Sigh… I was hoping but deep down I had a feeling that voting reform was not going to happen. And lo and behold it did not. A real shame.
First Past The Post (FPTP)
FPTP is flawed. Seriously flawed. Why anyone would defend this voting method is beyond me.
- FPTP only really works for a 2 party system.
- FPTP allows someone with < 50% of the vote represent the riding.
- FPTP risks a degeneration to 2 parties.
- FPTP is causing low voter turnout.
- FPTP gaming
- Gerry Mandering.
- Playing party against party.
So point 1. Only in a 2 party system will all ridings be fair. Then the person sitting in the government has the majority support of the riding. No problem there. So this gets into the minds of the voters that, what is the point of voting for a smaller party if they have 0 chance of actually gaining any seats or ground in the government. This situation makes it very difficult for new parties to actually get off the ground. This also makes it seem to voters that there is no point in voting since potentially their vote is not really counted in the end and the only choice is the two ‘major’ parties with established ground. This is terrible. You end up with a royally messed up system like the US where all you have is a choice of 2 parties. And if there is any truth, people’s opinions are rarely fitting 1 of two choices.
Point 2 is what I find very objectionable. Someone who wins in a riding may only actually represent a small fraction of that riding and not the larger fraction. That is far from democratic. You can end up with a government that is filled with people who only represent a fraction of their riding. And as a result a fraction of the country. Is that the sort of government you want running the country? To me that opens up the country to civil war.
Point 3 is a risk. Because people feel voting for smaller parties may be useless they may resort to a US sort of mindset and start thinking that we only really have 2 options. Which is bad. In my opinion we need more choices to choose from. For the main reason that the 2 main parties in question, at any given time, are just not resonating with people in general.
Point 4 is just going to increase. Because of all of the above. Voters do not like the two major parties because the two major parties are majorly screwed up with scandals, questionable morals, inability to do grad school math, whatever reasons. Voting for smaller parties seems like a good idea, and it is, they get funding based on their vote count, but a vote that way will feel like you are throwing out a say in the final make up of the government. And in a way, it is. This is what some parties hope for. Say, if you have one left leaning party and two right leaning parties, the left leaning party will win because all they have to do is play the other two parties against each other to split the right leaning voters evenly among them. This happened in the states when Nader was running.
Point 5. Any voting system can be gamed. What I mean by gaming is that the political parties are not just running on their platform. They are playing a game in order to win. Some are rather underhanded and others are a bit clever.
An under handed gaming is Gerry Mandering. This redefines riding boundaries to ensure a win for a party. Google it, there are better descriptions and discussions about it. It is underhanded because it is deliberately skewing results and ensuring voter’s votes do not matter.
Playing one party against another is something I touched on above. If you have more parties on one side of the spectrum than the other, then the side with fewer parties will have a higher chance of winning as they can try to split the voters who would vote on the side with higher number of parties so that none of them get sufficient votes. This is a clever tactic but in a way it is a bit underhanded as they are not attempting to win on the merits of their platform but rather skewing the results of the voters for the other parties. Is this valid? Maybe but you will end up with the situation where a person winning the seat does not actually have the majority support of the voters, and as a result the riding has a representative that has an ideology that is not representative of the people living in that riding.
I find FPTP does not do a good job of electing officials that properly represent the people and riding.
Single Transferable Vote (STV) or Ranked Ballot
People like the riding system. The main argument is that someone wants to know who is accountable to them personally. Ok, that’s fine. Then fix the voting for the riding! STV/Ranked Ballot will do that. If someone voted for a fringe party and that party garners the lowest number of votes, then everyone who voted for them should have a say who among the remaining candidates they favor. That continue until there is a clear 50% + 1 vote winner for the riding. Then the official in government can boast that they actually were voted for by the public and that their views, character, ideals, etc. are representative of most of the riding. Unlike what it is now.
Conservatives hate this. Why? Most Canadians are more liberally social and fiscally conservative leaning. I see Conservative being the exact opposite currently. And so they know if we went with a ranked ballot they will have a hard time winning enough seats to form a government.
