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We recommend the websites of the Proportional Representation Society Of Australia - http://www.prsa.org.au – and The Center for Voting and Democracy (USA) - http://www.fairvote.org - to all readers. They both concentrate on STV (ranked choice voting in the USA) without getting sidetracked by a wide variety of other reforms.

STV Action is now on Facebook. Visit it. "Like" it to help the campaign. Post your views on it.

Please e-mail Editor@stvActon.org.uk if you can recommend any other links.

Short explanation of STV


"STV" stands for "Single Transferable Vote". Each voter has one vote and may transfer it.

Each constituency elects a number of MPs (typically five). So that the House of Commons would not have to be any bigger than it is now, a group of (say, five) present single-member constituencies would be put together to make one multi-member constituency.

Voters have a single vote, which can be transferred according to their wishes from their first to second choice candidate and so on. They can express their choices for as many or as few candidates as they wish. They vote by writing “1" against their first choice, “2” against their second and so on as far as they wish.

To be elected, candidates have to obtain a “quota” of the votes cast. The quota depends on the number of votes cast and the number of seats to be filled.

The first choice votes for each candidate are counted. If a candidate reaches the quota, then that candidate is elected. Surplus votes (above the quota) are redistributed in proportion to the wishes of the candidate’s voters and that process continues until all the seats are filled.

If not all places have been filled and there are no surpluses left, then the votes of the candidate with the fewest votes will be transferred to the next choices of that candidate's voters. If necessary, this is repeated until all the places have been filled.

Please see http://stvaction.org.uk/node/465 for the main advantages of STV. You may also find FAQ, at the top of this page, useful.

Please e-mail "Subscribe STV News" to tuffin(@)waitrose.com if you would like to receive irregular e-mailings about STV.

STV fairer for Tories in Scotland and strengthen Union


STV Action was and is still neutral on whether Scotland should become independent but one of the Yes Campaign’s arguments was that Scotland had overwhelmingly rejected the Conservative Party in the 2010 General Election and yet had got a Conservative led UK Government.

This seemed to resonate with some Scottish voters although it was not completely true. The Better Together campaign did not seem to refute this argument, but perhaps that is because its leaders did not want to draw attention to the way First Past The Post elections distort voters’ views.

In 2010, the Conservatives won only one seat in Scotland and that does look like an overwhelming rejection BUT they actually achieved 17% of the votes. Although that is quite small, it is a respectable amount of support and not much less than the SNP’s 20%.

With a proportional voting system such as STV, the Conservatives and SNP would have had about 10 and 12 MPs respectively from Scotland instead of one and six.

If Scotland returned about 10 Conservative MPs to Westminster and nearly as many as the SNP, it would be harder for Nationalists to argue that Scotland had overwhelmingly rejected the Conservatives. Not only that, but also 10 MPs would represent Scotland better than one can within the Conservative Party.

The Conservative Party would then have a clearer understanding of Scottish problems and there would be more Conservative MPs from whom to choose Ministers or Shadow Ministers.

Scotland votes No! But change inevitable for the whole UK


Scotland votes No and gets enhanced Devolution! As a result, the Government has promised to resolve the West Lothian Question.

With enhanced powers for the Scottish Parliament to decide on matters affecting just Scotland, Scottish MPs in Westminster should not vote on matters that do not affect Scotland. Conservatives especially believe this and they have a good case.

Labour MPs are reluctant to solve the Question because they rely on Scottish Labour MPs in the UK Parliament and fear a permanent Conservative majority on English affairs, which they argue would be undemocratic. They too have a good case.

The answer must be to elect ALL MPs by STV so the UK Parliament will be more representative.

Labour MPs would be less reliant on their Scottish colleagues and votes on English matters would be less likely to have a permanent Conservative majority; that would mean better democracy for all.

Select Committee told STV could improve voter engagement


The electoral reform movement owes a great deal to the 21 witnesses who gave written evidence to the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee that the Single Transferable Vote (STV) could help to improve voter engagement.

The Electoral Reform Society’s first and main object is “To secure the adoption of ... STV ...” but, sadly, the Society was not one of the witnesses who recommended STV. It made only a fleeting reference to electoral reform and did not mention STV at all.

One of the questions of the Select Committee’s enquiry into voter engagement was “To what extent could electoral reform ... improve public engagement and voter turnout?” All 39 witnesses who addressed this question recommended electoral reform. Twenty-one (54%) of them recommended STV, one suggested AMS and the remaining 17 did not advocate any particular system.

