as Ireland. It would include Bamfield, Port Alberni, Sechelt, Powell River and Port Hardy. That’s right — the Sunshine Coast gets merged with the northwest coast of Vancouver Island.

#1: The number of MLAs will not change in the BC Legislature.

#2: The MLAs per population actually ends up being *more* equally spread out with the multiple MLAs in larger ridings.

#3: Ridings “as large as Ireland” is a red herring. BC is larger than France, should we elect 200 representatives to the Legislature? Ridings are based on population per MLA and socio-economic compatibility. BC-STV improves things on both those fronts.

#4: Powell River truly is a brother-from-another-mother when it comes to sharing issues with other Vancouver Island communities. In fact, as an example of the commonality, this new riding would have 3 of the 4 remaining Catalyst mills all in the same riding. Major employers all facing extreme hardship and causing extreme concern in each of Powell River, Campbell River, and Port Alberni. Another point: In other countries with STV, elected representatives have often set up shop in different communities in the large riding, effectively acting as representives for those communities so that constituents in the riding feel that they have a local person to go to.

At the bottom of this post you can see 3 images showing the current Provincial map (FPTP), Federal Map, and proposed BC-STV.

moving on….

It would merge the 85 local constituencies used in the May 12 election into 20 giant constituencies which would each elect from two to seven MLAs, but voters would just get a single vote.

(Emphasis added)
This is a misleading statement, bordering on false. The assumption that BC-STV does make is that your “#1” choice is the most important, and so it always gets full weight while subsequent choices are weighted. It is up to the voter to choose whether to only mark their ‘#1’ choice.

They can also choose to enter their 2nd, 3rd, 4th… etc.. choices down if they want. If they do so, then their ballot may be considered multiple times…. up to as many times as there are MLAs to be elected.

In effect, BC-STV will give constituents who now only have the possibility of affecting 1 seat in the Legislature, control over 4 seats in the Legislature, in my case. So you could be voting for both who you think would be the best local candidate for your town or district, and also the best regional candidate as a whole. Or, if you had a more partisan view… you vote for every Liberal or NDP candidate so as to give your party the best chance at winning the largest number of seats in the Legislature.

Personally, I see this as a huge plus in terms of making sure quality candidates are chosen, and voters political preferences are always respected.

STV elects candidates who get a minimum percentage (12.5 per cent to 33.3 per cent, increasing as the number to be elected decreases).

Again, another misleading statement… because BC-STV employs multi-MLA ridings, it must set a “minimum” in order to be able to fairly, and proportionally, elect the other candidates. This is the entire point of having a system based on Proportional Representation.

Just as it is now with FPTP, it can not be known what percentage will be required for a candidate to win in BC-STV as it depends completely on voter turnout. One could say that in Alberni-Qualicum, Scott Fraser only needed 36.8% of the vote in order to beat Gillian Trumper in the 2005 election. Of course, he actually received 52% of the vote, and in BC-STV you would still know who received the most #1 votes in the riding, as well as all the other preferences people had. Knowing peoples preferences would actually be a very valuable tool to gauge how BC voters really felt about their candidates, their parties and their ridings.

BC-STV MLAs can get just as large a mandate as FPTP elected MLAs. If 75% of voters put Scott Fraser as their #1 choice, then that’s what he gets, and no doubt that would be what the Media would highlight. The likelihood of one candidate getting that much support is obviously mighty slim, but it is no less likely than it is with FPTP, and if it did happen, the other candidates would still be easily elected from peoples 2nd and 3rd choices, and that’s what makes BC-STV great. Choice.

The counting system is so complex that it takes weeks to count the votes. It might be possible to computerize the complex count, but it is not so easy to design a computer system that is subject to verification and that allows recounts while protecting voter secrecy.

First, let me say that I am a computer technician and web programmer by trade, and I loathe the thought of computer based voting systems for both technical and ethical reasons.

That said, his statement about complexity is simply false. Unless our elections volunteers have a problem with long division, then I think they will do just fine.

The ballots still only need to be counted and tallied once. The added time will come from tallying each of the voters preferences, but again, as long as the elections officials know how to use a pen on a whiteboard to write down how many 2nd, 3rd, or 4th choice votes an MLA receives, then I’m sure they will be fine.

Knowing the “first choice” elected MLA in a BC-STV riding should be just as fast as the present system. The rest is just division, and will be known for sure once officials know the final number of votes cast.

No computers needed. (or wanted, in my opinion)

Changing the voting system doesn’t change politics. Don’t be taken in by BC-STV. It requires enormous electoral areas that make politicians even less accountable than they are now and makes political parties even more powerful.

