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Single transferable voting system explained

(Editor’s note: This article, which first appeared in The Miami University Report Dec. 7, 1989, is reprinted here to explain the single transferable voting system.)

The single transferable vote system is used in many Miami governance elections.

While the voting system is complex, its goal is simple — to make as many people’s votes count as equally as possible in electing someone. While the system is not incompatible with party labels, its focus is on the individual candidates and representing multiple interest groups in a proportionate way.

The accompanying chart provides a simplified example of how the single transferable vote system works:

There are 100 voters, three seats to be filled and six candidates — candidate A, B, C ,D, E and F. Each voter may rank up to six people, listing each candidate in order of preference. (But voters may decline to rank all six candidates and may choose, for example, to rank only two candidates.)

Any candidate who achieves a predetermined quota is elected. The quota (in this example it’s 25) is calculated by dividing the total number of voters by one more than the number of seats.

Counting the ballots:

First round — Ballots are sorted by first-choice votes. Candidate A receives 30 first-choice votes, B gets 15, C gets 22, D gets 18, E gets 10 and F gets five. With five votes more than needed, Candidate A is elected, but two other seats remain to be filled. None of the other candidates has achieved the necessary 25 votes at this point, so the vote transferring, which gives this method its name, begins.

Candidate A’s surplus (5 ballots) is distributed on a proportional basis, according to second choices. Since none of the other candidates has achieved the necessary 25 votes at this point, the process continues.

Second round — The next step is to distribute the ballots from the last-place candidate (Candidate F) with five votes, who is eliminated from the running. There is still no remaining candidate with 25 votes, so the process continues.

Third round — The candidate with the next lowest vote total (Candidate E) is defeated and his or her ballots distributed. Four of the ballots for Candidate E had Candidate F as second choice, but since Candidate F is already out of the running, these ballots must be redistributed on a third-choice basis, resulting in Candidates B and C receiving the needed quota of votes.

Results: Candidates A, B and C are declared winners.

Date Published: 11/07/2002
Volume: 22   Number: 15

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