Monday, April 27, 2009

STV is not better than MMP. MMP is much more proportional. Citizens' Assembly Wrong.

Upon reading through the British Columbia Citizens' Association on Electoral Reform's explanations for choosing STV over MMP, I was sorely disappointed.

The BCCAEF maintained that the proportionality obtained in STV is the same as in MMP. This, however, is not the case. There is plenty of documentation of cases in which parties under STV actually won more seats than they were entitled to on a purely proportional basis.

In Ireland's 2007 election, Sein Fein won 6.9% of the vote and elected 4 TDs while the Green Party won 4.7% of the vote and elected 6 TDs. Ireland's long governing party, Fianna Fail, won 41.6% of the vote and elected 78 TDs (47.0%). This is clearly disproportional. In fact, it accomplishes something FPTP does. Giving more seats to parties with less votes.

Here is an explanation of MMP. As you can see, in MMP, as close to proper proportionality as possible is achieved. This is not the case in STV.

On the BCCAFEA website, they maintain that MMP retains problems from FPTP. However, they do not mention any of these. In contrast, it is clear that STV retains the problems from FPTP of electing people solely based on their riding. This is what allows for the disproportion that it has seen.

Is the BCCAFEA so desperate to push through their brainchild that they will distort facts, and tell us that STV is equal to MMP in terms of proportionality? If they are, that is all the more disconcerting.
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  1. I won't claim that STV is perfectly proportional. It is in my opinion highly proportional in that the error rate between percentage of votes to seats may only be +/-5% instead the the First-Psst-the-Post +/-20%. While Pure List and MMP systems can reduce the error rate to less than 5%, MMP (a great system) suffered a weakness in the Ontario referendum in 2007. The opponents of MMP were able to exploit the belief that party "hacks" from Toronto would appoint the list members for all of Ontario. This belief played well in areas outside of Toronto. That the BC Citizens' Assembly proposed MMP, the same opponents of STV would become opponents of MMP and state that political party "hacks" in Victoria/Vancouver would be controlling the lists for all of BC. Nevermind that those party "hacks" would probably be running an anti-MMP campaign. The people of BC, especially outside Victoria and Vancouver, would likely reject MMP.

    I am probably not going to convince you to support BC-STV. I will suggest that this referendum is between First-Past-the-Post and BC-STV. You're either for BC-STV or you're for FPTP. If other people want MMP, support BC-STV first. Try it for a couple of elections, then if they want a change to MMP, suggest it after. By supporting FPTP now, the politicians will be in no mood to support any kind of electoral reform including MMP.

  2. Correction: Should be "Had the BC Citizens' Assembly proposed MMP."

  3. I definitely support STV in opposition to FPTP, but I would hope that we wouldn't automatically accept that STV must be the best option. On their own website, the assembly claims things about STV and MMP that aren't true, namely that the proportionality is equal. This is not the case. And they are unable to provide us with what faults of FPTP MMP retains.

  4. Young Liberal,
    You are certainly right that, as measured by the common academic standard, the Gallagher index, STV is not as proportional as MMP. Although are both significantly more proportional, by that measure, than FPTP.

    However, there is a reason why STV in Ireland often sees the Greens win more Dail seats with less first preferences votes than Sinn Fein and in my virtue, that illustrates one of the VIRTUES of STV.

    Irish Greens tend to elect more TDs than Sinn Fein, because Green candidates do far better with second preference votes Sinn Fein candidates. Not surprisingly, as the Greens are a more moderate party. And as Liberal, you can't tell me you're against an electoral system that rewards moderate candidates.

    Also, as STV is fundamentally a candidate-based electoral system, measures of proportionality, in that regard, miss the point of the system.

  5. One could argue that, but that would be to forget that most of the argumentation on the part of the STV supporters is based on STV returning more proportional results than FPTP.

    It would seem they have forgotten the point of their own system, as you said.

  6. For provincial politics, STV is a better system.

    It allows each region to deliver local candidates from a variety of parties. This ensures a much better balanced government, as each region or district will likely have at least a one or two member from the government as well as an opposition member or an independent.

    Since all provincial politics is local (building freeways, hospitals, schools, etc..), STV ensures each MLA is accountable to the local people. This also means if there is an issue in the community, voters can turn to 4 or 5 MLAs to deal with there issue. STV also gives voters the ability to support a party but turf a candidate.

    At a federal level, individual accountability is not as important as MPs are suppose to only handle issues that deal with the whole country or intraprovincial jurisdiction. As a federal level, an open list MMP system may make more sense.

  7. But STV does provide for way more proportional results than FPTP.

    You're not seriously suggesting otherwise, are you?

    As I said above, "as measured by the common academic standard, the Gallagher index, STV is not as proportional as MMP. Although both are SIGNIFICANTLY more proportional, by that measure, than FPTP."

  8. I would not suggest otherwise, no. That would be ridiculous.

    However, the advertising for STV is focusing on proportionality. And in that case, MMP I believe would be a better option.

  9. "However, the advertising for STV is focusing on proportionality"

    Although proportionality is an important benefit of the STV voting system (perhaps even the most important), that doesn't mean that proportionality is the ONLY benefit when compared to FPTP.

    There's a plethora of other benefits to STV, some MMP don't deliver. See for more info.

  10. Someone who says that MMP is more proportional than STV doesn't understand both systems to the fullest. Let me explain.

    One major problem with MMP, especially in the way it is used most, is strategic voting.

    Under MMP, one makes two votes, one is by the single-winner-method (such as FPTP), the other is for the party.

    Especially the FPTP candidate will often be selected strategically (as is currently the case in Canada) to not see one's vote wasted. By definition this vote is NOT a voter's first choice, but the choice the imperfect MMP system forces onto the voter.

    STV does away with strategic voting (this is the main part of the transferable part). One can, with confidence, vote for the person one really wants without being afraid of wasting ones vote by ranking their favourite candidates: their real choice with 1, their strategic choices with 2, 3, and so on. Only in case their favourite does not get elected, their strategic vote kicks in.

    The negative effects of strategic voting under MMP are not visible in the Gallagher index, and therefore any claims that STV is less proportional based on the index are false.

    STV is not perfect, but it's the most proportional electoral system that is compatible with BC's riding based voting system.

    Now, vote for it!

  11. MMP does not force strategic voting as in FPTP.

    Your party vote determines, in essence, the share of seats a party has in the legislature.

    So you are not at all forced to strategically vote, as your vote will always go to your party's share of the House.


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