On one point, David and I agree. Changing the voting system doesn’t change politics, not one bit, it will be as nasty as ever. However, the notion that BC-STV would stifle the opportunities for smaller candidates to run is silly. Again, we already live in a system where the chances of a non-major party candidate winning a seat are so remote as to be nearly impossible.

That is a voter, party, and candidate problem, not an electoral system problem. So unfortunately, that will not change in BC-STV in my opinion. Smaller candidates will still have the ability to run in their riding of choice, and could run as a sub-regional candidate if they thought it would better their chances of getting one of the seats. The money spent by riding associations is already minimal even at the Federal level. The best chance a small party/independant candidate has to win has always been, and will always be, their ability to communicate, make a good showing at the ACMs and network.

However, what BC-STV *does* address is the problem of a minority of voters electing a super-majority of MLAs. In 2001, BC elected 77 Liberals and 2 New Democrats to the Legislature. 97% vs. 3% of the seats. Yet, the actual popular vote was 58% Liberal, 22% NDP, 12% Green and 8% went to smaller parties and independants. BC-STV will ensure that that level of misrepresentation, regardless of political party, never happens again in BC Politics, and that is a huge step forward in our democracy.

……..
Provincial FPTP
Current Provincial Ridings
Federal
Current Federal Ridings
Proposed BC-STV
Proposed BC-STV Ridings

9 thoughts on “In response to David Schreck on BC-STV”

  1. Thank you for that most excellent response. I’m maintaining a blog for the Mid-Island team. On it I include a section “Defusing the Myths.” Had added a link to Schreck’s piece and one response; just added a link to here too. The more the merrier! 😉

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed the response! Feel free to spread it around. I’m volunteering with the Mid-Island BC-STV as well… or at least I signed up. Haven’t actually been tasked to do anything but have been providing information to some and responding to articles like these where I can.

  3. It’s great that you are helping with the BC-STV campaign. We have people from all political stripes working on the campaign. We need to let the voters know that people like Schreck and Tieleman want to keep the antiquated FPTP voting system because they want full power for their own elite group.

  4. Make sure you submit your response to the dead tree press; it’s important to keep up the dialogue in that format, I think. Very interesting points.

  5. Re: David Shreck’s article:
    As a former member of the Citizen’s Assembly on Electoral Reform, I urge readers to do their own research on STV. Go to the referendum information office website for neutral information on our current system and the proposed system.
    The CA was comprised of ordinary citizens selected at random to review our current electoral system and compare it to alternatives used elsewhere in the world. The CA voted 146-7 to recommend changing our system to STV. Why? Because STV beats our current system on three key points: fairness, local representation and voter choice. It is not as simple to count, but it is not hard to count. Ireland has been doing it since 1922. Ease of counting was not one of the top criteria the CA deemed important in choosing an effective electoral system.
    We don’t pretend to believe that STV will fix all that ails us. But we are hopeful that the election outcomes under an STV system will produce a legislature that reflects how the electorate voted. That just seems fair.
    It will also provide very effective local representation. For example the Cariboo-Thompson riding would be an amalgamation of five ridings. So each voter would still have one vote, but would influence the election of five different MLAs. Your vote is like one dollar, a few cents spent on candidates you choose. After the election is over, you would have a choice of five different MLAs to take your concerns to. We manage fine with large ridings necessary in our federal system (with only one MP). Under STV, you would have similar size ridings but with a choice of MLAs competing with each other for your vote. It will be in their interest to address your concerns.
    Can you imagine going to the ballot box and actually having a choice of candidates from one party and/or selecting independents or a Green party member that might even have a chance of getting a seat? Under STV you can make much more nuanced choices. Maybe your loyalty isn’t completely with one party or the other. Instead of being forced into the black and white choices offered by our current system, you will be able to use your vote to make sophisticated choices. You can put your first and second preference down for the candidate from your favorite party, but you can also throw some support to minority parties or independent candidates. Or you can just put down a single preference. It’s up to you.
    Voters will elect 85 MLAs under either system and under both systems voters get one vote. So why does David Schreck infer that somehow under STV we will have less votes? Because he wants you to scare you into voting against STV. Please do not be fooled by the fear-mongering from ex-politicians. STV puts power squarely in the hands of voters.
    Anna Rankin, Quesnel

  6. Thank you for that excellent comment Anna.

    I’m going to post your comment as a standalone post so that more people see it.

    Chris

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