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FAQ: How the BC-STV System Works

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How does BC-STV work?
Our province would still have 79 representatives in the Legislature, but ridings would be combined so that some urban ridings would elect as many as seven MLAs and rural constituencies as few as two. The current ratio of voters to MLAs would not change. The new map of electoral districts would be drawn up by the provincial Electoral Boundaries Commission, with public input.

Under BC-STV, voters still have one single ballot paper but they will use it to rank the candidates in the order of the voters' preferences. Voters rank as many or as few candidates as they wish.  A weighting system during ballot-counting ensures those candidates with the highest preferences are elected.

BC-STV means more choice for voters and fairer results for the entire province.

How is proportionality achieved under BC-STV?
STV delivers a proportional outcome thanks to a combination of the multi-member ridings and the increased number of candidates from each party. STV's success in delivering proportionality is, in practice, higher where the number of seats per constituency is large – preferably at least five seats per riding. But in BC, the Assembly noted, while having districts of five, six and seven members might be acceptable in urban areas, such districts would require geographically gigantic ridings in the sparsely populated areas. The Assembly therefore recommends a compromise: districts of 2-3 members in rural areas, and up to 7 in urban areas. The BC-STV compromise would reduce the degree of proportionality a shade, but it will still result in each party's share of seats reflecting as closely as possible its share of the popular vote.

Here’s an example: Suppose in a current riding, and its four neighbouring constituencies, voter support is divided 40% for the Apple party, 40% for the Pear party, 12% for the Peach party, and 8% for other parties and independents. Under the current system, chances are the Apples and Pears will win all five seats, and that the Peaches and others are shut out, despite having 20% of the vote.  Imagine now that the ridings have been combined under STV into one which will elect five MLAs.  Chances are that the Apples will win two seats, the Pears two and the Peaches one – a more proportional result.

Does BC-STV serve urban areas at the expense of remote areas?
Under BC-STV, districts with two MLAs, such as those anticipated in northern BC, would still be a smaller size than federal electoral districts that have only one MP.  BC-STV was designed so that all areas in British Columbia will have strong and identifiable local representation. For remote areas, this means roughly combining no more than two or three electoral districts.

There would be no reduction in the number of MLAs representing rural areas. And, these two or three member districts would be more effective at representing the popular vote than the current system – meeting the need of the many British Columbians who want greater proportionality.

Who will decide the boundaries of the new, larger electoral districts?
The Assembly has included guidelines for the new boundaries in its Final Report that encourage a balance of proportional electoral outcomes – and a preference for larger rather than smaller numbers of MLAs per district – and keeping the districts in sparsely populated areas to a reasonable size.

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