E-Newsletter May 19, 2005
On Tuesday, May 17, the Canadian province of British Columbia held parliamentary elections and a referendum on whether to replace its antiquated, U.S.-style plurality voting system with the choice voting method of proportional voting. Choice voting, known in British Columbia as “the single transferable vote,” or STV, is a proportional system once used effectively in two dozen cities in the United States, including New York City and Cincinnati. It was picked for the ballot last year by a citizens assembly process that FairVote believes should be imitated widely in the United States.
With record voter turnout of more than 1.6 million, voters overwhelmingly supported proportional voting. In order to be implemented, however, the STV campaign needed the. support of 60% of voters. Although the reform initiative fell just short, garnering an impressive 57.4% of voters’ support, it won a majority of the votes cast in a remarkable 97% of the electoral districts from all over the province, with broad support in both rural and urban districts. This near perfect sweep occurred even though the reform initiative had limited resources and faced opposition from the political status quo. See the results (to be finalized May 30) at http://www.elections.bc.ca/elections/ge2005/refresults.htm
Premier Gordon Campbell's Liberal Party captured a second-straight majority government, winning a supermajority of 46 of the legislature's 79 seats up with only 46% of the vote. Yet Liberal Party candidates won a majority in a paltry two-dozen districts, far fewer than the 77 districts where choice voting earned majority support. (In fact, no candidate won majority support in nearly half of the districts.) Some of the political establishment is pretending choice voting was truly rejected, but other political leaders from across the spectrum are calling for the government to move forward in implementing the clear will of the voters. Read more about the calls for reform at http://archive.fairvote.org/index.php?page=56
Much of the campaign’s success can be attributed to the manner in which choice voting was chosen as an issue for the May referendum. The British Columbia government convened a Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform, composed of ordinary citizens, to study how the province should best translate votes into seats. After studying numerous voting methods, the citizens overwhelmingly came out in favor of a switch away from the current winner-take-all system towards the fairer way of electing representatives embodied in choice voting. Read more about the Citizens Assembly at http://archive.fairvote.org/index.php?page=515
- You can read a Sacramento Bee commentary by New America Foundation’s Steven Hill and Davd Lesher calling for using similar processes in the United States at: http://archive.fairvote.org/index.php?page=200&articlemode=showspecific&showarticle=487
- For more on the rapidly growing campaign for proportional voting in Canada, see: http://www.fairvotecanada.org
More on the U.K. Parliamentary Elections Debacle
The British election results from its May 2005 parliamentary elections also showcased the flaws of winner-take-all elections. Led by Tony Blair, Labour swept into a third term in office, a hat-trick his party had never before been able to achieve. But Labour garnered barely 35% of the vote, only 3% more than the Conservatives, yet gained 59 seats more than the other parties who won a combined 65% of the vote. As a result of these skewed and disproportionate results, many political leaders and media figures, including veteran Labour leaders, are renewing calls for a proportional voting system. Read about the U.K. elections at http://archive.fairvote.org/index.php?page=960
Instant Runoff Legislation Easily Passes North Carolina State House
North Carolina counties would use instant runoff voting (IRV) in local elections in 2005-2006 in a pilot project introduced by Rep. Paul Luebke. On May 18 the bill received bipartisan approval in the North Carolina house by a vote of 79-32. Under Rep. Luebke’s proposal, the State Board of Elections would work with up to ten counties interesting in participating in the project.
Much of the initiative for improving North Carolina’s runoffs came from problems in the state’s 2004 elections, which had only 3% voter turnout in a statewide runoff that cost more than $3 million of taxpayer funds. North Carolina legislators recognized that IRV could increase voter turnout, reduce the costs of elections and ensure more broadly supported winners. The bill now heads to the state senate. Read more about the NC IRV bill (H. 1024), including a factsheet produced with Democracy North Carolina, at: http://archive.fairvote.org/index.php?page=983
Meanwhile North Carolina Senator Eleanor Kinnaird has introduced legislation that would implement IRV ballots for use by North Carolina’s overseas and military voters. Like in Louisiana and Arkansas, IRV ballots would allow voters abroad to participate in runoff elections, which traditionally leave very little time for voters to mail ballots in time to be counted in the U.S. Read more aboute Senator Kinnaird’s legislation at: http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2005&BillID=S558
New additions to FairVote’s Website
FairVote California: This spring FairVote has pursued a special research and outreach initiaive in California. See more at: http://archive.fairvote.org/ca/
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