I'm still a little bit surprised that it's coming up again. After coming so close four years ago, the referendum question is back on. Maybe this time?
For more information on what STV (Single Transferable Vote, that is) is, visit Fair Voting BC's referendum web site. There are two highly explanatory videos on the first page and a list of frequently asked questions, including some myths.
During this election, if STV gets any press from the parties, I expect it to be scare-mongering, mostly, because some of the control of the process will leave the party mechanisms and there will be a chance for other voices -- ones with enough community support to be credible, mind you -- than the whipped ones from being heard in the Legislature.
I support this system and I would offer more explanations of its mechanics if they weren't so well laid out on BC STV's web site. So, why do I support it?
I am troubled by the apathy of voters, especially younger ones. Our system is so well organized that new voices, especially those of younger citizens, are not likely to be heard: they are either caucused out or drowned out by the large noisy political machines of established parties. Regional concerns are not heard as safe riding after safe riding is delivered to this or that party while those who vote for other parties, spread out across these safe ridings, are never represented. Even in my own riding, both provincially and federally, the party nomination for one party or another is in effect as binding as the actual election -- in the absence of gross scandals coming out after the individual has been nominated, or of strong local personality such as that of the late Chuck Cadman. I see the Single Transferable Vote as a way to amend that, at least a little bit.
I am bothered by the stridency of political rhetoric. In a take-no-prisoners election campaign where every citizen has only one vote, there is no motivation for candidates to appeal to electors for whom they have no hope of being the first choice. As as happened in the even more well organized and polarized system to our south, without that motivation to appeal more broadly "red meat" rallies, "divide and conquer" strategies, fearmongering and "get out the base" drives will only increase. I cannot believe that this approach leads wise governance.
But if those who won't choose you first might choose you second -- and so get you elected -- you won't be demonizing their first choice at the slightest provocation over the course of the campaign, lest you be labeled as "the enemy of my friend" in too many of their minds. And if, in the resulting legislature, some kind of coalition is required, good! First of all, we've always had to manage coalitions in the rest of life (it's called "sharing" in Kindergarten), why not in our government? Second, if you may have to strike a deal after the election, you may be just a little less likely to call your opponent (figuratively) a spawn of evil before the election.
At the same time, this isn't the willy-nilly list-based voting used in much of Europe with mixed results (good examples: Netherlands and Denmark; classic bad example: Italy). I don't believe STV is loose enough that we will have some way-out-on-the-fringe party dictating to a government that most of us can otherwise put up with for some unreasonable accomodation in return for reliable support over the course of a coalition.
Please, British Columbians, on May 12, 2009, vote "YES" on the STV question.