Single Transferable Vote (STV)

A voting system in which multiple MLAs are elected in each electoral district and voters rank the candidates according to their preferences (1, 2, 3, etc.). A formula determines the quota, which is the minimum number of votes a candidate must receive to be elected. Any candidates who reach the quota based on voters’ first choices are elected. If any seats remain unfilled because other candidates did not reach the quota, voters’ subsequent choices are transferred to the other candidates until all seats are filled.

The proportionality of the results depends on how many MLAs are elected in each electoral district (district magnitude). A version of STV called BC-STV was proposed by the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform in 2004. It called for between two and seven MLAs to be elected in each electoral district.

Voting & Results

  • Voters elect multiple MLAs in each electoral district
  • A single ballot lists the candidates for an electoral district
  • Voters rank candidates according to their preferences
  • All voters’ first preferences are counted and the quota needed to be elected is established
  • If any candidate has reached or exceeded the quota, the candidate is elected and wins one of the seats to represent that district in the Legislative Assembly
  • If any seats are unfilled after the first choices have been counted, voters’ subsequent choices are transferred to the remaining candidates:
    • First, excess votes of a winning candidate are transferred to those voters’ next choices
    • If no candidate reaches the quota after this first transfer, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the voters who put that candidate as their first preference have their votes transferred to their second preference
  • This process of transferring continues until all seats have been filled or until all ballots have been exhausted (that is, there are no further preferences to count)
  • Several rounds of counting are usually required


  • Mostly proportional results; the more MLAs in an electoral district, the more proportional the results will be
  • Elects candidates from larger political parties and some smaller parties and independent candidates
  • Minority or coalition governments are common
  • Candidates from the same party compete against each other in an electoral district
  • Encourages candidates to seek support from voters for whom they are not the first choice to increase their likelihood of being elected

Perceived Strengths

  • Provides proportional results in electoral districts with several MLAs (generally five or more)
  • Provides local representation, although in larger electoral districts than First Past the Post
  • Maximizes voter choice on the ballot because voters can support multiple candidates from one or more political parties
  • Provides independent candidates the greatest likelihood of being elected
  • Most votes count toward electing an MLA (few “wasted votes”)

Perceived Weaknesses

  • Electoral districts with only two or three MLAs do not produce proportional results
  • Difficult to understand how votes are turned into seats
  • Candidates who receive more first-preference votes may lose to candidates who receive fewer first-preference votes after all the vote transfers occur
  • Larger electoral districts may reduce connection between local communities and MLAs
  • Potential delays in forming government after an election if negotiations between parties are required