About the BC-STV web polls

How should I vote?
Rank the candidates you support (first is best). If you don't support a candidate at all, don't rank that candidate. Ranking a lower choice can't hurt the chances of your higher choices.

What's the basic idea behind this?
BC-STV is designed to produce satisfactory representation for everyone, with majority rule.

If your favorite candidate has too few votes to win, your vote will be transferred to your next favorite, if possible.

If your favorite candidate has more than enough votes, some ballots may be partially transferred so that all winners represent roughly equal numbers of voters.

How are votes counted?
It's easiest to understand this by just watching how the votes move on the results pages, but here are the detailed rules for the count.
  1. In the first round, each ballot is assigned to its highest-ranked candidate. In later rounds, a fraction of a ballot may be permanently assigned to a winner. The remainder counts toward the highest-ranked candidate who has not yet won or lost.
  2. If any candidates have enough votes to win (as described below) they are declared elected.
  3. A shortcut: if only two candidates remain to fill the last seat, and no winners have more than enough votes, the one with the most votes wins.
  4. If all seats are filled, or there are not more candidates than seats, all remaining are declared elected, and the count is finished.
  5. If any winners have more than enough votes, those elected in the earliest round, and then the one of those with the most votes is identified. All ballots assigned to that candidate are split into a fraction (defined below) that stays assigned to that candidate and a fraction that will count toward continuing candidates in subsequent rounds, leaving the candidate with just enough votes.
  6. If no candidates exceeded the threshold in this round, the last-place candidate is eliminated.
  7. This process repeats until it is finished.

Hey! This is too complicated!
The rules behind BC-STV appear complex, but only because they put nearly all of the electoral controls within reach of the voter. With currently used methods, the outcome of most elections is determined primarily by political consultants who use sophisticated computer algorithms and large databases to manipulate district boundaries and reduce competition. Casting a BC-STV vote is straightforward, but with current methods, voters must fret over strategy to avoid wasting their vote on a loser or on someone who would win anyway. Don't give up!

How many votes does a candidate need to win?
A candidate is guaranteed victory if his or her number of votes exceeds the minimum it could be without making it possible for too many candidates to win (that would be a majority in the case of a single-winner election). If each elected candidate achieves this, then a majority of the people elected represents a majority of the voting public.

The formula for the threshold is:

threshold = 1 + total votes

# winners + 1
 rounded down to a whole number. 
  So if 100 votes were cast:

SeatsVotes needed
234
326
421
517
615
713

Note that it is possible for candidates to win without reaching the threshold if they are the only ones left. This is especially likely if a large number of ballots end up with all of their choices eliminated.

In a multi-winner election, how do you choose which votes stay assigned to a winner?
A fraction of each of the winner's ballots is transferred to its next choice. This fraction is equal to the fraction of those votes above the threshold:

total votes - threshold

total votes

This ensures that all winners represent constituencies of similar size, and that people don't avoid voting for popular candidates, thinking that they will get elected anyway.

What happens if there is a tie?
Ties are not a very significant issue in public elections, because the number of ballots is large and ties are statistically rare. However, in a demonstration poll like this, they can happen frequently. In BC-STV, they are broken by comparing votes in successively previous rounds, or by random lot if that fails.

Why didn't the totals change after I voted?
They did - try pressing your browser's 'Refresh' button.

I still don't get it!
We want to make sure that everyone who uses this site leaves with a comfortable understanding of how ranked-choice voting works. Please send your questions using our feedback form.

I disagree with the results!
The results are shown only so people can see how the count works. The purpose of this site is to help as many people as possible become comfortable with BC-STV, and people are welcome to vote as many times as it takes for them to achieve this. It is a fundamental limitation of any web poll that there is no convenient way to keep a highly accurate record of who votes and how often (however, we do offer a decent solution for smaller-scale invitation-only polls). Furthermore, our marketing budget is $0, so we can't even dream of reaching enough BC voters to ensure an unbiased, statistically valid sample. We have chosen to make a demonstration poll using the actual candidates because this stirs up enough emotion to get people to participate without our having to spend money on advertising. A disadvantage of this is that some fraction of users will become irate. In the past we have tried using polls with more abstract topics, but they just don't get a significant number of votes. If you disagree with the results, our recommendation is to invite a few hundred of your friends to vote for your more preferred candidate.

This poll is processed using DemoChoice web poll software.