Hey. Before I get started, I’d just like to offer apologies to anyone here looking for the previous post…I’d love to show it to you, but guess what happened? It died, as the result of a box checked in haste and error, and since I composed it right on-screen I had no backup, no way or revisiting it or re-posting it. No do-over capability. No control over it. So instead, we have this post here, and I hope it’ll fit as a replacement.
It’s all about the Single Transferable Vote.
It’s a plebiscite question on the ballot in the upcoming B.C. election — “do you favour an STV electoral system?”
I do not, and I’d like to tell you why.
Some time ago, I was talking with a friend whose first election was coming up. I asked her if she wanted to tell me how she was going to vote. She said she might not vote at all: because she felt insufficiently informed on the issues, and didn’t want to make a bad voting decision.
I told her that everyone makes one of those, sometime or other; because it’s just about impossible to be truly sufficiently informed…because there is probably no such state of being informed as that.
And in a way…that’s exactly how the system’s supposed to run, isn’t it? It’s all kind of sloppy; imperfect. Every asshole gets a vote; not just the paragons.
I don’t think she voted, despite my wise words.
…So I’m against STV because it doesn’t allow for the sloppiness of real people mattering, but instead I think under STV dilatory voting on the part of the young, partisan “boo-yah!” voting on the part of the old — let’s call both of those by the name of asshole voting — and even para-elitist non-voting like that of my friend, is masked and implicitly forgiven, and as a result subtly encouraged, where even in the deeply imperfect first-past-the-post system if you vote wrong then it means, at minimum, that you fucked up…and if you didn’t vote it means you’ve got to defend yourself against accusations of being a jackass, or a cultist. Fact is, the second vote under STV is just as imperfect as the first one, only more fungible and therefore less responsible, less in your hands; and I believe this ameliorates my friend’s concern about “making a mistake” far too efficiently. One can readily imagine a scenario in which nervous or desultory voters hedge their bets by voting their desires first and their consciences second…except it doesn’t have to be their consciences they vote second, actually. They might vote their consciences third, or fourth, or not at all if they have none. And, voters can’t control the options they’re given in terms of the political menu provided to them; and, voters cannot vote to decisively exclude options they don’t like.
Not decisively to exclude them, if you see what I mean. They might allow a half-preference, or a quarter-preference, if we can even quantify such fractional voting this way, to contribute to a candidate’s election…and somewhere down the line there might be some party that they really don’t like…but how far down must things go, to get to that state of electoral rebuke? In the current system, people often find their single positive vote, their SPV, by a teeth-gritting exclusion of other votes they might make, if things were slightly otherwise, and so even if you don’t know what you’re doing, then…even if in twenty years you will come to see your vote as a bad one, because you were insufficiently informed or insufficiently courageous…for any given elector there is somewhat of an acquaintance with the discipline of being an elector. The buck stops here, in other words: if in your own future estimation you made the wrong choice, there’s no appeal you can make about that. It’s a critical break, instead: if you fucked up, you better do better next time. You better determine to what extent you wish to be involved with how you’re governed, and get it right. Be bitterly cynical, or idealistically furious, or smugly triumphant…but knowing that it’ll all be because of how you voted, what mark you finally made on a ballot, and then what happened in terms of somebody interpreting a mandate because of that. You don’t have to be the smartest voter you can be, and in fact you will probably never be the smartest voter you can be…I know I’m not…but at least you will be able to call your vote a piece of shit in later years, if that’s what it turns out to be. You’ll have the privilege of having been at fault for allowing things to turn out poorly in your own estimation.
I think STV takes all that away. It’s not unlike blog-posts, really…”oops, what you’re looking for isn’t here!” Sorry, I made a mistake, but it doesn’t matter…sorry, I wrote the “X” in the wrong place, but y’know…fuck it, what does it matter? I hit the wrong button. But that guy’s probably not going to win anyway, and still somewhere out there floats my second, third, fourth preference, and one of those’ll probably attach to a winner somehow…
Just don’t ask me to take the heat for it, if it doesn’t work out.
Here, I’ll just write another post. Happy now?
Fucking dreamland; I hate it. We can’t live that way.
