Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The Captain Has My Vote

From next month all boat licence holders will have the chance to vote for one of the four positions on the 35-member Council of the Canal & River Trust, that replaces British Waterways (in England and Wales) as custodian of the canal system in April.
Andrew Tidy, better known through his blog as Captain Ahab is standing for election. Candidates are only allowed a 150 word "mini-manifesto" as an election address, which is not many words to put themselves across and seek your votes. You can read Andy's statement here but as a follower of his blog and through correspondence I feel I have got to know Andy well enough to vote for him as one of my representatives and to recommend him to others.

The election process is rather unusual. It will use the system known as the "Single Transferable Vote". This is similar to - but different from - the Alternative Vote soundly rejected for parliamentary elections last year. As far as I can see, despite their being four elected boaters' reps we have only one vote, which is used to rank the candidates in order of preference. I was going to try and explain it to you - and how it differs from the Alternative Vote - but I don't think I understand it well enough to: perhaps you'd better read about it for yourself here.

It strikes me that it might save a lot of time and effort if all the candidates were asked to explain the system that will be used to elect them: anyone who gets it right gets in!


Amy said...

You say all boat licence holders - you mean all BW/C&RT licence holders! I hold an EA licence so can't vote ;)

nb Lucky Duck

Adam said...

Yes, you only get one vote -- that's why it's called the Single Transferable Vote. However, that vote may end up contributing to the totals of several candidates. The maths is quite complicated, but as a simple example: if your first choice candidate gets more votes than they need to get elected, a proportion of your vote is transferred to your second choice candidate; at the other end of the scale, if your first choice gets so few votes they are eleiminated, your vote is transferred to your second choice. It's a much better system than AV, and in an election like this really is the only fair choice.

Jim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim said...

Why don't YOU stand!

Sarah said...

It's true that your vote only counts once, although you can express a preference for as many candidates as you like, but you can be sure that it WILL count, in stark contrast to other systems, first past the post in particular. It is a complex system, but for electing candidates to a number of positions, it almost certainly provides the most accurate reflection of the electorate's wishes, and unlike pure proportional systems, tends to deviate away from extremes, in a political context.

Halfie said...

What's wrong with a simple system whereby each licence holder has one vote, and the four candidates with the most votes are elected? If, under the STV system, the four candidates with the most votes do not get elected, than that would seem to me to be not representative of the voters' wishes.

Adam said...

Halfie, in an election like this with four seats and possibly 20 or 30 candidates, your simple system is one of the least representative there is (one of the few which would be worse would be four votes per person). The chances of you not having voted for any of the four people elected would be very high. Most people's votes would be wasted. Under STV, there's a very high chance that your vote would influence the outcome.

Halfie said...

Yes, but Adam, the most important thing is that the right candidates get elected. I accept that we're never likely to know who the "right" candidates are, so the next best thing in an election are the most popular candidates. And, under "my" system, the most popular are, by definition, those with the most votes. If I happen not to have voted for one of the winners, then that's just my tough luck. I wouldn't feel that my vote had been wasted. After all, if there had been a very close vote, then mine could have swayed the balance.

Jim, excuse us for having this out on here!

Adam said...

Isn't the most important thing that those elected have a wide base of support? In an election like this where there are likely to be so many candidates, your system would probably result in people being elected with a tiny proportion of the vote. With STV, people get elected only if they have significant support on first preferences, or can demonstrate wide support by picking up second preferences.
(This is like being back at uni on the course about electoral systems...!)