Sunday, April 19, 2009

No to the Single Transferable Vote - column by Bob Plecas

As many of you know, I am the president of No STV - the opponent group in the referendum on the Single Transferable Vote being held concurrent with the provincial election on May 12, 2009.

My friend and No STV colleague Bob Plecas has written an excellent column in the Victoria Times Colonist today and I am reproducing it here.

This will be the first of several articles on STV. All posts are welcome within the usual bounds of good taste.

* * * * *

STV con: It just doesn't fit in B.C.

By Bob Plecas

The Victoria Times Colonist

April 19, 2009

Our present system is simple and effective -- in B.C. the winning party elects the most MLAs. The single transferable vote proposal wants to confuse this fact using a complicated formula to make the vote "proportional." They count the wrong thing.

Consider a hockey analogy that political science professor John Redecops uses. In the final series of the Stanley Cup -- a Canucks-Rangers final, say -- the Canucks win four games and New York three, but the Rangers wins were blowouts and they ended up scoring more total goals.

Vancouver wins four, finally winning the Stanley Cup. Right?

STV advocates would argue the point vigorously. "Not fair! New York had more goals! The Rangers win the cup." Not bloody likely.

They count the goals correctly but are fundamentally wrong in interpreting what they mean. Everybody understands that winning the Stanley Cup does not involve counting goals but counting wins.

STV is confusing. Former NDP MLA David Schreck challenges you to read the next two paragraphs and figure out how your vote disappears under STV.

"You get one vote, but you mark numbers to indicate preferences. First all the "1"s are counted. If a candidate receives the number necessary to be elected, the excess votes are reallocated to the next preferences of the people who voted for that candidate, in proportion to the excess. If a candidate is eliminated, some value of a vote is reallocated to the next preferences of the voters for that candidate.

Your second preference could get counted as 10 per cent of a vote while your neighbour's second preference could get counted as a full vote, or as some value in between, or not at all. With STV you cannot control what fraction of your vote is given to each of your preferences, because how your vote is counted is determined by how other people vote."

I want a voting system I can understand, where my neighbours (directed by Elections B.C.) count our votes, not a computer; one person wins from the community I live in; and the elected person is responsible and directly accountable to me and my community.

BC-STV replaces community with regional representation. It merges our 85 constituencies into 20 giants, each electing between two and seven people.

And even academic advocates admit with four or fewer members you lose proportionality.

Thirteen out of 20 constituencies in B.C. will have four or fewer elected members.

"STV is not designed to deliver true proportional representation," says Citizens Assembly member Rick Dignard. "Dr. Farrell, author of the text we used, said STV achieves proportional outcomes by chance, not design."

Forget the theory, the problems are practical.

The new giant capital region constituency will combine Esquimalt-Royal Roads, Juan de Fuca, Oak Bay-Gordon Head, Saanich North and the Islands, Saanich South, Victoria-Beacon Hill and Victoria-Swan Lake and elect seven candidates.

The ballot will include seven NDP candidates, seven Liberals, seven Greens and likely 7 independents. Pick seven of 28 -- sound like a new lottery game? And who is accountable when seven are elected? No one.

Also, huge constituencies destroy community representation.

Cariboo-Thompson covers Quesnel to Williams Lake, east to Kamloops, down to Princeton to the U.S. border with five members. The sheer size makes it impossible for the citizens living in the far reaches to receive representation.

Kamloops has over 50 per cent of the population. Candidates will have to be from there to win, effectively taking away representation from Quesnel and Princeton. Here, community representation for Sooke, Port Renfrew or the Gulf Islands effectively disappears.

Finally, the complicated formula discriminates between the percentage of votes needed to elect MLAs.

In the capital region a candidate needs 12.5 per cent to be elected. In the Northeast region it requires 33.3 per cent, in Columbia-Kootenay 20 per cent and in Vancouver West 14.3 per cent.

Seems the further from the capital you are, the more votes you need to get there.

To find more reasons why STV doesn't fit B.C., go to

Bob Plecas, a consultant and former deputy minister in several B.C. governments and ministries, is a member of the No-STV BC campaign.



Anonymous said...

More elitist tripe. There can be no real democracy, without public representation.

