PREFACE

In this publication we have sought to provide a comprehensive handbook for anyone conducting an election. At the same time, we have given an explanation of the purpose, operation and effect of the Single Transferable Vote, which we hope will be of value to those who may have to advise or decide on improvements in election procedures in any organisation, large or small.

We hope also that this account of how the Single Transferable Vote operates (with minor variations) in public and other elections in the British Isles and elsewhere will be of interest both to the political commentator and to the politically aware citizen.

We are grateful to Robin Clarke, Peter Crisell, Peter Dean, James Knight, Enid Lakeman and Donald Macdonald who were kind enough to read the draft and make helpful suggestions, but we are responsible for the final text.

ROBERT A NEWLAND
December 1972 FRANK S BRITTON

PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION

In the 20 years since the publication of the second edition the Society has sadly lost through death both the principal authors of this booklet. Widespread availability of calculators and computers has also greatly eased the work of Returning Officers. This edition is the fruit of work started by the Society’s Technical Committee, and finalised by Colin Rosenstiel and James Woodward-Nutt.

The opportunity has been taken to simplify the structure of this publication, to clarify its wording and to remove some duplication. The principal changes are:

(i) withdrawal of the optional provision to place votes in suspense, which was introduced in the second edition. This appears to have been little used. We believe that the increased use of computers makes it unnecessary

(ii) A further reduction in the quota when it is safe to do so

(iii) All quotas calculated to two decimal places.

COLIN ROSENSTIEL
June 1997 JAMES WOODWARD-NUTT


1.THE SINGLE TRANSFERABLE VOTE
1.1Objectives of an electoral system
The objectives of a valid method of election may be defined as: -
(i)to ascertain the electors' wishes and, as far as possible, to give effect to them;
(ii)to ensure that as many as possible of those who take part have an effect, and an equal effect, on the result;
(iii)to ensure that nearly every elector can identify among those elected representatives of their choice whom they helped to elect;
(iv)to obtain, as far as practicable, proportional representation (PR) of whatever views, opinions and judgements motivate electors when they vote.
Various methods of election satisfy some of these objectives. For example, most methods of election seek to achieve some form of proportional representation, by (generally) giving most seats to the largest party or opinion group, and fewer seats to the next largest party or group.
But different methods of election attain these objectives with varying degrees of success and reliability, and some methods such as the X-vote are notably inefficient and uncertain. (For a discussion of why X-voting fails, see Robert A Newland Only Half a Democracy, Electoral Reform Society, (2nd edition) 1975.)
The Single Transferable Vote (STV) is a logical method of election designed to attain these objectives with economy, efficiency and certainty.
The essential features of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) are:-
1.2Specification of the Single Transferable Vote
(i)a single vote whereby each elector can choose their prospective representative from a number of candidates;
(ii)several representatives elected together to enable different viewpoints and opinions to be reflected;
(iii)election by quota, being the minimum number of votes which, if attained by as many candidates as there are places to be filled, leaves at most a quota of votes unused. This is the Droop Quota, being the total valid vote, divided by one more than the number of places to be filled. Thus, if seven representatives are elected together, and if each of seven candidates obtains a Quota of one-eighth of the votes, then at most one-eighth of the votes are unused;
(iv)the single vote to be transferable according to preferences expressed by the elector to enable the surpluses of candidates who exceed the quota, and the votes of candidates with no possibility of election to be transferred to other, continuing, candidates until the required number of representatives is elected.
1.3Operation of the Single Transferable Vote
The voting papers, each showing an elector's order of preference for one or more of the candidates, and each representing a single vote, are sorted according to first preferences and counted.
The quota for election is determined. All the transferable papers of any candidate with a surplus above the quota are transferred to other, continuing, candidates in accordance with next available preferences expressed by the electors, the transfer value being determined by sharing the surplus equally between the transferable papers.
Candidates with fewest votes are then excluded in turn and their voting papers are transferred to continuing candidates in accordance with the next available preferences on those papers.
Transfers of surpluses and exclusions continue until the desired number of candidates is elected.
1.4Effect of the Single Transferable Vote
The sorting of voting papers according to first preferences in effect arranges the electors into generally unequal groups, each group supporting a single candidate. The transfers of surpluses and exclusions reduce the groups in number according to the number of places to be filled, and make the initially unequal groups each approximately equal to a quota.
The electorate is thus arranged into the desired number of nearly equal opinion groups, each group with its own representative.
Nearly every vote is effective in helping to secure the election of a chosen candidate.
Nearly every elector has an equal effect on the result and is directly represented by someone whom that voter has helped to elect.
In voting, different electors may attach different weights to several criteria simultaneously. The Single Transferable Vote gives proportional representation of this opinion structure of the electorate with an accuracy dependent only on the number of representatives simultaneously elected.
The Single Transferable Vote gives freedom of choice to electors and ensures, as far as possible, that the choice is satisfied and not distorted or frustrated.

2.CONDUCT OF AN ELECTION
2.1Size of constituency
The proportion of electors represented and the accuracy of the proportional representation of opinion obtained increases with the number of representatives elected together.

