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Editorial, Victoria News
17th November, 2004 : Vancouver (Internal)
No voting system is perfect
[An editorial in the Victoria News, 17 November 2004]
Since the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform went to a lot of trouble devising a new voting system for the province, we're prepared to give it a shot and see what happens.
We're skeptical, though, that the system will be a net improvement on the first-past-the-post system. Any system has its flaws and the single-transferrable vote model is no exception.
The most notable prospect is that the STV system will result in more diverse representation in the legislature. That will also mean minority governments -which B.C. hasn't experienced for decades - are far more likely. That's not such a bad thing - although minorities tend to last about half as long, or less, as majority governments.
A shorter term in office gives a government less time to implement complex programs, let alone see them through. Compromise can be good, but oft times a decisive plan is better than a watered-down one.
The Liberals went to the trouble of fixing election dates every four years. The STV system puts that timetable in jeopardy by increasing the likelihood that a minority government will fall thus requiring a mid-term election.
The benefit to having more elections is that it will give voters' practice in learning how the complicated system works. Of course, it could also lead to even more voter fatigue. If voter participation is a problem, it's hard to see how a more complicated election system will entice more people into the ballot booths.
Nevertheless, such a system has reportedly worked well in Ireland for nearly a century.
Another flaw with the STV system is it assumes voters will rank their choices honestly. A voter whose first choice is candidate A may honestly believe candidate B would be a good second choice, but will opt for the longshot candidate C as choice No. 2 so as not to give any points to A's toughest rival.
A better system is one typically employed by political parties to choose their leaders. In such a scenario, the bottom candidate is left off after each succeeding ballot until one candidate emerges with a majority of the votes. The only time there's a problem with that is when a candidate's supporters don't stick around for all the ballots - as occurred during the nomination for the Conservative Party candidate in Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca before the last federal election.
If it's good enough for choosing party leaders, it should be good enough for choosing our elected representatives. Unfortunately, it often takes three or four ballots to reach a decision. General elections are cumbersome and time-consuming enough without requiring voters to keep coming back to the polling stations.
Out of necessity, the STV emerges as a compromise on that system. It's still not perfect. Only time will tell -if it's even implemented -whether it's a better voter system on balance than the one it replaces.
[Copyright 2004 Victoria News . Reproduced here by permission of the Victoria News.]