Single Transferable Vote

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For those without comedic tastes, the so-called experts at Wikipedia think they have an article about Single Transferable Vote.

“How very singular!”
~ Oscar Wilde on the single transferable vote

Elections as they are run in most countries

The Single Transferable Vote is an electoral system of proportional representation. It is currently used for elections to the parliament of the Birtish isles, and in several other countries that are too tedious to mention. [1]

edit Failings of a Democratic System

The major failing of most electoral systems is inherent in the very system itself - by allowing all people to vote, you create a large number of physical votes. Such massive quantities of votes require that one spend a great deal of time, effort and money simply dealing with the votes themselves. [2]

It is not uncommon for special people to be appointed to design the voting system, to count the votes, and to watch the people who are counting the votes. Additionally, increased staff are required to print, transport, and archive the votes. And don't forget about security! A democratic vote requires massive amounts of time and lots of money, and often requires more people to administer the vote than are actually participating in it! Even worse, recent elections have demonstrated that such votes often result in the incorrect candidate being selected. [3]

This ballot, for the United States Senate illustrates how ruddy complicated voting can be. Voters can either rank every candidate individually or use their preferred party's preferences by voting 'above the line' Or they can screw it all up and throw it in the bin, the choice is theirs.

More than that, it is not uncommon for people to get stuck with more than one vote, as they are forced to cast votes for other people not present on ballot day. Whether they like it or not, showing up to vote is always a risky proposition, as one never knows how long it will take, nor how many votes they will be required to cast. While all of this makes voting seem like a losing proposition, there is hope. [4]

edit Single Transferable Vote

Recent political science discussions at Harvard[5], backed up by a study at Yale[6], lend further credence to the Single transferable vote system. This radically simple theory is that there is only one vote, and it is transferable.


Imagine a group of school children electing class representatives. In this scenario, there are four posts available, and potentially up to thirty votes which need to be printed, cast, counted, recounted, checked for veracity, and archived. All of this takes people-power, and all of this takes time. It is easy to see how even in this small vote the wheels of democracy can grind to a standstill. Enter the single transferable vote system.

Embracing this new political style, the students of the class take their vote, and transfer it to the fat kid. The fat kid then casts a single vote in favour of the most popular children in the class in order to try and curry favour. Thus we see how a tedious, convoluted, and time-consuming system of voting can be transformed into an efficient system of representation. Further streamlining the process, the student body will then validate this vote by forming a self appointed, exclusionary clique, thus completing process.[7] Is it not amazing how efficient the single transferable vote system is?

edit Voting

More generally than in our example above, the basis of the STV system involves the drawing of an initial voter from the electorate. While nearly any method of preselection can be used, the historical method was created by Mr. B. Hare, the inventor of the single transferable vote system. Called the Hare-brained Method, the initial elector was selected at random through a national lottery. The winner of the lottery, not willing to be dragged down with the drudgery of actually voting, would then pass the vote onto someone who actually wanted to use it. This would continue until it eventually was cast for the most deserving candidate in the election. And much like the example above, the people would then validate the vote by organising a self appointed clique filled with individuals popular for their good looks and heavy partying.[8]

In Australia this method was thought ot be too inaccurate, and not expressive enough of voters' preferences. Thus, they devised the Clerk system. this innovative system involves sitting rows on rows of clerks down to write out a list of each available elector. This mind numbingly boring task is intended to be beyond human endurance - as each clerk falls into a coma, the name of the last person written is the one to receive the single transferable vote. Since this list is written alphabetically, people soon realized that having a name starting with "A" was a great way snag the single transferable vote. In 1936 250,000 people changed their name leading to an hilarious fight over who would be the actual Mr. Aadvark to cast the vote. The winner of the fight was a Mr. Aardvark of New South Wales who cast his vote - which was validated by the people by putting together a self-perpetuating clique in Australia.

Voting in syria
An Irish voter.

The Irish thought this was a silly system, and thus developed the Senatorial rules. An hereditory élite would gather in Dublin to appoint one of the members of the self organising clique to vote for themselves. This then became the most efficient and accurate use of the 'single transferable vote since it is the only method in which the casting of the vote is not ignored.