I think the STV system demeans the ethical solitude of the individual elector, standing in the booth with the stub of a pencil in his or her hand. This is not a Province with a hell of a lot of people in it, but we’re far-flung, and therefore we’ve got a lot of weight sitting on top of us, in that booth. That’s a very particular sort of voting dynamic. That’s a lot of responsibility, for a bunch of people we’ve never met, and whose physical and financial situations we don’t understand, because we haven’t visited them. And in a regular one-vote system it feels like it. And it’s frustrating. And it feels frustrating.
But what’s the margin of choice between the third candidate you select, and the fourth? Mix that up, and you might hold the balance of power in a contest you never intended to adjudicate…a contest that you deeply disapprove. But you will not get to say NO to it, once it’s on. They will take your third-place vote and run off with it someplace, and all you’ll be able to say is “but…but it was a joke!”
I’m all for electoral reform. I think a lot about electoral reform. Heck, I wouldn’t mind having some electoral reform! But I strongly disapprove of this system. Are we also voting on the advisories planted at the polling place, telling people that they don’t have to mark a second preference, third preference, fourth preference, if they don’t want to? Can I get a party campaigning on STV, please? Can I get a motherfucking professor of psychology explaining to me what happens when we test out this shit? I’m all for referenda, too…but this, in my opinion, is salami tactics. We already had this vote, and we voted “no” by a ten-percent margin. This is a system where partial votes get thrown to whoever can gobble them up: we voted NO to this before, but back then we had a real debate about it. Province-wide. Highly-publicized. This time, by comparison, it’s just being slipped in. THE SAME GODDAMN THING.
But not treated the same way. I would prefer a reform that includes the ability of the voter to write in what party they think the person they’re voting for ought to belong to, for example. If we are going to talk about changing things, we ought to throw the doors wide open. But this is some evilly overcontrolled shit, right here, this is answering a promise with a dilemma, this is the Lady and the Tiger, except the Lady is a Tiger, and whaddaya want? This is like the “privatization” of liquor stores…just old Government stores charging higher prices, but with less accountability and less selection, and at a higher price. So what’s in it for fucking YOU, you know? Greater choice for investors, which means in practical terms lesser choice for consumers — less powerful choosing! — and on somebody else’s terms, too. Mark the comparison: a chance to vote again, on the same thing you voted against five years ago. Just you know, in case you made a mistake, and want a do-over. A chance to spend more, to buy the same thing.
It’s like we’re counting “no” votes as “kinda yes; ask me again” votes. It’s Magic 8-Ball voting. “Reply Hazy”.
Screw that. If we can afford another referendum, we can afford another debate. But we haven’t had one. VOTE NO.
If you vote yes, they’ll never let you take it back, and they’ll say they consulted you, and that will be that. This is the way of thinking that says why should parties change, if voters want more…fucking voters should change, then. And pick more obscurely between the same choices they’ve been given since forever. Oh, and then we’ll sift it all out, what they want. There will be a numerical formula. So-and-so got in. Why? Hey, pleased to tell ya, just give us a week or two to collate the data…
This post officially invites dissenting commentary from the politically-minded. I want reform. But I want reform that makes things better. And I don’t want reform that’s politically-guided, but under the covers. This thing, in my opinion, is a shuck ‘n’ jive. If you want electoral reform, you oughtta ask for the kind you want…but make sure you don’t ask for the kind that salves your conscience, because that isn’t what voting’s about. This model might work rather well on the municipal level. But isn’t that how Rome got Caesar? By trying to extend the principles of municipal governance to a much bigger territory? Well if they hadn’t’ve got Caesar, they would’ve got famine and blood.
Let’s be smarter than them, about this shit. I’m for electoral reform. After eight months of debate, last time, I sized up my life and voted “no” to this proposition
I’m permanently on record that way, and I see no reason to retract my vote, or apologize. I’m happy with the way things worked out last time.
They would like elections to be less complicated, at the point-of-sale. We would like elections to be less complicated, at the point-of-sale. But what we want, and what we’ve bound ourselves to do, are different things. And we oughtta think about that.
So here endeth the lesson, and begins the prayer.