Maltese voters are selecting the people they want to represent them in Local government as well as at the European level.
They are using what is known as the Single Transferable Vote system emphasis on the ‘transferable’ part… this is very important later. Malta has been using this system since the 1920s for its National elections, with some modifications after the 1981 anomalous results.
So it’s one vote, its Transferable, but it still leaves many confused.
Let’s break it down.
So you go to the polling station and you’re given your ballot paper. You’re confronted with a number of candidates and you have to number them by preference, 1, 2,3… to how many candidates appear on the paper. For the European elections this is selecting your preferences from 41 candidates. The same applies at the Local level of each locality. The candidates are grouped by party and it’s your choice of candidate, not the party’s who gets to go to Brussels.
That’s it done then? Well partly.
First count, second count – Elimination and Transfer
Each candidate has to hit a quota of votes in order for them to win a seat in the European Parliament or the Local Council.
These quotas are calculated by dividing the number of votes by the number of seats plus one and then plus one more vote. So, if you have say, 100,000 votes and 4 seats, the quota would be 20,001 (division by 5 plus 1 vote). The rationale here is that only 4 people could possibly get 20,001 votes. the remaining 19,996 can never reach the quota. These are then re-distributed on second count and so on.
In the European elections, this works out as the division of votes between 7 rather than the 6 Maltese seats, plus one vote.
With the estimated number of voters being 371,625 and the estimated turnout reported to be 71.3% (264,969), this works out that candidates must achieve 37,096 votes to pass the quota and be elected.
But, as the count proceeds and candidates are eliminated because they fail to win enough to pass the quota, a second count is held. This proportionately ‘transfers’ surplus votes from those already past the quota to second preference candidates on the ballot papers. This can also extend to a third count or more if need be. These additional counts are based on what the Electoral Commission considers valid beyond the first round.
The way STV works, it can be mean that even a candidate with the highest number of votes in the first round, does not guarantee they’re elected. The process of making your preference as well as where you sit on the ballot paper can mean you’re at a greater advantage.
It sounds complex yes.. but it’s also meant to give voters the chance to both select the party that wins but also to choose who they want. This is what is referred to as ‘cross voting.’
So technically, you could vote for one of the main parties to win but still also choose someone else completely different. This is a more common occurrence in local council elections.