In 1965 Oxford university brainbox Brainy Meek devised the Meek method, said to be the most efficient and democratic form of all the methods of single transferable voting. It relies on the vote being especially hot. The electorate gathers in a big crowd, and the vote is thrown into it. It is then tossed from hand to hand until someone too timid to force it onto someone else gets it - thus their only way to get rid of it is to cast it. In validation of the casting of the vote, they are immediately beaten to a pulp by the self-perpetuating oligarchy who are enraged by their presumption to tell them what to do.

Each of these systems has a different way of counting their single transferable vote:

edit Counting the Single Transferable Vote

The counting of the vote varies with the particular system being employed. As an example, in the Birtish isles the vote is a small round cthuluesque entity kept under the floorboards of Henry Perkins of Droitwich (only the occaisional human sacrifice is required). This vote is easily counted on a scale which varies from 0-cthulu to 1-cthulu.

The Single Transferable Vote

In the Hare-brained method the vote is counted by counting to 1. The candidate with enough votes to equal or exceed the Hare quote (Hare Quota = 1) is thus the winner, and therefore the one to be ignored by the self-perpetuating clique.

The clerk method is more complicated. The vote is divided into fractions, placed in a small shoe box somewhere near Sydney (who gets very annoyed by that), and left to ferment for six hours At the end of that period the various fractions are counted. They then employ the Brewer's droop quota which is (Brewer's droop quota = 0 + 1). Fractions are rounded off to the nearest whole number. The vote is then cast for the poor sap to be ignored.

In the senatorial method this is achieved through the good offices of the Count of Galway (currently Count Moriarty III) who comes in and tells the Senators who has won. This is following the old dictum that in a democracy it is your vote that counts, but in aristocracy it is your count that votes.

In the meek method the number of votes is variable, and counting takes the form of people fleeing the poor victim of the thorough beating as swiftly as they may lest they get caught in the cross fire of the self-perpetuating oligarchy's rage.

edit Assessment

Proponents of the single transferable vote point to the outcomes of elections in which there is more that one vote to show what an utterably stupid idea they are. George W. Bush is sufficient argument, they say. Single transferable vote is a perfectly proportional system since there is an 100% correlation between votes cast and the the results of the election. Proponents note that if the oligarchies actually abode by the results of the elections, the system would work flawlessly. Until then they are going to bloody well keep on voting until the buggers listen, because the only way to change an oligarchy is through voting.

Another problem is derived from the hard and fast fact that you cannot have a whole vote - due to the discovery by mathematicians that 1 = 0.999... so the single transferable vote is only ever a fraction of a vote, and 0.111... of the vote is always wasted. [9]

edit Current use

The single transferable vote is used by few countries, although the number of countries testing it out has grown in the last few years. STV systems are currently used in Ireland, Malta, and Australia.

Interestingly enough, Iran and North Korea use modified versions of the STV. In both these countries, the current leader assumes the role of the initial vote caster, as well as the perpetuating oligarchy. In this, they have perhaps the most streamlined STV systems in the world today. But in an odd twist, the populace are not allowed to form self-perpetuating cliques. It is still up-in-the-air as to whether these modified systems can work over long periods of time.

edit References

  1. (2000) A. Nob Encylopaedia Birtannica, 12th, Oxfamshire: Oxfam University. ISBN 1-87-242480-5.
  2. Baboon, Hunglika (2004). Would you just look at all them votes! : the ballot box in early nineteenth century America. Oxfamshire: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-52-183101-6.
  3. Blair, Tony (2003). Why I should rule forever. New York: Fredonia Classics. ISBN 1-41-010203-3.
  4. (2005) Fanny Noise Politicians should listen to our brilliant ideas, Hugh Snatch, Oxfam: Oxfam University Press. ISBN 0-19-925756-6.
  5. Hawking, Stephen (1996). There is power in a union. Harvardshire: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-69-103791-4.
  6. Tolkein, J. R. R. (1980). The Lord of the ballots. Yalefordshire: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-19-811177-0.
  7. Lambert, Enid (1970). How democracies vote. Londonshire: Faber. ISBN 0-57-109324-8.
  8. Bush, George (2004). Non monotonistic preferential decision making apparati in occidental polities : an examination of Arrow's Impossibility Theorem with reference to Condorcet Jury Theorem 1912-1999. l'Ondon: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-101893-3.
  9. Holmes, Sherlock (1894). Lectures on elementary mathematics. Chicago: Open Court.
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