Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Dream electoral reform, part 2

I've asked a lot of people on Twitter for feedback, and every single one of their responses lead me to one conclusion - I was unclear in my previous post.

I will try to be a bit more clear this time.

How MPs are elected

I actually don't care. Use a closed list, an open list, a system like 308 proposed; this "electoral reform" does not concern itself with how a member is elected.

Frankly, this system could work as well with a house of 10 members as it would with a house of 10,000. 

When people go to vote they will sometimes want a particular person in office, someone locally popular, but in general, they vote for the party. That's how people like Drever get elected. Most - not all, but most - of the elected members win their seats based on the party they represent and not based on their own personal popularity. 

As such, I care not for how the MPs get in to Parliament.

What winning means

In Canada, winning an election, in terms of the election, means nothing. A coalition could unseat you, you could win with all the seats, or win by losing in the seat count.

There are countries where it does matter. Both Italy and Greece offer the winning party a bonus of seats. Italy's system, that had been used for many elections, was that any party that win was "boosted" to at least 55% of the total seats. If that party were to capture 60% of the vote, however, they'd win 60% of the seats.

Italy has a new electoral system, one that is actually similar to what I propose. The "winning party" will only be determined (I'm generalizing here) after a second round. It is like STV without the intelligence. Basically a two round system that could potentially knock off a popular third party. 

Where you win

I made the mistake last time of using the terms "House of Commons" and "Senate" which seemed to confuse people. To help clarify, I will use new terms, the "House of Money" and "House of Laws"

This election reform applies exclusively to the House of Money. How the House of Laws is elected is not a concern of this proposal. 

What this is not

On election day, everyone goes to vote for the party they want to be government. They are therefore presented with a ballot with all party names.

What this is not is proportional representation.

We are not determining the proportion of seats each party will get (at least, for 85% of the seats) The actual vote share on the first round - again, excluding that 15% - does not matter. 

What this is

STV. Once all the ballots are counted nationwide, an STV process begins to find out which party 50%+1 of the electorate wants as their government. This is important. A party could win 49% of the votes in the first round, and still lose in the final round. This STV is the key to the entire system, it eliminates vote splitting everywhere. It will be impossible for "rounding" to result in even one extra seat for a party due to a vote split. Every ballot gets counted towards who is the government and who is the opposition.

What this does

Whomever wins that final vote will become the government. The losing party in that final round will become the official opposition.

The government is assigned 55% of the seats. The opposition, 30%.

All the ballots for these parties - in the first round - are then discarded. 

The remaining ballots are then counted, and only then do we use Proportional Representation to determine how the other 15% of seats are distributed. 

An alternative is to give 10% of the total seats to whatever party was eliminated in the penultimate round, and 4% to the party in the round before that, and 1% to the party in the round before that. 

Whichever method of the two is more popular is the one I support. 

Why do this

People already think, subconsciously, this is what they do. People already think they go in to the voting booth to "Vote for a government" People already think they can vote against a government by voting for the main opposition party. People already think this system exists.

Not consciously. Certainly not. Subconsciously. 

In all the political party narratives, all the answers to all the questions that are asked of random voters, all of the presentation of all of the media, mainstream and social, of elections - this is how we view them.


We already have a political system that is set up to enable this exact sort of reform. I say we stop pretending we have something else and go ahead and be honest with ourselves. 

Who wins

This is one of the more difficult ones. Exactly how to ensure every election is not just a simple majority. We will need some way to introduce coalitions in to the mix. Perhaps the easiest way to do this is with petitions. If, for example, 5% of the public sign a petition saying they want an "NDP-Liberal Coalition" in the ballot, then the next ballot would say

"NDP-Liberal Coalition"

We could have a situation where the final 3 parties are NDP, Liberal, and NDP-Liberal. And that's fine. That's perfectly acceptable. People need the ability to 'tap the dials' of government, and make nuanced decisions that we can't make in our blunt ham fisted FPTP system. Even a system based on STV or PR will not guarantee a coalition, but this system would. 

What then if the coalitions breaks? Another forms?

Too bad, we have another election.

We are after all electing a government, not a parliament. If the government changes, then we need a new election. 

When do we make the change

The answer is both now and never. We can do it now if we want to, we just need to amend the constitution and get all 10 provinces to agree. For that reason the more likely answer is never. This is not designed to be a proposal that could actually pass in a referendum, my other one was, this is designed to be a proposal of how things should be. 

Where do we go from here

Sadly, nowhere. We will likely fumble around with various proposals for various sorts of reform, none of which are ever popular enough to win any referendum. I doubt we'll ever see electoral reform, unless it is very mild, or we have some serious electoral incongruities. 

All in all, I hope this post is much more clear. I welcome comments below, even if I've tweeted you, so I can respond to all the concerns in one place.


  1. To clarify:

    A single, one seat, nationwide, STV ballot, for who is the government.

  2. Can't say I like it, to be honest - sorry.