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FAQ: Voting in a BC-STV Election

How do I vote in a BC-STV election?
In a BC-STV election, voters use a ballot where they rank the candidates (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.). Voters can rank as many or as few candidates as they choose. Voters can cast all their preferences for candidates of the same party, or assign their rankings to candidates from a variety of parties and/or independents.  On the ballot, candidates are grouped by party affiliation. For maximum fairness, the ballots will be printed in more than one random format, so that no candidate or party always gets the favoured top spot on the ballot paper. Using a rotation of names on ballot papers is called the "Robson Rotation". The ballot for BC-STV is called a preferential ballot.

How is voting different in a BC-STV election?
The voter would see two key changes from the current system:

  • First, instead of writing on the ballot a single “X” for a single candidate, the voter would be able to rank candidates (1, 2, 3 and so on) according to the voter’s personal preferences.
  • Second, BC’s constituencies would no longer be single-MLA electoral districts as now.  There would be larger ridings, each with more than one MLA.  The legislature would remain at 79 seats, though, so the ratio of MLAs to population would be the same as now.
Does changing the voting system lead to more spoiled ballots?
A change in voting system or ballot form does not have a large impact on spoiled ballots. For example, when elections for the parliament of Tasmania switched from First Past The Post (FPTP - our current electoral system) to STV (the recommended system) the rate of spoiled ballots was 1.2% in 1906 (under FPTP) and 2.9% in 1909 (under STV).  Another example of this marginal impact is when the House of Representatives in Australia went from marking crosses on the ballot to listing numbers, the rate of spoiled ballots changed 1.2%.

You may have heard that New Zealand had a problem with counting STV votes in its Fall 2004 municipal elections. That was a problem with its computers, not with the STV system. The Assembly has designed BC-STV so the count can be done either by hand or by computer.

Are votes “wasted” under BC-STV?
STV virtually eliminates “wasted” votes.  For example, in a three seat riding, even if a voter’s #1 preferred candidate is not elected, there is a good chance her ballot will help her #2 and #3 preferred candidates win a seat. About 16% of ballots don’t contribute to electing a candidate.

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