After the Canwest-Coup, the NDP was reduced to 2 seats. And the cops who aided and abetted the railroading of Glen Clark, supported the NDP's Jenny Kwan, because she was once in their employ. The Legislative Assembly at the time, bordered on Stalinist unitarianism.

Unfortunately for Canwest, they can't pay the $4,000,000,000 in corporate debt that they have incurred. Some of their editorial content bears similarity to a Public Affairs Bureau job application. And they thought the province was in peril because of the way Clark was managing OUR finances. Maybe he could help them, rather than Jim Pattison.

As for the NDP, the party needs to be concerned of cop-lobby influence on Kwan and Farnsworth. Mike attacks party members who reject the status quo of policing in BC. The party majority must understand that that same lobby ran the railroading operation, which refused consideration of Clark's plain and obvious barter explanation for the lawful quid pro quo service to an associate. Cops and prosecutors denied Clark a defence; the public rose in that defence.

Re the pre-election "gang leader" arrests: were they politically motivated to serve the re-election of the Libs, who have shelled out tens of millions to the BCIGTF since 2004 with no effect until days before the writ was dropped? I need more evidence before I accuse, but there is enough cause for suspicion.

It is a fact that in January, a BC judge trashed a BCIGTF (Violence Suppression Team) process, because the stop, search and arrest were illegal, and the Libs would have wanted something for the PAB butt-wipers to turn into success.

Bill: surely you have sufficient suspicion in the Preussman fiasco, to warrant gauging the BCCLA for their opinion on possible politicization of the BCIGTF. I wouldn't defer to "Mike" and "Jenny" (the Criminologist).

Jeff Barkley said...

Thank you for the clear insight into the actual way STV would work.

I have said for a long time that, even if you could prove STV would be better, and, I think its clear that you cannot, the result would still be left to computers. What is it people didn't understand about voting fraud in the US once computers were introduced? Can anyone tell me right here and right now that ANY computer system is invulnerable to attack or more likely manipulation?

A vote for STV is simply a vote for a system WHERE WE WILL BE TAKING SOMEONE'S WORD ABOUT WHAT THE OUTCOME OF AN ELECTION WAS. You will never be able to do a manual recount because it would take FAR too long.

Finally, what exactly do you think Gordon Campbell is supporting this new "system" for? To make sure that every vote counts? Don't make me laugh. It's his next, best, hope to steal future elections although, arguably, there will not be much left of BC to steal if he is elected again this time....

Oh, and to the Public Affairs Bureau trolls, I'm aware many NDP candidates also favor STV and I'll just assume that they have not studied the two systems enough...

Anonymous said...

Wow - I see the NDP is scared beyond recognition, from STV - simply BECAUSE:

STV is PROPORTIONAL - and NDP can no longer spend all its energies in a few swing riding duping the masses through ad hominem, polemics, fear mongering and innuendo to win by a hair, and then take over the government - like in 1996.

NDP is scared of proportional representation - because PR effectively makes lies and ad hominem unresponsive, and removes the "personal touch" and "canvassing advantage".

I was skeptical of STV until I found out Bill and big freeloading Labour hate it. Will recommend STV to all.

Wayne Smith said...

Voting is neither a game nor a lottery.

Believe it or not, elections are not about winning and losing. They are about choosing our representatives, and ALL of us are entitled to representation.

The current system makes losers out of most of us, and that means we all lose.

BC-STV is designed to ensure that every vote counts, and counts equally, as nearly as mathematically possible.

It will give voters the power to hold politicians and political parties accountable, and that's why some people don't like it.

DPL said...

Anon 3:40 I would suggest can be listed as Unconvinced, undecided. His or her position seems the be to dump on Canwest and their financial problems, and dump on Jenny Kwan and Mike Farnsworth.

Howver I believe that some folks make the STV system look like a accounting issue rather than a possible shift in voting procedure.
I believe it's not a NDP plot using either system. The percentage to pass into the new system is far greater than the percentage needed to get elected under the present system.

A family friend was one of those folks selected to decide a alternate system. Two people I read and listen to, have the alternative position. One is here and the other is David Scheck. That's the joy of a democracy. We listen to both sides without slinging mud or saying the other side of the discussion is involved in some sort of a plot. Time is running short so the more articles coming out , the better. It's our one million that Gordo used to fund the two sides so read, listen, and do some thinking. I now step off my soap box. Over to you.

