BC-STV is a proposed voting system recommended by the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform for use in British Columbia. A member of the Single Transferable Vote family of voting systems, BC-STV was supported by 57.69% of the voters in a referendum in 2005 but the government had decided to not be bound by a vote of less than 60% in favour. However, because of the strong majority support for BC-STV, the government has promised to re-run the referendum in 2009.


The then ruling Liberal Government, with the agreement of the opposition New Democrats, established the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform and gave it the mandate to come up with a new electoral system. The assembly designed and recommended a system that it named BC-STV (British Columbia Single Transferable Vote), and a referendum was held as part of the 2005 Provincial Elections.

First referendum

For the referendum to be binding, the BC Liberal-led provincial government required the adoption of BC-STV receive the support of a supermajority of 60% of the province-wide popular vote and the support of a simple majority in at least 60% (48 of 79) of British Columbia's electoral ridings (districts).

While a simple majority of voters in 97% of the electoral districts (77 of 79) voted to support the adoption of the BC-STV system, in the province-wide popular vote 57.7% of the population voted to support BC-STV, falling just 2.3% short of the government-set requirement for the result to be binding. As a result, adoption of the BC-STV system was not mandated, nor did the government proceed with it.

Second referendum

A second referendum on electoral reform will be held in conjunction with the provincial election scheduled for May 12 2009.

The (BC-STV) electoral system] will again be voted on by the BC electorate. To be binding, the referendum will again require 60 per cent overall approval and 50 per cent approval in at least 60 per cent of the province's electoral districts. To address concerns from the first referendum, voters will have a map of proposed electoral boundaries under the BC-STV system and groups will have public funding to campaign for or against the new electoral system.

System design


Political parties may run up to as many candidates as there are available seats in each electoral district. Major parties will typically run several candidates (though generally not more than they might hope to be elected, or perhaps one more) while smaller parties might run only one or two candidates. Each voter has only one vote, so a quota for the district is determined based on the number of valid ballots cast and the number of seats available in the district. This ensures that the result is broadly proportional to the overall votes, as opposed to the current winner-take-all system. All the votes are counted and sorted by the voters' first preferences. Those candidates with enough first-preference votes to meet or exceed the quota are elected. The candidates will be grouped by political party in separate columns on the ballot paper (the ballot design used in Tasmania). The voter ranks their top choices (1,2,3,4, etc.) from the list of candidates and may rank as many or few candidates as they like. A multiple-step vote counting and transfer process then ensues to determine the winners of the remaining seats in the district.

The new electoral districts would be formed by combining several of the current electoral districts. For example, Richmond and Delta's five electoral districts would be combined into one electoral district which would produce five winners, proportional to the votes in the multi-member district, not likely all from the same party. In Ireland an electoral district of that size would typically have 13 candidates, ranging from 10 to 16.

Electoral districts

Under the current first past the post or FPTP system, British Columbians elected members from 79 one-member districts in 2005, but this has expanded to 85 for the 2009 election. Elections BC uses census data to maintain a uniform population level across districts so that voters have equal weight. Currently, districts have a mean population of about 50,000. However, due to migration between census, consideration of population densities, and other factors there can be great discrepancies between electoral districts. Vancouver-Burrard has the largest population at about 67,000 people and North Coast has the smallest population at about 27,000 people. Therefore the districts are re-drawn every eight years.

One of the criticisms of this method of is that in many populous communities, in order to create districts with a population of approximately 50,000, it may be necessary to draw arbitrary boundaries which do not necessarily reflect a community of interest.

The Electoral Boundaries Commission was charged with drawing up new electoral districts for both the single-member system and the new BC-STV system. Much larger districts will be created that will elect multiple members. Proponents argue that this creates districts with a stronger sense of community and common interest, in which voters will have several MLAs and can get service or representation from any of them. For example, the 11 new electoral districts within the municipality of Vancouver will be combined under STV to form two electoral districts, one West, one East. The five electoral districts within Richmond and Delta will be combined to form one electoral district. The STV district boundaries are co-terminous with the single-member district boundaries, so the ratio of MLAs to residents is the same under either system.

Foreign comparisons

The proposed BC-STV system was chosen by the members of the Citizens' Assembly to best suit B.C. However, it has specific similarities to and distinctions from STV electoral systems currently being used in other countries.

  • unlike the Australian electoral system, voters will not be required to rank every candidate
  • if votes are transferred because a candidate has exceeded the quota required to win, all of that candidate's ballots are examined for transfer votes (Senatorial rules), unlike the method used for the Irish Dáil in which, after a candidate has reached the quota, only the last parcel of votes transferred to that candidate are examined for further preferences (the Hare method)
  • In the case of a vacancy, a by-election is held using the BC-STV system. In a riding with a single vacancy, this is equivalent to the Alternative Vote system. This is similar to the Irish system, but differs from the system used in Australia and Malta, where the original ballots are recounted with the departing members' votes transferred to their next preferences.

See also

External links


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