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Public Choice and the Challenges of Democracy

Edited by José Casas Pardo and Pedro Schwartz

This timely and important volume addresses the serious challenges faced by democracy in contemporary society. With contributions from some of the world’s most prestigious scholars of public choice and political science, this comprehensive collection presents a complete overview of the threats democracy must confront, by both contesting accepted ideas and offering new approaches. Using theoretical and empirical evidence, this book will be a significant addition to the current literature, providing original and enlightening perspectives on the theory of democracy.
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Chapter 14: The Unequal Treatment of Voters Under a Single Transferable Vote: Implications for Electoral Welfare with an Application to the 2003 Northern Ireland Assembly Elections

Vani K. Borooah


Vani K. Borooah* 1 INTRODUCTION The single transferable vote (STV) is a method of voting that allows voters to rank candidates (as opposed to parties) in order of preference. Under STV, each voter is allowed to write a number against the name of each candidate listed on the ballot paper, where this number expresses the voter’s preference for the candidate: the most preferred candidate has a ‘1’ against his/her name, the next most preferred a ‘2’, and so on. The first stage of the count is to ascertain the total number of first-preference votes for each candidate. Any candidate who has more first-preference votes than the ‘quota’1 is immediately elected. If no candidate achieves the quota, the candidates with the lowest number of votes is eliminated and the second preferences on his/her ballot papers are assigned to the remaining candidates. If a candidate is elected at a particular count, the surplus votes (that is, votes in excess of the quota) are redistributed, according to the subsequent (or ‘next available’) preferences on the ballot papers, to the remaining candidates.2 National parliamentary elections in Ireland (Sinnott, 1993 provides a good analysis) – and elections to the Assembly and to local district councils in Northern Ireland – are underpinned by STV. It is also used in Malta and for elections to the Tasmanian – and the Australian Capital Territory – Legislative Assembly. The rationale for the STV method is twofold. First, each ballot paper is capable of expressing the preference ordering of voters over all the candidates...

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