It is unfortunate that no one took up my company’s offer of free training in the “Single Transferable Vote” system.
It is widely misunderstood even by political analysts, and hopelessly so by many journalists assigned to cover the results. Really, a bit of training is required to ensure the public is properly informed.
A few key points:
- the “quota” is the number of votes required to guarantee a seat (the next whole number after a seventh of the valid vote, in the case of a six-seater);
- a “transfer” is best used exclusively to describe the transfer of votes from an eliminated candidate (these transfer at full value to any next preference);
- a “surplus” is best used exclusively to describe the number of votes by which a candidate has exceeded the quota (and thus the total of votes which will now be transferred to other candidates in proportion to next preferences given);
- such a surplus is allocated only from the votes which took that candidate past quota (not from the votes already allocated to that candidate in any previous counts);
- thus, a first-preference vote for a candidate who does not reach quota on the first count but is ultimately elected (or is last eliminated) counts entirely for that candidate alone;
- candidates do not necessarily have to reach quota in order to be elected, and indeed many do not – those simply left not yet eliminated when the number of candidates left standing is equal to the number of seats to be filled are deemed elected; and
- “topping the poll” is a total irrelevance and is in fact often a strategic error (the objective for parties running more than one candidate is in fact to balance that party’s vote evenly between them, to try to keep both in the race – as above – until all other candidates have been eliminated).
It is a complex system which is why I personally do not like it. But it is not that complex – just beware of “analysts” making predictions who do not understand it!