Proportional Representation By Single Transferable Vote

March 4, 2022

The single transferable vote (STV) system is a voting system that uses a ranked preferential method of voting to choose the best candidates for multiple vacancies. It is a system of proportional representation that allows votes to be transferred to alternative candidates where the winning candidates surpass the quota or the least preferred candidates are eliminated. One of the main single transferable vote advantages you’ll enjoy is proportional representation. But what exactly is proportional representation? In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about proportional representation by STV voting.

Proportional Representation Simplified

First, the concept of proportional representation applies to a wide range of constituencies, including political and non-profit organizations. Under the STV system, there is relativity in the polls because every vote contributes to the final result and every voter feels represented even when their most preferred choice doesn’t win.

Under this voting system, every voter uses a single ballot, be it an online, electronic, or paper ballot, to select the candidates in their personal order of preference. If five candidates are vying for three positions, each ballot will have the names of all of them. The voter writes number one against the name of their first choice, number two against their second preference, and the rest of the candidates in that order. With the STV system, each party or group within the voting constituency gets at least one position.

The more positions a constituency has that need to be filled, the smaller the size of the electorate needs to win each position. Another reason why this voting system makes elections easier and more convenient is that it allows for the transfer of votes according to the ranking of candidates. This brings an element of proportionality and helps to build consensus behind the most preferred candidates. Furthermore, it reduces wastage of votes, making every voter feel part of the voting process and fully represented.   

But which countries use single transferable voting to conduct elections? Although this voting system has seen periods of dormancy in the past, today it’s one of the most popular voting systems. Many governments, non-profit organizations, and other groups are adopting it as part of their electoral reform. Some of the countries that are already using the STV system include Australia, Canada, Estonia, Hong Kong, India, Malta, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, United States, among others.

How Does Proportional Representation by Single Transferable Vote Work?

Also referred to as Multi-winner ranked-choice voting, the STV system allows every voter to choose their most preferred candidates for different positions by ordering their preferences on the ballot. The candidate who gets the majority of the first preference choices wins the vote. If there are more candidates on the ballot than the available positions, the least preferred candidates are eliminated. However, their votes aren’t discarded, instead, they are transferred to the alternative candidates based on their ranking. In most cases, the votes are transferred to the voter’s second and third preferences.

In some instances, the vote is apportioned fractionally to various candidates. The winning candidate must attain the quota, which is the least number of votes that guarantee victory. If the winning candidate exceeds the quota, their surplus vote is transferred proportionally. The processes of voting, elimination of least preferred candidates, and vote transfer continue until all positions are filled. If the number of remaining candidates is equal to the unfilled positions, the remaining candidates are declared winners based on their ranking.   

In the STV system, voters vote for individual candidates, not parties. This gives independent candidates the same chances of being elected as candidates supported by parties. That way, the electorate can rest assured to have the best candidates in positions of influence because they get to choose the people they want to represent them. With other voting systems, parties are the ones who decide the best candidates to run for positions. Unfortunately, this kind of voting doesn’t always give the best results because it’s susceptible to manipulation and favoritism. The STV system also eliminates cases of election fraud because voters are the ones who the people choose to lead them.

STV offers proportional representation because it ensures every substantial minority faction gets some representation. After all, no single party or voting group can take all the available positions. The fact that each voter only casts one ballot to elect multiple candidates makes this voting system very effective. This voting system makes elections even more proportionally representative when there are more positions to be filled because more positions mean more distribution of votes and increased proportionality.

In summary, proportional representation by single transferable vote brings fairness in elections because it eliminates any chances of one party or voting group taking a majority of positions in a district. Electionbuddy offers customers the option to cast their votes via the Single Transferable Voting system, be it through an online, digital, or paper ballot.

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