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News release: Electoral system named

14th November, 2004 : Vancouver (Internal)
Electoral system named

Members of B.C.'s Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform gave a name Sunday to the new electoral system they are proposing for the province: BC-STV, short for British Columbia Single Transferable Vote.

Under the BC-STV system, voters rank candidates by numbers on the ballot paper. BC-STV is designed to make every vote count, and to reflect voters' support for candidates and parties as fairly as possible.

Now it's up to the voters of B.C., who will cast ballots on BC-STV in a referendum in the next provincial election, on May 17, 2005.

Assembly members drafted Sunday a simple question they propose for the referendum:

"Do you agree that British Columbia should change to the BC-STV electoral system as recommended by the Citizens' Assembly in its final report? Yes/No."

That draft question now will go to lawyers in the B.C. attorney general's ministry, to ensure it meets constitutional and other legal standards. It will come to the Assembly for approval.

The provincial government says that if voters approve the BC-STV model in May, it will introduce legislation so the new system of translating votes into seats in the legislature could go into effect for the provincial election of May 2009.

Meeting in Vancouver on the weekend, members also began to work on their final report to the people of B.C. The target date for release is the afternoon of 10 December. (By mandate, the report must be delivered no later than December 15.)

The Assembly meets again in Vancouver November 27-28 to finish work on the report, and to wrap up its work. Then the Assembly disbands, and the Assembly office begins to close.

On December 10, Volume 1 of the report will be a 16-page document that examines both the current electoral system (often known as First Past the Post) and BC-STV. It will explain the Assembly’s rationale for recommending BC-STV. You can order a copy through the Citizens’ Assembly website at

Volume 2 of the report, available by year-end, will likely be a 300-page book that includes background and historical data on the Assembly and its work.

The BC-STV model was custom-built by members to meet the needs of B.C. and to address three over-riding values: local representation, voter choice, and increased "proportionality" – the concept that each party’s share of seats in the legislature should reflect its share of the popular vote.

The voter using BC-STV would see two key changes from the current system:

  • First, instead of writing on the ballot a single "X" for a single candidate as now, the voter would be able to rank candidates (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) according to the voter’s personal preferences.
The voter would be able to mark preferences for as many or as few candidates on the ballot as the voter wishes. The voter thus can rank candidates of more than one party, all of the same party, and/or independents and minorities.

  • Second, B.C.’s constituencies would no longer be single-MLA electoral districts as now. There would be geographically 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.
The Assembly’s model would allow the size of electoral districts and the number of MLAs elected per district to vary across the province to reflect local and regional conditions. In sparsely populated areas, districts could comprise as few as two MLAs and, in denser urban districts as many as five, six or even seven MLAs. All 79 MLAs will continue to be elected directly in constituencies.

Districts with two MLAs, such as those anticipated in northern B.C. under BC-STV, would still be smaller than federal electoral districts. This system would not result in any reduction in the number of MLAs representing rural areas.

Single Transferable Vote (STV) systems in various formats are used in Ireland, Malta and Australian and a number of municipalities. Ireland has had STV for most of the last 100 years. Despite attempts by government to kill STV, the Irish have repeatedly voted to keep it.

The Citizens’ Assembly is an independent, representative, non-partisan group of 160 randomly selected British Columbians, including chair Jack Blaney. Details of its work and the BC-STV system are at » FOOTNOTE

Here's how the Assembly members' voting went Sunday on the name:

  • Should the name contain "STV"?
Yes: 95. No: 49.

  • Should the name be STV alone? Or STV plus something else?
STV alone: 21. STV plus something else: 124

  • Three choices then went to a vote: PR-STV, Citizens' Choice STV, and BC-STV.
PR-STV: 21. Citizens' Choice STV: 31. BC-STV: 93.
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