STV Action gave supplementary evidence to draw the Committee’s attention to the large amount of evidence in favour of STV.

The roll of honour contains the following 17, who made the introduction of STV their sole or main recommendation:

• Michael Meadowcroft
• Brian Wichmann
• A E L Davis
• Canon Michael Hodge
• Colin Buchanan
• Arthur James
• Keith Underhill
• STV Action
• Make Votes Count In West Sussex
• Anthony Tuffin
• Dr. David Hill
• Tim Ivorson
• Richard Lung
• Ian Sheppard
• Thomas Gray
• Malcolm Morrison
• David Smith

The following 3 advocated STV among other measures:

• John Strafford (paragraph 1.1.7)
• Keith Best (especially paragraph 5)
• David Green (his 9th proposal)

The prestigious British Academy mentioned PR favourably and suggested STV should be considered.

A common view was that, although STV alone might not improve voter engagement, nothing else was likely to help without it.

As Keith Underhill wrote, “Changing the voting system will not immediately mean that we will jump to European levels of turnout, there are other reasons for low turnout like the perception that politicians are all the same, but it would be a step forward and would give us all a say, not just the ones in marginal seats!”

Colin Buchanan commented, “Giving it [a fair voting system] priority also enables the quest to set aside as largely irrelevant the large number of red herrings dragged across the path. They are not only no substitute for addressing the justice issue, but by posing as real answers they greatly hinder attention to this prime question.”

Dr David Hill had an interesting and constructive perspective, “.. a start should be made on local government (possibly allowing STV as an option..). That would be a worthwhile change in its own right, as well as a suitable experiment to give evidence that could be taken into account in future enquiries into turn-out.”

A E L Davis agreed with David Hill on that and also recommended the Committee to consider the experience of STV in civil society.

We shall have to wait and see what the Committee makes of the evidence. It is difficult to see how any fair-minded body of people could ignore the weight and quality of the evidence in favour of STV but, at least, that evidence is now all in the public domain. Journalists and the public will be able to judge for themselves how fairly the Committee treats the evidence.

The written evidence is available at http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-sele....

More working class MPs?


Someone remarked on BBC Radio 4 this morning that there were very few working class MPs and there should be more so that Parliament would be more representative. The Labour Party, which used to select working class candidates from trades unions, now selects mainly from graduates and very few have ever been manual workers.

He did not say, although he could have said, that there should be more Liberal Democrat and Green MPs and some UKIP MPs so that Parliament would be more representative.

The easiest way to produce more working class MPs would be for parties to select more working class candidates for safe seats. Similarly, parties could produce more black, female and Muslim MPs by selecting black, female and Muslim candidates for safe seats.

But why should parties foist working class, black, female and Muslim MPs on constituencies any more than they now foist middle class, white, male and Christian MPs on constituencies?

Voters themselves should be able to choose their own MPs, which they cannot effectively do with the present First Past The Post (winner takes all) voting system. Nor would they be able to choose their own MPs under most proportional systems, but there is one exception.

The Single Transferable Vote (STV) system would encourage parties to nominate a broad range of candidates to widen the party’s appeal and maximize its votes. From that broad range, voters would be able to decide for themselves whether they wanted a working or middle class MP, a black or white MP etc.

STV alone would reduce party power and increase voters' power to choose the MPs that THEY want.

Lib Dems must demand STV at least for local government


If another coalition is needed in 2015, the bottom line for Liberal Democrats must be STV for all subsequent local government elections in England and Wales.

May’s elections changed the political landscape to a four-party one and, if the old two-party First Past The Post (Winner takes All) voting system looked wobbly in a three-party system, it now looks totally discredited in a four-party system.

If each of the largest two parties lacks an overall majority in 2015 but has enough MPs to form a stable coalition with the Liberal Democrats and they both invite the Liberal Democrats to coalition talks, Liberal Democrats have a moral duty to voters to talk first to whichever of the other parties has the more votes even if it has fewer MPs.

If the Conservative Party is persuaded to support PR at all for local government or any other elections, it is likely to want STV. If Liberal Democrats are in talks with Labour about a possible coalition, they should make the same demand. There should be no compromise on this.

