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Single Transferable Vote explained

The Single Transferable Vote (STV) method of voting is used around the world, notably in government elections in the Republic of Ireland and Australia. The University’s Single Transferable Vote regulations apply one of several recognised variants of STV.

This short video​ was produced by the Electoral Commission to explain the STV voting system in preparation for the Northern Ireland Assembly elections in 2022.

The following explanation of the Single Transferable Vote has been adapted from information published by and with permission from Civica

About the Single Transferable Vote 

The Single Transferable Vote is a logical system of voting designed to attain its objectives with economy, efficiency and certainty. It ensures that as far as possible every vote has a positive part in helping to approve at least one option or candidate, that no voting power is wasted and that no voter has a greater influence on the result than any other.

This is achieved by giving each voter ONE vote, irrespective of the number of options on the voting paper (or vacancies to be filled), and making that vote transferable. Voting papers are completed by placing the options or candidates in a preferred order against the figure ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’, etc. The figure ‘1’ represents the vote and is mandatory.* The rest are contingency markings and optional but important as they can influence the final result. For that reason voters are recommended to express preferences until they are unable to differentiate between any remaining options or candidates.

When votes are counted, the Returning Officer works to a quota. This is the number of votes a candidate or an option on the voting paper needs to receive to be approved and is calculated to a simple arithmetical formula.

Any option approved or candidate elected with more votes than needed (i.e. above the quota) has surplus votes transferred to the remaining options or candidates – again using a set formula. Votes of any options or candidates excluded from the count through insufficient support are also transferred. In both cases the contingency markings come into play, and thereby avoids votes being wasted as would be the case in a first-past-the-post vote or election.

It is important to remember that under no circumstances can a later preference count against an earlier preference and that failure to record preferences can limit the elector’s influence on the election result.

Prepared by Electoral Reform Services Limited

* Please note that, under the University’s STV regulations for elections, candidates are placed in preferred order by name against the numbers ‘1’, ‘2’, etc.