Derek Con­nery ex­plains the com­pli­cated sin­gle trans­fer­able vote sys­tem that sees the elec­torate rank those stand­ing by numer­i­cal pref­er­ence

The Oban Times - - NEWS - Derek Con­nery is chief ex­ec­u­tive of BID4Oban.

This elec­tion will see the sin­gle trans­fer­able vote (STV, not the TV chan­nel) sys­tem be­ing used again as it has been in Scot­land for all lo­cal coun­cil elec­tions since 2007.

Now the $64,000 ques­tion: how does it work? I thought I knew roughly but, in truth, I was clue­less. It is quite a com­pli­cated sys­tem all told but it is thought to be fairer than the tra­di­tional first past the post (FPTP) meth­ods and en­sures that no vote is wasted.

This seems great in the­ory, but surely if you use a sys­tem that people strug­gle to un­der­stand then there is a prob­lem and a lack of com­pre­hen­sion of the method­ol­ogy is counter-pro­duc­tive to what you are try­ing to achieve in the first place.

So I am go­ing to try to add some clar­ity to the pro­ceed­ings.

The first rule of STV is the cross is out the win­dow – we’re us­ing numbers. Let’s imag­ine that a ward will have four mem­bers and on polling day eight can­di­dates are stand­ing. You would be­gin with a num­ber one for your pre­ferred can­di­date, two for your sec­ond choice and so on.

Okay, stop! You are not re­quired to rank all the can­di­dates. In fact, if you choose just only one, that is fine.

How­ever, if you rank all of them you po­ten­tially ‘as­sist’ a can­di­date that you wouldn’t vote for in a month of Sun­days.

Right, so now every­one has voted, the polls are closed and we are ready to start the count.

In this case, let’s say that 1,000 votes have been cast. Ah, but be­fore the count­ing starts the re­turn­ing of­fi­cer has some home­work to do. They have to work the ‘quota’. This is the num­ber of votes re­quired to win the seat. In FPTP, this was easy as it was who got the most votes. Duh! In STV, the quota (some­times re­ferred to as the droop quota) is worked out as fol­lows.

Valid votes cast/ (num­ber of seats avail­able+1)+1 = quota. So for our ex­am­ple 1,000/ (4+1)+1 = 201. This means that any can­di­date who achieves 201 votes or more is duly elected. So the next job is to count the bal­lot pa­pers and see how many first choice votes each can­di­date got, for ex­am­ple

Can­di­date 1 = 100; Can­di­date 2 = 50; Can­di­date 3 = 150; Can­di­date 4 = 250; Can­di­date 5 = 30; Can­di­date 6 = 199; Can­di­date7 = 201; Can­di­date 8 = 20. This means that can­di­dates four and seven are duly elected. So as the quota is 201, none of num­ber seven’s votes are re-al­lo­cated. How­ever, 49 of num­ber four’s votes have to be re­dis­tributed.

This is done by now look­ing at sec­ond pref­er­ence on all the pa­pers that had num­ber four as first choice and ex­clud­ing num­ber seven as they are al­ready elected. Can­di­date 1 = 20; Can­di­date 2 = 30; Can­di­date 3 = 150; Can­di­date 5 = 20; Can­di­date 6 = 25; Can­di­date 8 = 25.

Now the next step: clearly num­ber four is only trans­fer­ring 49 votes and not the whole 250. There­fore it is nec­es­sary to work out how many ac­tual votes based on the ra­tio of 49 to 250 ap­prox­i­mately 0.2. This trans­lates to the fol­low­ing ‘trans­fer’ of votes. Can­di­date 1= 20 * 0.2 = 4 so this means four votes pass to can­di­date one giv­ing them a new to­tal of 104, fol­low­ing this through for the oth­ers means the new count is as fol­lows: Can­di­date 1 = 104; Can­di­date 2 = 65; Can­di­date 3 = 180; Can­di­date 5 = 34; Can­di­date 6 = 204; Can­di­date 8 = 25

So now can­di­date six is elected, and at this stage can­di­date eight is ex­cluded as they have the least num­ber of votes and the re­dis­tri­bu­tion of their votes be­gins. This process con­tin­ues un­til the right num­ber of can­di­dates is elected or the re­turn­ing of­fi­cer loses the will to live, which­ever comes first. The Elec­toral Com­mis­sion has a much eas­ier ex­pla­na­tion and it is, as said at the be­gin­ning, not nec­es­sary to rank ev­ery can­di­date. Only rank those who you would be happy to see your vote trans­ferred to.

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