Monday, 13 November 2006

Single Transferrable Voting - Pitfalls and Praise

I've recently been working on a test implementation of a ballot counter for Single Transferrable Votes both at work and at home. I've seen various descriptions of STV including this one on Wikipedia (which seems to have too many holes to mention).

By far and away the best description I've been able to get hold of is that put forward by the Electoral Reform Society (linkies - model election - detailed instructions). My only criticism is the lack of an overview of the processes and stages involved. And this is the overall problem with STV : the counting process is too complex.

Voting in an STV election is fairly straightforward and the concept for the voter is simple, namely list your candidates in the order of your preference for them. But try getting an ordinary voter to verify a count! I've not found a resource that attempts to explain in clear language to a voter how their vote was counted, and this lack of transparency from a lay persons perspective is only going to limit adoption of STV. The result might be fairer but until the voter can judge that it is fairer it will only engender suspicion.

Of course politics plays it part in any attempt to adopt STV at a national level in the UK, the only parties calling for it are those with the most to gain whilst those able to push through the changes aren't interested as they have the most to lose.

Either way, until the counting process can be made significantly more transparent I couldn't see the public trusting the counts.