Single Transferable Vote

With the Single Transferable Vote, you get a Parliament where the strength of the parties matches the strength of their support in the country, and MPs have a strong local link.

The Single Transferable Vote (STV) is a form of proportional representation developed in Britain and used in the English speaking world. It is currently used for most elections in Northern Ireland, and Scottish local elections. Elsewhere in the world it used for elections in Malta, the Republic of Ireland and for the Australian Senate.

How to vote

Rather than elect one person to represent everyone in an relatively small area, with the Single Transferable Vote, bigger areas elect a small team of MPs that reflect the diversity of opinions of the voters. Parties will often stand more than one candidate in each area.

In the polling station, voters put numbers next to candidates, with their favourite candidate as number one, their second favourite as number two, and so on. Voters can put numbers next to as many or as few candidates as they like.

"Voters don't have to worry about 'vote splitting' or tactical voting with STV – just put the candidates in order"

Electoral Reform Society

How it’s counted

To get elected, candidates need to reach a set share of the vote, known as the quota, determined by the number of positions to be filled.

Each voter gets just one vote, but the numbering provides instructions for the counters to allow the vote to transfer. Once all the votes are counted, any candidates who have more than the quota are elected. In order to properly represent the area, rather than waste votes over the quota, these votes are re-distributed based on the voter’s instructions. If no candidate gets elected then the worst performing candidate is eliminated and their votes redistributed. This process continues until all seats are filled.

"Transferring the surplus votes means candidates aren't punished for having popular running mates"

Electoral Reform Society

Effects and Features

The Single Transferable Vote is an electoral system that put the power in the hands of the public.

Unlike party-list PR, voters can support independents without worrying about wasting their vote. Due to this, independent candidates are strong in Ireland and in some Scottish councils.

Voters can also choose between representatives of the same party, whilst still allowing voters to transfer their vote between the candidates of the same party.

As a purely candidate centred system, voters can also cast preferences across candidates of different parties. Truly voting for the candidate and their individual abilities.

A constituency in the Single Transferable Vote might cover a small city or a county, say, creating a recognisable local link, but giving voters a choice of representatives to talk to.

Through this system, the Single Transferable Vote produces proportional results in parliament while also giving voters a high amount of power over candidates and a strong local link. Evidence from Scotland and Ireland suggests voters are capable of using it in quite sophisticated ways.

How to conduct an election by the Single Transferable Vote

Example Election

To calculate the quota: There were 109,525 valid votes cast and three seats to be filled. So, 109,525 divided by four (because we have three seats, plus one), then plus one = 27,382


Example walk-through

  1. John has easily reached the quota so is elected. His surplus votes are transferred based on the instructions on the ballots
  2. Many of John’s supporters liked his running-mate Mary. She gets enough of the transferred votes to be elected.
  3. Mary’s surplus votes are transferred but nobody has enough to be elected.
  4. Helen has been eliminated and the votes she won are transferred.
  5. Paul is also eliminated
  6. It’s now impossible for Sally to win, so Stephen wins the last seat.

Multi-Member Constituency Example

London with 3 and 4 seat STV constituencies
The white lines are the borders of London’s current constituencies, the different colours are potential multi-member constituencies.

Rather than having 3 single member constituencies next to each other, you have one multi-member constituency that elects 3 MPs. To better fit the natural, administrative and locally recognised boundaries, some of the new multi-member constituencies elect 3 and some 4 MPS. Constituencies designed by Lewis Baston