I find this is the simplest tweak to the voting system and it is not at all difficult to understand. Even the parties themselves, when voting for a new leader of the party will use a voting system like this. They may have multiple rounds of voting but essentially, it boils down to weeding down the candidates until there is a clear winner.
If the parties themselves feel that is fair, then it should be good enough for the riding system. In my opinion, this is way better than FPTP because of the fact that the person elected has won their seat without a doubt.
But there was a sort of option in the recent BC referendum for STV. Yes, in a way. They somewhat over complicated it. NDP/Greens wanted a ‘proportional’ sort of system of some sort. So having a simple STV option in place of a FPTP and keeping the ridings as they are would not satisfy the ‘proportional representation’ they are hoping for.
Proportional Representation Voting (PR)
PR is great. In my opinion it would be better than FPTP and to some degree it is better than STV/Ranked Ballot. The problem is that if you go strict PR then you will rarely have a majority government and so coalition governments will be more common.
Why is this such a bad term for Canadians? Maybe because in the past they viewed or experienced bad coalitions and feel that they are ineffective and or watered down. Maybe in some cases that is true. But if they were ineffective then it would probably because they had politicians that were head strong and not willing to work with others.
Coalition governments are actually better for the country. Why? One, you end up with a government that represents an even larger subsection of the voting public than a single party majority. You have a government that will have their extreme views tempered and forced to govern the country taking into larger subset of issues than their potentially narrow one.
The choices in the referendum were a bit odd. All will require less ridings than the current system. This may be what people balked against. People wondering, for those that are voted by proportional rep, who do they account to?
Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)
MPP was the simplest option of the bunch. 60% of the seats is FPTP and 40% is Popular Vote and pick top X candidates from a party list to match the results. This would have been better than just FPTP. The changes are minimal and smaller parties become a touch more visible. It still has the same issues as FPTP but those issues are only slightly fixed by this system. I’m really surprised people did not consider this.
Dual Member Proportional (DMP)
DMP was a bit of a mess in my opinion. Two ridings would be merged and each riding will have 2 seats. Each party could provide up to 2 candidates where 1 is the primary candidate and the other the secondary candidate. 1 seat will be FPTP and given to the primary candidate, the other seat will be some how PR. Although I did not quite understand how the second seat will actually be assigned. It looked interesting but a bit weird at the same time.
Rural – Urban Proportional (RUP)
For urban and semi-urban areas the voting would be done with STV / Ranked Ballot while rural ridings will be MPP. Even though there is a split here with urban and rural, adding complication to this voting option, I still find this one the best of the bunch. However the ridings in urban areas were a lot larger, meaning that there would be a lot more candidates per ballot and the vote counting a lot more complicated. However I would argue the results would be much more fair than either of the two above.
Personally I would have added at least two more options.
STV / Ranked Ballot
Keep the current ridings. 1 riding, 1 seat in government. Just change the voting to a ranked ballot. This will ensure that the person winning the seat has 50+% of the votes for the riding and so is the spokesperson for that riding. There are still issues that FPTP has but at least the winner can say they actually won the seat.
This is not a “proportional” system but at least it is an improvement.
MMP With STV
60-40 split of seats but the ridings are STV / Ranked ballots. Again, this removes the chance of a seat going to a candidate that has less than 50% of the votes in that riding.
All seats are allotted base on popular vote. Why do we even have a riding system? I understand people want to be represented. People want to hold their rep accountable in government. But really, a provincial government should represent the entire province. If they are not doing that then there will be regional parties. You will eventually end up with regional representation. It will just be done differently.
But for actual regional governance, your regional government will take care or that. Provincial government should be thinking about the entire province not just per region. Similarly a Federal Government should be thinking about the country as a whole and not the regions that supported them.
This system would mean a ton of little parties and a government that is always a coalition. Which means that the officials who won seats need to be able to work together and not be too head strong about their goals and ambitions. They need to think about how to govern the country/province/region properly. To me, this is not a terrible idea. I know some will disagree with me here though.