This is a summary of an article, “How Lib Dems can achieve STV for local government” in Lib Dem Voice on 17 June 2014: http://www.libdemvoice.org/the-independent-view-how-lib-dems-can-achieve...

Lib Dems steal local elections!


Last Thursday’s local election results in England contain many examples of the unrepresentative nature of the First Past The Post (Winner takes all) voting system. Rather than confuse you with too many of them, we have selected just two. In both of them, the Liberal Democrats are grossly over-represented while the Conservatives are under-represented and other parties are not represented at all despite the number of votes they received.

For our first example, Liberal Democrats gained two seats in the London Borough of Sutton. They now have 45 Councillors (83%) to the Conservatives’ nine (17%), but the votes tell a very different story.

According to the Council’s website, the seats and percentage votes were:

Lib Dems, 45, 43%
Conservative, 9, 30%
Labour, 0, 15%
UKIP, 0, 8%
Green, 0, 3%
Others, 0, 1%

We show below how approximately how many seats each party would have won if the seats had been in proportion to the votes and, in brackets, the number of seats they actually won:

Lib Dems: 23 (45)
Conservative 16 (9)
Labour 8 (0)
UKIP 5 (0)
Green 2 (0)
Others 0 (0)

The exact result would depend on what kind of proportional representation was used and how people would have voted. They might have voted differently from the way they did with First Past The Post, but this illustrates how unrepresentative First Past The Post is.

It is clear that, although the Liberal Democrats were by far the most popular party, the voters collectively did not want them to have the overwhelming majority that they do have. Indeed, the voters did not give them a majority at all. The voting system gave it to them. Most people voted against the Liberal Democrats.

Our second example comes from Eastleigh, Hampshire where UKIP came second to the Liberal Democrats in a parliamentary bye-election fifteen months ago and came second again in votes on Thursday but only third in seats. Indeed they got no seats.

There, the Liberal Democrats took 13 seats (87%) for only 43% of the votes while the Conservatives took two seats (13%) for 21 % of the votes and UKIP (26%) and Labour (10%) won no seats at all.

To rephrase that, the Liberal Democrats won more than twice the number of seats than their votes merited and retained their overwhelming majority on the council although nearly six out of ten voters voted against them. The party with the second largest support was UKIP with more than one vote in four, but it got no seats. Labour also got no seats for one tenth of the votes. Compared with UKIP, the Conservatives were lucky; despite having fewer votes than UKIP, the Conservatives won two seats to UKIP’s none. However, overall and compared with the Liberal Democrats, the system treated the Conservatives badly. For about half the Liberal Democrats’ number of votes, they won less than one sixth the number of seats.

Although any Proportional Representation (PR) system would produce fairer results than these in terms of Party Representation, only Single Transferable Vote (STV) in multi-member constituencies would maximize voters’ choices, improve Councillors’ accountability to voters and provide Personal Representation in proportion to any factors (party or not), which voters regarded as important.

BJP landslide in India, or not?


It was widely reported that the BJP (Hindu nationalist party) won a landslide victory in this month’s Indian general election.

It was certainly a landslide in seats. The NDA (BJP and allies) won 337 (62%) out of 543 seats.

But the news media did not report that the BJP achieved only 31.1% (less than a third) of the votes. Even with its alliance parties, it still had only 38.66% (fewer than four out of ten) of the votes!

Frankly, this is ridiculous but not surprising. UK parties have also won elections, sometimes with large majorities, on only about 40% of the votes.

India is often described as the largest democracy in the world, but is that democratic? It is certainly not representative.

As well as the unrepresentative national result, there were also many unrepresentative local results. In 343 out of 543 constituencies, the winner obtained fewer than half the valid votes. 109 winners received fewer than 40% of the votes.

The worst individual result was in Jammu & Kashmir – Ladakh, where the BJP winner received only 26.4% of the votes; i.e. nearly three out of four voters voted against the winner!

Needless to say, India inherited, and suffers from, the UK’s discredited First Past The Post (Winner takes All) voting system.

By the way, one key difference between the UK and Indian systems is that “None of the above” is an option in India, but the bizarre results reported above show that “None of the above”, which some advocate for the UK, does not solve problems. The voting system itself needs to be changed.

Single Transferable Vote (STV) in multi-member constituencies would be even more beneficial in India than it would in the UK. One of STV’s many advantages is that it can reconcile different cultural, ethnic and religious groups, of which there are many in India.

