Community Articles
Go to Site Index See "Community Articles" main page
General News · 24th October 2018
Gabriel Dinim
The yellow referendum envelopes have reached our mail boxes.
The options offered are poorly explained and the whole process is unnecessarily complicated.
When in doubt refer to the near consensus decision by members of the Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform created by Gordon Campbell in 2002.
The Commission was in my view the most inspired democratic decision making process on the issue of electoral reform.
Out of 160 randomly selected BC individuals, 142 decided, after several months of education by experts in voting systems, that Single Transferable Vote was the most representative form of electoral system and the one that gave voters the greatest choices.
Gordon Campbell was afraid of his creation and set a very high bar in the referendum, 60% was required for acceptance of STV. The province voted 57.7% in favor and we lost an extraordinary opportunity.
This referendum presents only one option where STV applies, that is in the third option called RUP, (Rural Urban Proportional) .
In this option STV is applied in urban and semi urban districts and MMP in very large mostly Northern rural areas.
If your desire is to have the most representative electoral system and one that also encourages cooperation between politicians then RUP is your choice.
An important moment
Comment by De Clarke on 26th October 2018
Thanks for starting a discussion Gabriel!

The move to proportional representation could be the single most important electoral issue in many years, because it changes the way electoral politics works. I've long been puzzled as to why N America (US, Canada) has never caught on to the advantages.

"Of the six nations (out of 35 major modern democracies) that do not use PR to elect representatives in their most powerful national legislative body, only three countries (US, Ghana, and Canada) don't use it for at least one of their national elections (PR is used in the upper house in Australia, and European Parliament in UK and France)."

(The whole page is worth a read if you have some spare time.)

Perhaps the biggest thing PR has to offer is increased voter engagement. Here again I find it easier to quote someone who's already put it into words plainly and straightforwardly:

"Have you ever lived in a riding in which you felt your vote was a waste, because you preferred a local candidate who had absolutely no chance of winning a seat?

I cannot count how often that’s been my fate in federal and provincial elections as a result of residing in the “safe” riding of one political party or another. I still bother to go to the voting booth, but can understand why countless people end up feeling, “What’s the point?”

I know many people in safe B.C. ridings. They want to vote Green, Liberal, NDP or Conservative, but feel frustrated their ballot will be worthless, except as a vague popular-vote signal to the party leader who will eventually assume king- or queen-sized power, likely based on their party receiving only 40 to 45 per cent support."

The "winner take all" system currently in place in North America strikes me as pretty dysfunctional, which may explain why voter turnouts remain so low. As the gentleman points out above, when people feel their vote "doesn't count" they often don't bother. Or they "hold their nose and vote," thus sending a false signal of popularity to major-party candidates barely more acceptable than the opposition, while more attractive candidates are frozen right out of the game. And then we get governments at times elected by "more than half" of barely more than half the electorate.

Some folks who oppose PR try to scare voters away from it by claiming it will open the door for the rise of extremist parties. However, looking to the South these days, it doesn't seem to me that winner-take-all has prevented the rise to power of political extremists :-) One thing that PR often does is to force politicians to negotiate and compromise with the representatives of other voting blocs and constituencies, to form coalitions and do some horse-trading; it's less likely with a PR system that one party having approval of, say, only 30 pct of the public (60 pct of 50 pct of all qualified voters) can get control of the entire government, get the bit in their teeth and steamroller all opposition for an entire term.

This is probably why most of Europe uses some form of PR. iirc only France and Belarus (oh yes, and the UK, but they don't think they're part of Europe at the moment) use first-past-the-post.

Thought for the day: "Democracy is a pretty good idea -- maybe we should try it sometime!"