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, July 19, 2009

Preferential Ballots

I spotted this post from Jeffery Nichols on the Green Party blog site a while back, upon reflection I think he may well have a point. It seems that voters are not ready for a fundamental change and perhaps those of us who recognize that we must move towards more “democratic” systems and wrest some of the power away from the political party and their quest for absolute control must modify our proposals. This proposal would seem to be a modest step in the right direction and perhaps less challenging to those who would protect the status quo.

I have republished Jefferys post in full here for your consideration, let us know what you think, is this a good idea?

In light of the fourth failed referendum on electoral reform in Canada; I suggest that we set our sights a bit lower. While I still think that STV would be an excellent system for Canada, the Canadian public has made it clear that they do not want this kind of large-scale reform now. Rather than blaming the results on misinformation or any other excuses, I think it would be in the best interests of the party to take the banner of a less ambitious reform.My suggestion is a preferential ballots system, otherwise known as alternative vote and instant-runoff voting. In this system we would keep the same single-member electoral districts but would allow voters to rank their choices. The candidate with the fewest votes would be dropped from the ballot until one candidate had at least 50% of the vote in that district. Many people will be familiar with this system as it is used to elect the leaders of most parties.While this system does not have the proportional element that most advocates of electoral reform want, it has several advantages over first-past-the-post:

1. It eliminates the need for strategic voting, letting voters express their true preference. It would no longer be necessary for a supporter of a small party to vote for one of the big two because their favoured party has little chance of winning the riding. They could give their first choice vote to their party they truly like, while giving their second, back-up vote, to a party more likely to win.

2. It eliminates vote-splitting, meaning that a candidate liked by 40% of the candidates and hated by 60% will not take the seat by default because those 60% were split 30-30 between two parties.
3. It keeps all of the full regional representation that people like about the current system.

4. It is easy to understand and does not require the as much math knowlege as STV.

5. It makes campaigns friendlier. It's hard to win on a first ballot, so parties will try to win the second-choice votes of their opponents' supporters. This means that they are more polite to those opponents so that they do not alienate potential second-choice supporters.

6. Friendlier campaigns encourage more diverse and better candidates. Any smart person who does not want to be a part of the mudslinging of current campaigns will be more likely to run for office under a friendlier system. This often includes underrepresented groups like immigrants and women.

I know that strong supporters of electoral reform will balk at a non-proportional system, but a proportional ballot system has a much better chance of passing than the STV or mixed-member systems that voters have repeatedly rejected. Making the small but significant change to preferential ballots could be done quickly, with little structural reform, and with the support of the public. It would be an excellent first step to a more representative government.

A little more about Preferential Ballots or Instant Runoff voting may be found here. As with all such proposals the devil is in the details as various systems and methodology exist and could be adopted.

Update - You will find an alternative point of view from Fair Vote Canada here. T/H to Wilf Day for the link. Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers


Wilf Day said...

Unfortunately, IRV is NOT "an excellent first step" in Canada, since we have a parliamentary system and four or five parties. It tends to elect only two parties, and would therefore be a step backwards for Canada. If we were electing a president, it would be an excellent system. But in Canada it would more often than not result in an even less representative parliament than we have today. The Jenkins Commission looked at this in the UK in great detail, and found the same likely result there too.

See a short statement here, which is about to be expanded:

Unknown said...

The claim is that AV eliminates the need for strategic voting. Actually it organizes and formalizes it to encourage the election of the most popular candidate in a single-member district.
The fundamental democratic deficit remains. The many who did not vote for the winner do not have representation of their choice.

Being allowed to mark a piece of paper for representation in a legislature and then having your vote ignored is a placebo, a deception and a violation of a citizen's right to equal treatment and equal representation. It results in taxation without representation. It is not democratic.

John Deverell

Rural said...

Thanks for the input guys, only by talking about these things can we become more aware and get more folks to participate in our demorcracy, which is part of the answer no mater what voteing method we use!