Source: Keith Underhill, former ERS Council member.

A route to STV


If the Liberal Democrats take part in any coalition discussions in 2015, they must insist on Single Transferable Vote (STV) for local government elections.

A recent New Statesman article - http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/05/2015-election-could-revive-... - reports that opinions polls predict that the Conservatives may win most votes but Labour may win most seats in next year’s general election.

The article suggests that this may revive interest in electoral reform, especially among Conservatives. This seems very likely. It certainly happened in 1974 when the Conservatives won most votes but Labour won most seats. Not surprisingly, Conservatives felt robbed even though it was their party’s fault for not introducing a more representative voting system when it could have done.

Of course, the irony is that, just when a fairer voting system coincides with Conservative interests, the party may be in opposition and unable to legislate for reform. At the same time, the Labour Party, which has been showing some half-hearted interest in reform while in opposition, may be in government and unwilling to change the system that brought it to power.

But there may be a way to implement a fairer system in 2015, foreshadowed by negotiations between the Liberal Democrats and Labour in Scotland which successfully brought in reform of the voting system used for Scottish local government for 2007 and since. The possible results of the next general election may portend a change in local government elections in England and Wales. (Northern Ireland, like Scotland, already uses the fairer voting system.)

In 2010, the Liberal Democrats had no realistic option other than to form a coalition with the Conservatives; the Conservative Party had won the most votes and the most seats while Labour did not have enough seats to form a stable coalition with the Liberal Democrats. At that time, the Liberal Democrats secured agreement to the referendum on AV for general elections but there was not enough public support to secure a change.

Suppose that, in 2015, again no party has an overall majority but both the Labour and Conservative Parties have enough seats for either of them to form a stable coalition with the Liberal Democrats. But suppose also that New Statesman is right and Labour has more seats but the Conservatives have more votes. What should the Liberal Democrats do then if the largest two parties both invite them to coalition talks?

Although many Liberal Democrats might prefer an agreement with Labour, wouldn’t they have a moral duty to voters to try first to reach an agreement (if they are invited) with the Conservative Party, the party for which most people had voted? Liberal Democrats believe in STV so shouldn’t they try to form a coalition with the party that would probably have had the most seats if the election had been by a more representative system? Wouldn’t that be the most democratic way to proceed?

Of course, there would have to be conditions with some give and take on both sides, as there was in 2010. The bottom line for Liberal Democrats would have to be STV for all subsequent local government elections.

That would be fair enough. After all, if the Conservative Party was only the second largest in the Commons, its only claim to open discussions to be the senior coalition partner would be that it had the most votes; i.e. it should have been the largest party in the Commons and would have been the largest party in a more representative election. Indeed, in that situation, it should support PR for general elections, but the reality is that it would not do so quite so soon after the 2011 referendum.

The big question is whether the Liberal Democrats would have the nerve to hold out for this crucial, long-term improvement to UK democracy even if they were offered other short-term concessions on other policies instead. Also, would the Liberal Democrats hold out, not just for any old PR that provided Party Representation but for PR-STV, which alone provides Personal Representation and maximizes voters’ choices?

STV Action is quite optimistic that, if the Conservative Party is persuaded to support PR at all for local government or any other elections, it will choose STV as the system. This is because Conservatives pride themselves on valuing individualism and encouraging freedom of choice, so STV should be their natural system of choice. David Cameron made this very clear when he explained what improvements to the voting system would mean to him – shifting power to decide who should be elected as MPs from the political parties to the voters, and specifically not party list systems.

If the Conservatives refused to offer a firm guarantee of STV for all subsequent local government elections, we hope the Liberal Democrats would make the same demand of the Labour Party, again if they were invited to talks.
Although Labour’s centralist tendencies may make it reluctant to support STV for the Commons, it may be willing to promise PR of some sort for local government in order to secure Liberal Democrat support and lead the next government, but that would not be good enough. Liberal Democrats must hold out for STV, which alone maximizes voters’ choices and provides proportional representation not only of parties but of any other divisions that matter to voters.

Anyway, as Scotland and Northern Ireland already have STV for local government elections, it would be perverse to introduce a different PR system for the rest of the country.

STV, if only for local government, must be absolutely non-negotiable. If there has to be compromise, it should be on other areas of policy. On whatever else Liberal Democrats feel obliged to compromise in any coalition negotiations in 2015, they should not compromise on STV.

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