Unknown said...

The true reason why Tieleman and his NDP inner-circle cronies are against STV is because they believe/know that the only way the NDP can win election is to sneak enough swing ridings to take it all. Just look to 1996 when the NDP won a majority of seats, yet won a minority of the popular vote.

We also know the NDP, and the BC Liberals, want to negate the power of any 'fringe' parties.

How can anyone think the present first-past-the-post system is at all fair, with a straight face, is beyond me. It's amazing such a flawed system was ever installed in the first place.

Under the current system, many votes are wasted and many people are left without representation. It sickens me that the New DEMOCRAT Party would support first-past-the-post one iota. Ever wonder why many people don't bother to vote?

2001 - NDP gets only 2/79 seats despite having ~20% of the vote.

Anyone who votes Green, especially in the federal election, has never had any representation. How does the Bloc Quebecois get so many seats yet the Greens get none, yet both parties get similar popular votes? yeah, that makes sense.

STV might have some small warts, but it is a hell of a lot better than the current system. The STV vote is a lot bigger than the actual election, and I certainly hope it passes.

BC Mary said...

I think it's not so much the STV voting that should worry us.

It's when the polls close and scrutineers begin the counting, splitting, re-assigning ... then the re-counting, splitting again, re-assigning ... repeat ... repeat that should worry us.

Too many opportunities for dirty tricks.

As for the outcome, people then must find who, where and what political stripe their new M.L.A. is ... and where the heck their Constituency office is.

... and then the arguing. Ugh.

Isn't our current "Me good, you bad!" debate bad enough? Apparently not.


Rick said...

STV has been around for over 150 years, it has been imposed and abandoned in several jurisdictions, including Alberta,Manitoba and most recently in local Australian jurisdictions,to mention a few, our geography is massive compared to the places that use it and local representation as we know it would be history, Halsor and Gibson say politicians hate it? they actually stay in power for decades at a time and the same party has ruled Ireland for the better part of the last century, this sounds "comfortable" not "accountable" we should pass on this used car called STV.

Anonymous said...

I don't buy the sale of the-NDP-can't-win-without-a-vote-split snakeoil. The shift to the Left in conservative America reflects the fact that people want GOOD-REGULATION, after nearly 30 years of minimum regulation. The NDP needs a good platform, that trumps Lib' claims. That isn't hard. Help me to attack the Libs better; what needs to be added to the following?

The Lib-platform (website) has 6 points. All of which reveal bad governance.

1 Strong leadership and stable government

Party is led by a convicted Drunk Driver; his Solicitor General had to resign because of alleged improper real estate deals; BC Rail case is going nowhere because of Cabinet secrecy. BC police act with absolute impunity. Campbell offers the stability of a Banana Republic.

2 Living within our means.

We are a small part of North America, yet the province in hosting an Olympic Games that will cost $900,000,000 in security costs alone, for an 18 day event. That is largesse of the worst kind.

3 Lowering costs on our economy

Poor stewardship has put policing, health, transportation, and other costs through the roof.

4 Improving and protecting vital public services

The Housing Minister is using the Corrections database to exclude people from public housing. The BC Integrated Gang Task Force has delivered negative productivity for the $80,000,000 wasted on yet another 9 t0 5 cop bureaucracy. Police service is treated as a privilege. Parties to the Queen of the North' Negligent Homicide case had to accept peanuts, because Campbell imposes crippling court costs on civil litigants. Court Services allowed a paltry 225 Supreme Court trials last year, as government parties continue to win 100% of Motion hearings.

5 Investing in jobs and infrastructure

BC's unemployment increase has led Canada from January. The Libs have no plan of attack against the recession.

6 Building on our strategic advantages

Most major construction projects in downtown Vancouver and elsewhere are shutdown, even after Premier Campbell spoke of private-public partnerships. Campbell's supposed special relationship with business, is all hype. NDP governments don't let resources rust away.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Bill, I will vote for STV because it is my firm belief that if we do not change the way we run this province, it will collapse in chaos.

