Ireland uses a voting system called the Single Transferable Vote (STV). It’s very simple to use, yet has had a number of myths built up about it, so I thought I’d do a simple guide.
1. Put a number 1 beside the person you definitely want to win, a number 2 beside your second choice, and continue all down in order of your choice. Don’t worry if you think they haven’t got a chance, because the system takes care of that. It’s asking you “If your favourite isn’t strong enough to be elected, who is your second choice? And if they’re not strong enough?” and so on.
2. Don’t try to second guess how other people will vote. VOTE FOR WHO YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO WIN!
3. STV is almost unique as a voting system in letting you actively vote AGAINST someone. If there is a candidate in, say, the Blackrock ward in Dun Laoghaire, for argument’s sake, that you definitely DON’T want to win, you should give a preference to EVERY single other candidate. This is important. By doing so, you are making your vote available to the strongest candidate availble to beat your hated candidate. If you don’t want to give preferences to other candidates, that’s fair enough, but imagine how you will feel if your candidate is narrowly elected because your vote didn’t transfer to the person who almost beat them?
4. The big myth: your preferences (2,3,4, etc) have absolutely NO EFFECT on the previous preference. That means that if you are, say, a Fine Gael voter, and you vote 1,2,3 for the FG candidates, and then give your 4th preference to a Fianna Fail candidate, that will not harm the chances of the three FG candidates in ANY WAY.
5. Unlike the actual voting, the system of counting votes can be a bit technical, and for someone like me who did “sums” in the Leaving, I’ll leave it to others to explain. Suffice to say, if there are five seats, if you get just over one-sixth of the vote you’ll be elected, and sometimes with less. It’s a pretty fair system.