Vote for your party but spare a thought for your local independent.
The council electoral system is a complex one but in a nutshell, The single transferable vote (STV) is a voting system designed to achieve proportional representation through ranked voting in multi-seat constituencies. This is done by getting you, the electorate to rank your choices according to preference from one to however many people are standing in your area. You can choose to rank them all or only the ones you which to have your vote transferred to as the count progresses.
Under STV, you have a single vote that is initially allocated to your most preferred candidate and, as the count proceeds and candidates are either elected or eliminated, is transferred to other candidates according to your stated preferences, in proportion to any surplus or discarded votes.
The system provides approximately proportional representation, enables votes to be cast for individual candidates rather than for parties, and—compared to first-past-the-post voting—reduces “wasted” votes (votes on sure losers or sure winners) by transferring them to other candidates.
An opportunity for your local area.
There can be no arguing that in the modern democracy, parties do what parties do best, namely follow their party line. Indeed most parties have what are called a whip, an individual within the party tasked with ensuring that all of the elected representatives from that party in the organisation (whether it be the council, Scottish or UK parliament) vote with the party, particularly when it is an important vote for the party.
This, while being great for the party, doesn’t bode so well for many constituencies, because ultimately a policy applied to one area may not be appropriate for another. Often, party candidates may not actually reside in the ward which they are being elected to.
The question here is who is more able to understand the needs of a local community, a person who is a party candidate and may have to sacrifice those needs in order to side with the party line, or an independent with no ties to any party who can vote for the needs of their constituency each and every time.
The irony is that this is not a choice you have to make, between a party or between a local independent. It is very much a system setup to allow you to have both your cake and to eat it as well. Most people will already have decided on the party they would like to vote for and for the parties they are definitely not going to vote for. The Single transferable vote system is complicated but in a nutshell, allows you to make a vote for all three conditions.
- You can vote for your party as your first ranked candidates i.e. if the party you support is standing 2 candidates, you get to rank them on the ballot as 1 and 2.
- You can also vote for your local independent who will vote for the needs of the local community each and every time by ranking them next (number 3).
- You then have a choice of ranking the other parties and candidates next, of course, this is purely optional, there is no rule that says you have to rank any of them and indeed can leave the box beside their name blank, this is a choice that is purely between you and the ballot paper.
The real quirk of the single transferable vote system is that by ranking an independent next after your preferred party you can actually assist your party in the process, because (and this is a very basic explanation) by placing an independent above the parties you either don’t like and ranking the others lower, or by putting an independent above them and just not ranking the others, you actually end up bumping them down the ballot when the counting begins and votes are transferred.
In either case, in Scotland 1 in 4 of elected councillors are in fact independent and this is ultimately a good thing for local communities. They will go into the chamber of your local council and vote for policies (regardless of who puts them forward) that will benefit your local community and vote against policies (regardless of who puts them forward) which will negatively effect your local area.
So this council election, spare a thought for your local candidate because ultimately each time they vote, they vote for the best interests of you and your local community, not weighed down by partisan politics.