("borrowed" from a friend)
We have a provincial (like state) election here in BC next week. There is a referendum on the Single Transferable Vote. I hope it passes. It is a little confusing but the end result is that independents have more chance of being elected & the government is more likely to represent the popular vote. What it means is that elected representatives will have to be more responsive to their constituency than simply follow the party line. the system works well in Australia & Ireland. Political parties don't like it much as it lowers the influence they have on individual candidates..
Here is how it works:
Your ballot contains the choice of candidates, you indicate your 1st, 2nd 3rd choices, etc. Electoral distircts are made larger so each one now has 2 or 3 representatives rather than one. The total number to be elected remains the same.
Suppose candidate A needs 2000 votes to be elected. He gets 3000. That leaves an excess 1000 votes. The second choices on the ballots are looked at & then those excess 1000 votes distributed by percentage accordingly. If one candidate now reaches the threshold, that candidate is also elected. This allows people to place a second choice vote for an independent they may like or another party. For example you may be a left wing voter but also like the "Green Party". Well you can vote for your socialist party & cast your 2nd choice for the Green party who would not normally have a hope in hell of being elected. If enough do that, the Green party will become the second representative for that district. If we assume the Green party normally collects 10% of the vote overall, that means that they now have a representative, whereas, that 10% would normally be wasted votes.
In other words if you live in an area where your vote never counts, (EG your a left wing voter in a wealthy area or a right wing voter in Skid Row), your vote can actually now count for something.