The Steering Committee of the EPEA is elected by the members of the EPEA. It meets every 6 months in some part of Europe, and convenes with the General Council every two years.
It works on behalf of the membership, providing leadership, promoting and administering the association. It meets to achieve progress within a strategic plan of development and to carry through the policy decisions identified by the Officers (Chair, Secretary & Treasurer) and Regional Representatives (North, South, East, West & Central), the General Council and the membership of the association.
The election of Regional Representatives onto the Steering Committee takes place at General Council, (this is unlike the election of the Officers of the Steering Committee who are elected by all members through a postal ballot). As with all EPEA elections, the election of Regional Representatives is by secret ballot and by means of single transferable vote.
Single Transferable Vote Explained
According to the EPEA Constitution “all elections are by secret ballot and by means of the single transferable vote.” While the importance of a secret ballot is clear to all, many people are confused by the Single Transferable Vote (STV) and fail to see a justified rationale for its adoption. This short article is an attempt to explain this voting procedure in a simplified manner and answer membership concerns.
The rationale behind adopting this particular voting procedure is simply because it is the most democratic way in which to conduct an election and it is considered to be the most suitable election procedure for an organisation. It is used widely in university elections where it is deemed more important to vote for the candidate than the faculty he or she represents. The governments of Ireland, Malta and Australia are elected by STV, as are many local governments in other countries. The deeper democratic nature of STV lies with the fact that every vote cast by every elector carries equal value and there is no such thing as a wasted vote. It limits the ability of one group to dominate, it ensures a broader representation and it widens the choice for the electorate. The proportional nature of STV means that significant minorities are more likely to win their fair share of seats, and everyone is more likely to have voted for at least some of those who are elected. Unlike with the more common ‘first past the post’ procedure where there is a risk of a candidate who actually holds a low level of support being elected simply due to a split vote between the more popular candidates, in STV, the candidate with the majority of high ranking votes wins. But perhaps this is making it sound more complicated than it really is and it is now best to just explain how STV works.
In order to explain the procedure, I will use the example of a simplified mock election. In this election there are 3 candidates (A, B & C) running for one position. There are 100 people voting.
How to Vote
For the voter the process is the most straightforward possible. They receive what is a called a preferential ballot sheet and they rank the candidates according to their preference. This means that they write the number 1 beside the name of the candidate they wish to win, 2 beside their second choice and so on until they their least favourite candidate gets the lowest ranking possible. It is not necessary to vote for all candidates, the voter can simply vote for their number 1, and a ballot sheet with only a first preference (number 1 vote) is as valid as a completed ballot sheet.
For the election officer (the counter) it may seem complicated but in fact the principle is straightforward. Obviously, it is more complex and perhaps more time consuming than the ‘first past the post’ system, but it presents no greater difficulty in terms of procedure. The first thing the counter must do is set the quota. The quota is 50% of the votes plus 1. So the counter must count the number of ballot sheets and then divide this number by 2 and add 1. The quota is always determined by counting the number of valid ballot sheets returned and dividing this number in half and then adding 1. The addition of 1 is to ensure that there will not be a tie. A candidate is elected when they gain a quota of the votes cast; in short, the quota is the minimum number of votes needed in order to be elected. The candidate who reaches the quota first is the winner.