At a party recently, I had an enlightening conversation with an acquaintance from Ireland about that country’s Single Transferable Vote electoral system, a system very similar to the one British Columbians will be deciding whether to adopt in a referendum next spring.
The Irish guy was effusive about the system, and said he couldn’t imagine electing governments the way we do in Canada, where such a high percentage of votes are effectively not counted.
A few of the strengths of STV that he described contradict the case against the system. First, it’s much more democratic: every vote counts, whether or not the first choice on a voter’s ballot is elected, because each voting district elects more than one representative.
Second, it forces co-operation and negotiation among elected officials, since coalitions are often the result of a more representative process, instead of massive, unaccountable majorities such as the one currently presiding over BC. True, the system may be less stable in the short term, but as voters grow accustomed to it, the benefits of a system that allows real debate in the Legislature will be recognized.
Anyway, something to chew on. Despite being a more complex system, I feel STV would give British Columbians a more representative and, yes, a more effective system of government which would go a long way toward addressing voter apathy. And if successful there, it’s a model that may fit elsewhere in Canada.