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Proportional ranked choice voting

More voter choice, proportional results

Proportional ranked choice voting  
(also known as Single Transferable Vote)

Single Transferable Vote (PR-STV) is a proportional system that uses a ranked ballot: one that allows voters to mark their choices 1, 2, 3 etc. instead of a single X.

When people hear the term “ranked ballot” they often think of the system that Justin Trudeau likes. This system, properly called Alternative Vote, just pastes a ranked ballot onto our current system, and delivers results as bad (or even worse!) than first-past-the-post. You can learn about why ranked ballots in single member ridings are no solution here

Proportional ranked choice voting allows voters to rank their preferences AND provides more than one MP per riding. That’s how it delivers proportional results in Parliament.

Proportional ranked choice voting was recommended by the British Columbia Citizens Assembly (2004), and called BC-STV. The top three values of the BC Citizens Assembly were proportional representation, local representation, and voter choice. BC-STV went on to receive 58% of the vote in the 2005 referendum.

The BC Citizens Assembly recommended local districts elect between two and seven members, depending on the geography of the area. See the bottom of this page for an example from Ireland of multi-member districts that elect several local MPs.

Proportional ranked choice voting is used nationally in Ireland, in the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania, and in Scotland for local elections. It was recently adopted municipally in Portland, Oregon. Proportional ranked choice voting was used to elect provincial MLAs in Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton for 30 years. It is the original proportional representation system.

Read the PR-STV part of our submission to the federal Electoral Reform Committee.

How it Works

Instead of electing just one MP in each single member riding (first-past-the-post), voters elect a small team of MPs in a multi-member local district. This better reflects the political diversity that exists in every area.

Proportional ranked choice voting is a candidate-centered system which allows voters to rank candidates based on what characteristics are most important to them. It also offers popular independents a chance to be elected. It is the system that gives voters the most nuanced say over who fills the seats.

For voters, using proportional ranked choice is simple. Rank candidates (as few or as many as you want) in any order you like. You can rank across party lines.

Counting the ballots is more complex than first-past-the-post, because voters’ preferences are taken into account. This ensures that the MPs elected reflect the rankings that local voters marked on their ballots.

There are many excellent videos on PR-STV counting on our youtube channel in the systems playlist. To get the basic idea of how the ballots are counted, we recommend this short video.

Note: Proportional ranked choice voting does NOT require a larger number of MPs. Instead of five small ridings electing one MP each as we do now, the five ridings would be combined, and the enlarged riding would elect a team of five MPs together. This ensures that almost every voter ends up with at least one MP who shares their values and priorities.

Below is a map of recent election results in Ireland, which uses PR-STV. Each district elects several local MPs to reflect the diversity of political opinion in the area. This means that voters have more than one MP working on policy in the legislature (often MPs in government and in opposition) and advocating for the interests of each local area.

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