Local Election votes only fully count if you use all your options

In first-past-the-post voting (Westminster), you either vote or you don’t. Under the additional member system (Holyrood), you have one vote, but in two parts. You must vote in each to vote fully. You can vote, vote on a part or refuse to vote. Under the single transferable vote system (local elections), things get much murkier. You have one vote, but it is transferable. And this is where things get complicated. You can’t actually vote even if you cast a vote! To make sure your vote counts, you must make all possible transfers. If you do this, your vote will count for the highest ranking candidate on your list, to the point where it is needed.

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Most people’s votes will count on their first or second option. But we can’t know how many votes will be needed to reach the quotient, and that’s because it’s only calculated after the total number of votes cast is known.

The quotient, Q, is calculated by dividing the total votes cast (T) by the number of seats (S) available plus 1. Then an additional seat is added.

Let’s explain this a bit. The votes cast are sorted into piles according to their first choices. The total number of votes is counted. The number of places is known. The quota is calculated: Q= {T/(S+1)} +1. Any candidate having obtained more than the quotient is elected. And votes at the equivalent of Q are removed from their stack and allocated to a seat. At the end of the first round, all candidates respecting the quota are elected. The candidate with the fewest votes is removed from the count. Their votes are now transferred to the best available candidate remaining on their selection. All candidates still in the running retain all their votes and have all transfers added. Those who left the vote due to their election have their remaining votes transferred.

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The second round begins. The process continues until all seats have been elected by quota. Votes that have never been used obviously do not count and cannot be transferred. But all votes that were not used to elect one of their selections are also discarded. Those who voted via the card, but were unsuccessful, will exit via the loser pile in the tally between the last two considered candidates.

Under STV, you can only be sure that your vote has been fully counted by voting with your card.

By doing less, your vote becomes Schrödinger’s vote. You can’t be sure if you voted or not until you verify, even if you know you actually voted!

It only takes a few more seconds, why let you worry?

Brian Kelly
Dunfermline

IN a week dominated by Tory deception and lies, the latest Scottish Labor leaflet for our local elections shows that they are in the same barrel. There is no ambiguity about the bold headline – “Money on Your Bills”. He continues: ‘Scottish Labor has a clear plan… our plan would provide over £1,000 of support…’ Nowhere does it explain that the measures to provide this to voters are entirely beyond the powers of Scottish councils. If all 32 councils were Labour-led it would make no difference.

The only conceivable way for voters to get that £1,000 is through a Labor government in Westminster. Undoubtedly, Anas Sarwar knows when the Conservatives are in power and when the next general election is due. However, to win council votes, he knowingly and shamelessly deceives and exploits the vulnerable, who fear serious hardship, with a false promise of money he knows Labor councilors cannot keep. Contemptible.

Robert Farquharson
Edinburgh


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