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The single transferable vote (STV) is a voting system designed to achieve proportional representation through ranked voting in multi-seat organizations or constituencies (voting districts). Under STV, an elector (voter) has a single vote that is initially allocated to their most preferred candidate. Votes are totalled and a quota (the number of votes required to win a seat) derived. If their candidate achieves quota, he/she is elected and in some STV systems any surplus vote is transferred to other candidates in proportion to the voters' stated preferences. If more candidates than seats remain, the bottom candidate is eliminated with his/her votes being transferred to other candidates as determined by the voters' stated preferences. These elections and eliminations, and vote transfers if applicable, continue until there are only as many candidates as there are unfilled seats. The specific method of transferring votes varies in different systems (see Counting methods).
The system provides approximately proportional representation while mostly ensuring that the party with the most votes gets the most seats and that minorities have some representation; enables votes to be cast for individual candidates rather than for parties and party machine-controlled party lists, and – compared to first-past-the-post voting – reduces "wasted" votes (votes being wasted on losers and surplus votes being wasted on sure winners) by transferring them to other candidates.
STV is the system of choice of groups such as the Proportional Representation Society of Australia (which calls it quota-preferential proportional representation), the Electoral Reform Society in the United Kingdom and FairVote in the USA (which refers to both STV and instant-runoff voting as ranked-choice voting, although there are other preferential voting methods that use ranked-choice ballots). Its critics contend that some voters find the mechanisms behind STV difficult to understand, but this does not make it more difficult for voters to "rank the list of candidates in order of preference" on an STV ballot paper (see Voting).

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