There have been several excellent explanations of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system used in local elections recently: the catchphrase “Vote Till You Boak” has gained ground. One of the most concise comes courtesy of Dr. Morag Kerr:
However, I can’t help but wonder if there’s a metaphor that we can employ to explain this more visually. Video games do it all the time: behind every pixel and polygon is reams of code, algorithm, and calculations. The average player doesn’t have to have deep knowledge of coding to know how to play the game, but there’s an implicit understanding that there is a logic behind everything that happens in the game, and that the game won’t break those rules to create an unfair advantage against the players (unless you’re Capcom, Namco, or SNK, the cheap scoundrels).
So, for the purposes of illustration, what if we treat the local elections system as if it was a video game?
Let’s pick one of the most well-known video game franchises, which (hopefully) you have heard of: Super Mario Kart. Take the classic Mario Kart racers:
- Mario and Luigi represent Team Bros
- Bowser and Koopa Troopa represent Team Koopa
- Princess Peach represents Team Mushroom;
- Yoshi represents Team Dinosaur
- Donkey Kong Jr. is an independent racer
- Toad represents Team Mushroom
So, if I were a resident of Toad Town, here’s how I would vote:
Mario and Luigi are hard-working plumbers who work tirelessly for their community, often putting themselves at great risk in doing so: they receive my 1st and 2nd votes.
Peach is beloved, popular, and proactive, earning an easy 3rd vote; her running partner Toad is loyal, hard-working, and honest, which wins my 4th vote.
Yoshi is inexperienced and a bit difficult to understand, but enthusiastic, and happy to work with others, particularly the Bros and Mushrooms: combined with the fact he’s a dinosaur, he has my 5th vote.
Donkey Kong Jr. has a turbulent history with the Bros, but is independent, and will not necessarily ally with any particular party: he is the “least worst” 6th vote option in the last three candidates.
Of the Koopas, Troopa is ultimately just a lackey, and so any harm he could do would be minimised by his lack of cunning and wit, which makes him the marginally less terrible 7th vote choice of the Koopas.
Bowser, of course, is a megalomaniacal warlord who wants to conquer Mushroom Kingdom & eat baby mushrooms, ergo 8th vote.
You can put any combination of Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, and Yoshi in there depending on whether you support plumbers, fungi, or dinosaurs most, but would prefer one of them got in over a rampaging tyrant like Bowser. Indeed, you might even *like* Koopa Troopa as an individual, and so even put him higher up than Kong or Yoshi – because the central idea is to put the candidates you want in first in numerical order, and the candidates you don’t want to get in last in numerical order.
That sound good?