– what is a single transferable vote?

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This is the voting system in Ireland and though I have an understanding of it, I struggle to explain it to other people, or even to put it into words myself.

Would appreciate any simple explanation, plus what its pros and cons are.

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4 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

You rank the candidates by preference. They rally all the votes up based on everyone’s top selection and then they drop the last-place candidate. If your candidate was dropped, your vote transfers to your second-place option and they recount. Once a candidate has enough votes, they are elected.

Alternatively, this system can be set up to allow you to move your vote to less popular candidates if the first option had way more votes than necessary for the win. This is useful when electing groups of people, such as a proportional parliament

Anonymous 0 Comments

It’s also sometimes called an “instant run-off” election, because what happens is voters can list who they would vote for, in order of preference. In a run-off election, a new election is held because it is a requirement that a candidate get at least 50% of the vote, but in the previous election that didn’t happen, so we’re running a new election with the outright loser candidate(s) omitted.

50% of the vote is still required in an S.T.V but by having voters provide a preference list for who they would vote for, there is no need to have another election, as anybody who voted for an eliminated candidate just has their vote transferred to their 2nd pick, or 3rd, etc as the case may be. No second or third round of voting is required, the run-off election is just handled by the vote counters.

Note that only 1st place votes on each ballot counts (except for eliminated candidates during a “run-off”). If there were a candidate who got 100% of everyone’s 2nd place choice out of a group of possible candidates, you’d think they’d be a good choice for a winner… but the fact that they got 100% of 2nd place votes means they got 0% of 1st place votes and are the first to be eliminated. First preference on the ballot matters. Then again, the fact voting for an underdog is no longer a “wasted vote” since your vote can still be transferred to a 2nd choice means you don’t need to vote strategically either if there is a candidate you specifically hope loses.. If the majority of voters feels that way, then it shouldn’t be possible for that candidate to reach 50% at all by voting for everybody else in some order and never the candidate you most hate.

I hope that makes some sense…

Anonymous 0 Comments


This link has a kind of simple explanation – the counting makes more sense when you watch it, than when you try to describe it.

Ireland has multi-member seats (each constituency elects more than one councillor/TD/MEP depending on the election). I can’t remember if you have to have multi member seats for STV to work, but that’s how it works here.

Pros: because more than one candidate is elected, there can be more representation for smaller parties, than in a “first past the post” system. If your first choice candidate is eliminated, your second choice may still be elected so your vote isn’t always “wasted”

Cons: the count can take a long time if there’s multiple rounds of counting. 

Anonymous 0 Comments

There are multiple variations on this, but this is the basic idea.

Candidates are eliminated one by one, and the voters who were voting for that person get to move their vote to a “next best” choice each time, until one candidate has a majority of the votes.

You tell people where to move your vote, if required, by putting the candidates in order of preference in some way – writing 1 next to your first choice, 2 next to your second and so on, say.

So everyone only has one vote (“single”) but it can be moved around (it’s “transferable”) to make sure it still counts in every round of voting.

(Like every system, it has its strengths and its weaknesses. But then – there is, literally, no such thing as the “perfect” voting system.)