Sorry, but I'm afraid that I, for one, see STV a way out of an evil time.

All I see is NDP and right-wing 'old-boys' want to continue our autocracy. As it stands, our so-called democracy is no better than the old USSR 'show-case' elections.

STV will lead us into a 'quiet revolution' of change, for I feat the alternative, a violent revolution, is very close at hand.

The no STV crowd, remind me of 30's Britain, clinging to the old ways, while a mustached Austrian chap brought violent revolution from a bankrupt country.

James Plett said...

Bill, I very rarely agree with you - but you and your colleague are spot on.

A. G. Tsakumis said...

STV is pure fraud. It makes ZERO sense and was only embraced (somewhat) quietly by the Premier in the hope that it would screw the NDP.

He was banking on the fact that most Greens are complete reactionary fools and that the wingnuts in some Marijuana Party movement (I know, that's redundant) would take to this...he was not wrong.

I will be doing a column on this soon.

Vote against BC-STV because it's wrong for British Columbia.

I don't really give a flying f#&k what's going on in Malta or how they elect reps in Ireland.

And neither should you.

Anonymous said...

STV = Disaster Democracy.
Confuse the people ... win the day.

Skookum1 said...

To me the complicated formula is a way to get people to vote as much against it THIS time as they did FOR STV last time around. But last time it was a simple, straightforward preferential ballot that was proposed, with no "super constituencies", and AFAIK was pretty much like the old preferential vote system used in '52 and '53. If this fails, the fault in the equation to me is to the NDP for blocking the public's overwhelming approval of it last time around; if that had passed, we wouldn't be faced with the impending re-election of a government with minority support and the politics of polarity would be over and done with.

Straightforward preferential voting OR straightforward proportional voting, with the same constituency structure as present - those should have been given a chance to breathe on their own, either one. But combining the two shouldn't have needed a complex algorithm, either, nor merged ridings.

Myself, I think this balloon was floated with sufficient weights to turn it into a submarine....

Anonymous said...

No one has ever convincingly explained to me why a candidate who receives only 12.5% of the popular vote has any mandate to create or change our laws. To me, that's the greatest inherent weakness in STV.

That's the message the No side should hammer home.

Anonymous said...

Where is all of the "NO STV" Cash going ? The "Power Up Your Vote" Yes team is kicking the crap our of the "No" side all over BC.

It looks to me like the "No" team is to occupied trying to fight for the NDP in the election instead. A clear conflict and missue of tax dollars.

Bill Tieleman said...

Casting aspersions is easy to do when you are anonymous but trust me, you will know bigtime what No STV is doing starting Wednesday.

Meanwhile I am in Victoria debating STV, doing it again in Kamloops next week,etc,etc.

Anonymous said...

Who needs a divisive issue to befuddle the party platform?

Anonymous said...

I think the second part of your article is seriously misleading. Your argument that the quota is unpredictable is a red herring because under FPTP, THE PERCENTAGE NEEDED FOR ELECTION IS ALWAYS DIFFERENT. At least under STV, that percentage remains the same.

Also, if BC-STV does pass, I would not be surprised if we see a dramatic increase in the number of MLA's. There will simply be too much public pressure to stop it from happening. Consequently, valid criticisms against STV that it waters down rural power can be addressed.

Anonymous said...

Being new to BC (enough to not be eligible to vote in this election, although I did grow up here), I don't understand STV but dislike the current voting system even more. I don't know the history of how STV was arrived at as a viable alternative, but direct proportional representation still makes the most sense to me. It may take a few elections, but political parties and the public would figure out how to campaign and vote under a system that inherently makes sense and is easy to figure out. In the interim, and during major swings in power, minority governments would work. Anyway, an outsider's two cents...

Dave said...

This column has finally persuaded me to vote against BCSTV. The clincher? machine voting. I believe it is a mechanism to sneak in computerized voting, so that the vote can be more easily "guided", if someone should want to influence the outcome. As a person with 29 years of computer experience I believe commented source code over advertising claims anyday. And I don't accept the comments on faith; I take the position guilty until proven innocent on all code.
I would like to point out that yes, the USA has had machine voting for years and they have no plans to change that. In reply, I would like to point out that there are quite a number of different systems in place, so a security breach is unlikely to affect all the systems at once. BC is likely to have the same system across the province. A means of compromise would, therefore, affect the whole system at once. You only need to do it one time for it to be effective, and as the present BC government has shown clearly, information can be easily withheld for years.

