A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Electoral Reform – Choosing the Committee Members

This week the government has announced the structure of the all party parliamentary committee that will study what electoral system reforms will be put before parliament. Unfortunately they did not accept suggestions that said committee should not have a majority members from any political party (in this instance the Liberals). As several commentators have said, myself included, this leaves them wide open to being accused of swaying the outcome to their own particular preference. Indeed such accusations are already being made before the actual members of said committee have even been selected, true a member of the Bloc and Ms May representing the greens are to be included BUT as ex-officio members with no voting rights. We have yet to see exactly who will be on said committee or how they will be selected.

It seems to me that given these two ex-officio members a say in the actual outcome would even thing out by giving the committee with three Tories and a single NDP MP versus 6 Liberal members a more even and less partisan appearance. I will say here that I personally prefer the ranked ballot favoured by the Libs and, despite being a Green Party member do not agree with their stance as preferring “proportional representation” (although that term is meaningless without also saying what method of obtaining that outcome you favour), I do trust Ms May to make decisions and recommendations only after fully reviewing all the options. I just feel that such an important decision must not only be free of partisan interference but must be seen and perceived as such.

Whilst the actual voting system is getting all the attention thus far it must be remembered that the committee is also charged will examining several other aspects of our voting system including the physical manner in which we vote and identification of voters. In that regard I note that Ontario has said its trial of using modern technology to improve the process has been deemed a success and be recommended for adoption for future elections in Ontario.

If Elections Ontario has its way it will require 41 per cent fewer staff when the province goes to the polls in 2018 — yet voters will cast ballots faster and get results more quickly.
A substantial investment in new technology is the key to delivering these efficiencies, and Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa is urging Queen’s Park to spend $36 million on new gear. This represents a solid investment in democracy, one that should be undertaken soon since it will take about two years to put the proposed new system in place.
Rather than having voters line up at tables while polling station workers look up each name on a paper record, staff would use electronic poll books in the form of a laptop or computer tablet. These can instantly scan a voter’s notice of registration card, significantly speeding up the process.
Furthermore, instead of marking a conventional ballot, electors would indicate their choice on a sheet that would then be electronically scanned by a vote tabulator. It’s a fast and highly accurate system. With this, Elections Ontario estimates it could report 90 per cent of results within about half an hour of polls closing.
Whilst I would love to be able to vote electronically either at the voting booth of from home via the internet there is one seemingly insurmountable problem with getting such a system – veryfiability – both at the time and after the fact so the above system seems like a good compromise.

One issue that I hope both Ontario and the Committee will consider closely is the design of the paper (card?) ballot bearing in mind that it should be both simple to understand and mark and machine readable, the ballots used in the past where tabulating machines were used were far from ideal and depending upon the system selected for federal elections could become much more complex.

The Government's main objective is to replace first-past-the-post with a system that will deliver better governments for all Canadians and asks the committee to focus on five key principles to get this done:
  1. The link between voter intention and election results;
    ii) How to foster civility in politics and increase voter participation;
    iii) Steps to strengthen inclusiveness and accessibility;
    iv) Ways to safeguard the integrity of our voting system; and,
    v) Taking into account local representation.

They also have said they have several other objectives on this file but its unclear if they will be included in the committees study! Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers


Unknown said...

Thanks for posting this Rural. I'm afraid there is alot about electoral reform that I do not yet understand and am proceeding to do just that. Your posts on this subject help. I do fervently hope though that partisanship does not influence the final outcome.

Rural said...

I have been studying and writing about our electoral system and alternative systems for many years Pamela and hope my writings help folks to get a better grasp on this very complex subject. Click on the Electoral Reform tag in the labels list in the RH panel for MUCH more on the subject!

Owen Gray said...

As usual, Rural, you cover the topic thoroughly.

Ron Waller said...

Trudeau was right taking the traditional majority in the electoral reform committee. No opposition parties are willing to make any compromises. If the Liberals didn't have the majority, they could never get enough support to do anything.

I like what Justin is doing so far. Like his half-way senate reform, he's trying to do SOMETHING after all the failures among the provinces.

Whatever accusations people level against the Liberals, the fact is their party is really split 4 ways on ER: establishment Liberals demand FPTP; some support PR; some support semi-PR; some support ranked ballots. So the Liberal party is really representative of Canadians on the issue.

(I'm not a Liberal, BTW. Just frustrated with all the ignorance and corruption surrounding this fundamentally important issue. The establishment is ridiculous peddling FPTP and complaining about a non-proportional committee.)

Rural said...

I try to do so Owen....and to be non partisan and objective!

Rural said...

I cannot entirely disagree with you Ron however as I said in the post "such an important decision must not only be free of partisan interference but must be seen and perceived as such"