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          Single Transferable Vote proportional representation

         (PR-STV) can gain a majority vote at referendums

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AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY: A 1992 plebiscite led to Hare-Clark’s becoming the ACT's electoral system, and a 1995 referendum entrenched that by approving the passage of the ACT’s Proportional Representation (Hare-Clark) Entrenchment Act 1994.


Section 5(1) of that Act requires either a referendum to be carried by a majority of the electors on the ACT electoral roll, or a special majority vote of two-thirds of all the members of the Legislative Assembly, before any of the provisions that entrench the key provisions of the Territory’s Hare-Clark system can be repealed.


The plebiscite and the referendum were each carried by 65% of the vote, which was a majority of those on the ACT electoral roll.


BRITISH COLUMBIA: A referendum, held with the province's 2005 elections, was about replacing the system of single-member electorates for the Legislative Assembly (the only house in the Legislature) with a Hare-Clark system of proportional representation with the single transferable vote, including countback for filling casual vacancies and Robson Rotation.

The Liberal Party promised the referendum before the 2001 elections, where it won 77 of the 79 seats

(97%), based on just over 57 % of the vote.

The proposal for direct-election proportional representation, known as BC-STV, won just over 57% of the overall vote, and majorities in 77 of the province's 79 electorates, i.e. 97% of the electorates.

Unfortunately the referendum result was not binding, as it would have been had it met the statutory requirement for a 60% overall vote. The Liberal Government, returned in 2005 with 46 of the 79 seats (58%), based on only 45.8% of the vote, has determined that it will hold another identical referendum in May 2009, after the BC Electoral Commission has set notional boundaries for a multi-member system, in order to show voters how such a new system would operate in practice. The 57% referendum result was a much higher vote than that 45.8% vote that the government party received, entitling it to its full law-making power.


The second referendum in May 2009 unfortunately showed a reversal in support for the PR option, and it failed, but it still achieved a higher percentage vote than either of the failed MMP plebiscites below.


Not surprisingly, the two referendums in Canadian provinces proposing a Mixed Member Proportional system (MMP) like New Zealand’s failed dismally. They showed that the existing single-member system - which was the only alternative presented - to be markedly more popular, with only 36% for MMP in Prince Edward Island province in 2005, and 37% for MMP in Ontario province in 2007. In Ontario, MMP received a majority vote in less than 5% of the province’s 107 electorates, which contrasts sharply with British Columbia, where 97% of electorates preferred the Hare-Clark type of single transferable vote proposed.


NEW ZEALAND: Following a Royal Commission that recommended MMP, and a non-preferential plebiscite that included MMP, quota-preferential PR, and two other options, a 1993 referendum replaced the single-member electorate system used for NZ's unicameral Parliament with a Mixed Member Proportional system. It gives overall party proportionality, but is quite inferior to Hare-Clark, as most MPs are elected in single-member districts. The rest are elected indirectly from party lists.


REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: The 1959 referendum that the Government under Eamon de Valera held to replace the requirement in Article 16.2 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland for a proportional representation electoral system using the single transferable vote with a requirement instead for a single-member electoral system with each voter having a single non-transferable vote (first-past-the-post) showed 51.79% for PR.


The only attempt since then, at a similar 1968 referendum, showed 60.84% for PR. In that 1968 referendum, the Government referred to the proposed reversion to single-member constituencies with first-past-the-post voting, by means of the euphemism “straight vote”, but that did not prevent the 17% increase in the vote for PR compared with the 1959 referendum. Subsequent governments have wisely not revisited the issue.


Further information on Hare-Clark is in the Tasmanian Section of A Brief History of the PRSA and its Purpose.


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