Constituency size and electors assured of a representative of their choice

Members

Quota

%

Proportion represented

%

1

votes/2

50

1/2

50

2

votes/3

33.3

2/3

66.7

3

votes/4

25

3/4

75

4

votes/5

20

4/5

80

5

votes/6

16.7

5/6

83.3

6

votes/7

14.3

6/7

85.7

7

votes/8

12.5

7/8

87.5

8

votes/9

11.1

8/9

88.9

9

votes/10

10

9/10

90

For the councils or executive committees of many organisations, representatives to fill all vacancies can with advantage be elected together.
For the larger electorate and membership of a parliament, in order to avoid problems of communication, while retaining sufficiently large constituencies, it would be appropriate to divide a country into multi-member constituencies returning some three to five members in rural areas, and five to seven members in the conurbations.
For district councils, rural wards would return some five to seven members, and urban wards seven to nine members.
2.2Voting paper
The voting paper must enable electors to exercise their single votes for their preferred candidates by expressing their first preferences. It must also permit them to indicate, if they desire, their subsequent orders of preference for any of the other candidates. The number of preferences which may be expressed bears no relation to the number of places to be filled. A voting paper is valid providing that a first preference is clearly expressed. Later preferences are contingency choices only, which may or may not be expressed, and, if expressed, may or may not be considered.
Two forms of voting paper are in use, the elector in one case numbering and in the other case listing the candidates in order of preference (see overleaf).
The first form of voting paper (A) (number in order of preference) is widely used in public elections. The names of the candidates are shown, generally alphabetically, and the elector numbers the candidates 1,2,3, . . . until indifferent to their order.

A

VOTING PAPER

You have ONE vote
Use your vote by entering

‘1' against your first preference candidate
and, if desired

‘2' against your second preference candidate

‘3' against your third preference candidate
and so on until you are indifferent.

The sequence of your preferences is crucial.

You should continue to express preferences only as long as you are able to place successive candidates in order.

A later preference is considered only if an earlier preference has a surplus above the quota required for election, or is excluded because of insufficient support.

Under no circumstances can a later preference count against an earlier preference.

Number in order of preference

Candidates

2

ABBOT

 

BARON

6

CARPENTER

7

DUKE

4

FREEMAN

 

GLAZIER

1

MONK

 

PRINCE

5

SMITH

3

VICAR

 

WRIGHT

The second form of voting paper (B) (list in order of preference) is used by many organisations. The electors are provided with a separate schedule of candidates. The electors enter the names of their first preferences on the voting papers, followed by the names of other candidates in order of preference until indifferent to their order. The voting papers contain at most one fewer spaces than the number of candidates, since under no circumstances can a voting paper be transferred to the candidate whom the elector would place last of all the candidates.

B

VOTING PAPER

You have ONE vote

Use your vote by entering

the name of your first preference candidate
and, if desired

the name of your second preference candidate

the name of your third preference candidate
and so on until you are indifferent.

The sequence of your preferences is crucial.

You should continue to express preferences only as long as you are able to place successive candidates in order.

A later preference is considered only if an earlier preference has a surplus above the quota required for election, or is excluded because of insufficient support.

Under no circumstances can a later preference count against an earlier preference.

Order of preference

List the candidates in order of preference

First preference

MONK

2

ABBOT

3

VICAR

4

FREEMAN

5

SMITH

6

CARPENTER

7

DUKE

8

 

9

 

10

 
This form of voting paper discourages any tendency to assign preferences alphabetically and facilitates the sorting and transfer of papers in the counting process.
In some cases it may be thought desirable to assign to candidates codes which are used instead of their names.

2.3Nominations
The Single Transferable Vote requires no special procedure with regard to nominations. In small elections using the second form of voting paper, the write-in of candidates without formal nomination may be permitted if desired, although it would be prudent to confirm the consent of such candidates before the commencement of the count.
2.4Withdrawals
The withdrawal of candidates after nomination day up to the time of the commencement of the count does not necessitate a postponement of the election, since preferences for such candidates are merely passed over during the count without disadvantage to any elector.
2.5Declaration of the result
The purpose of an election by the Single Transferable Vote is to elect a number of representatives of equal status to represent the electorate.
The declaration of the result comprises the total vote, the total valid vote, the quota for election, and the names of those elected. If an order is desired, this is provided by the order of election. In addition, the first preference vote for each candidate and the names of the candidates excluded may be given.
The votes credited to elected candidates at the end of the count have, of course, no special significance since they have been made equal, or nearly equal, by transfer. Further information is given, if desired, by the publication of the election result sheet giving details of all stages of the count.
2.6Elections to fill individual posts
The Single Transferable Vote can be used to fill a single office, such as that of Prime Minister, Mayor, Chairman, Secretary or Treasurer of any organisation, and is then commonly known as the Alternative Vote.
The Quota for election is then one-half of the votes. The Alternative Vote avoids election on a minority of votes, but proportional representation is, of course, unattainable in filling a single vacancy.
When direct elections for officers and executive committee or council are held simultaneously, the counts are completed consecutively according to seniority of office. As in the case of a withdrawal, this enables preferences for any candidate already elected to a higher office to be passed over during a later count, without disadvantage to any elector.


3.COUNTING HALL
The arrangement of the counting hall should reflect the operations which have to be carried out at each stage of the count after the total vote has been determined at the first stage.
These operations are:-
(A)Sorting the voting papers
(B)Checking the sorting and counting the papers
(C)Checking the counting
(D)The assembly of the papers for each candidate, and the compilation of the vote record forms
(E)the compilation of the result sheet, and the forms for the transfer of surpluses and exclusion of candidates
Various arrangements are possible, depending on the physical constraints, and on the size of the election. For a small election, one set of sorting trays would be adequate, but for a large election several sets should be provided.

Instructions for the count

Index