Grant Fraser said...

Crimeny, another attempt to confuse people ? Let's see how far Bob Plecas gets before distortion or outright fabrication takes over...

Our present system is simple and effective (True)
-- in B.C. the winning party elects the most MLAs. (True but only from a FPTP perspective)
The single transferable vote proposal wants to confuse this fact using a complicated formula to make the vote "proportional."

Oh! And we almost made it one whole paragraph but sadly, Bob is writing at length about something he doesn't profess to understand. The single transferrable vote proposal does not deny any of the facts above, it merely suggests a superior and fairer system of determining the representation the citizens of BC deserve.

The next 4 paragraphs are of course completely ridiculous. Quite convincing, I admit and when I first heard this argument it took me a few minutes to realize the glaring oversight in it.

The proponents of STV attempt to explain the system, it is the opponent side that is deliberately providing all the confusion. Don't be hoodwinked by them.

Bill Tieleman, David Schrek, Bruce Strachan, Bob Plecas and Rick Dignard, the most outspoken names I know, are wrong and for the most part vindictive.

They are joined by the 4 people I have met on the street in 6 weeks of active campaigning for BC-STV. Gentlemen, your support is underwhelming, despite the misinformation that is so rampant around this issue.

It's been over 4 years since the proposal first came out. You would think that if there was a valid argument aginst BC-STV, that they would have demonstrated it by now. They haven't. There isn't one.

Getting back to the article, hmm I see Mr Schrek is still having trouble with mathematics. I suggest he challenge himself by going back to elementary school. Mr. Schrek, are you smarter than a 5th grader ?

And on and on it goes. Read the whole article if you like, it personally makes me ill to hear these people intentionally misrepresent facts in order to hinder the progress of our province. You want truth ? Go to They have set selling points as well so you may need to coax them for more information but at least it's honest.

Who will you trust in the next 3 weeks ? The positive approach to much needed change or the destructive negative approach that reminds you of the big party messages we generally disapprove of. BC-STV for positive co-operative change.

Wayne Smith said...

BC-STV will NOT use "machine voting". This is just more misleading bullshit. It's a paper ballot and a pencil. Perfectly transparent, and recountable.

DPL said...

Grant Frazer mentions Shreck and mathematics. The guy has statistics on most anything in the news. He often can explain things much better than a number of folks trying to use bafflegab Support STV or not but really to suggest Schreck is twisitng numbers is not a fair assement of the guy.

Anonymous said...

Anything proportional is fair and good as a rule of thumb.

Now if STV is complicated - fortunately human brains by the vote counters can deal with that.

And then it is all open and transparent, and any fraud will be quickly detected and dealt harshly.

Vote STV - I will. No more "swing riding" debacles and abuses by either party (mostly NDP).

I really want to see a Marijuana seat in the LA.

Anonymous said...



Wayne Smith said...

In a seven-member riding, each candidate is elected with about 12.5% of the votes, but each one is elected by different voters, so 87.5% of the voters (or more) are represented by somebody they voted for, rather than 40%-50% under the current system.

Under BC-STV, every MLA is elected by about the same number of votes, whether they are getting 12.5% in a seven-member riding or 33.3% in a two member riding.

This is in contrast to first-past-the-post, where some MLAs are elected with 70% of the votes in their riding while others are elected with 26%, and there is also much more variation in the number of voters per MLA in each riding.

Anonymous said...

Hard to call with all the BS in the article and comments. Can anyone direct me to the actual legislation/proposal?

Wayne Smith said...

There is lots of good information at, but if you want to cut straight to the chase, read the final report and recommendations of the BC Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform:

Then you will know exactly what is being proposed, by whom, and why.

Anonymous said...

Okay... so who decide which of all the votes go in the surplus pile?

Wayne Smith said...

All of the votes go in the surplus pile. The unused portion of each ballot is transferred to the next preference whenever the highest preference is elected or eliminated.

BC-STV is designed to make every vote count, and count equally, as nearly as mathematically possible.