Your correspondent has this evening returned from being trained as a volunteer campaigner for the single transferable vote system being introduced at the local council elections for Scotland on 3rd May. The training was delivered to an eager audience of potential volunteers in Inveraray by the network development officer of the Scottish office of the Electoral Reform Society. All one of us.
PtC first encountered STV when a callow youth at university in Birmingham (West Midlands, not Alabama), where the system was used to elect representatives to the student union council and for other offices.
The STV system in Scotland will mean that Councils will have multi-member wards, where the electorate will be able to indicate their preferences and elect, between them, three or four councillors in each new ward. The method used is terribly cunning, but a little complicated to explain in detail. Suffice to say, the more preferences that the individual voter expresses on her ballot paper, the better her views and opinions are likely to be represented in the councillors that are finally elected.
There is loads more information at the ERS Scotland website here, so take a look if you want to know more. There’s also lots of technical information on the vote-counting process at the Wikipedia article here.
The intention is that I shall be available to talk to any group who wants to know more about the STV system in the run-up to the elections on 3rd May and I will do my best to meet with any group or organisation in Argyll (or at least the reasonably-accessible bits) in the next 55 days.
The ERS want particularly to get information to groups such as the elderly, women, rural communities, EU-non-UK voters, young people and so on. They are running a number of campaigns with good prizes, including the Democrazy 2007 competition for bands and musicians.
I have to admit that I had very simplistic ideas about STV when I met George from the ERS earlier this evening. I’ve left meeting him much more aware of how important fair voting election methods such STV are for ensuring that our democratic processes are inclusive and representative of the wide range of views and concerns that local electorates can have.
This is all about fair votes, about ensuring that those who are elected have the consent of all the electors who cast their ballot. There’s going to be a big change coming in local democracy as a consequence of STV and that’s no bad thing. The system is going to take some time to get used to, but ERS volunteers like myself have a role to play in that.
You’ll be seeing a bit more about STV and the local elections in the next 55 days, but use the comments system to find out more; local democracy is coming to Scotland.