With the recent UK election, people have been talking about electoral reform. I myself have done so a few times, right here on this blog, but I will do so again.
There are 3 basic reasons people talk about changing the voting system.
1 - The winner should not have won.
This argument frequently comes from those far on the left, who say that various conservative parties win with something like 25% of all eligible voters, but, somehow, get a majority. These same people seem to forget that argument when left-wing parties win. Regardless, it is a valid argument. Why should someone with 25% of possible votes, or 40% of cast votes, win a majority?
2 - The loser lost by too much.
PEI and Alberta, two provinces that voted recently, have a history of very weak oppositions. There have been many cases in both provinces when the official opposition has held under 10% of the seats, while the government holds the rest. Federally this would mean a government of 277 members facing an opposition of 31. There have even been cases of the official opposition holding 5% or less of the seats. One can see the problems this unbalanced situation can cause.
3 - The "3rd parties" did not win anything.
This was the cause of the debate in the UK, with UKIP and the Greens, together, taking millions of votes, but a grand combined total of 2 seats. We've seen this, on a regional level, Federally as well. Look at how poorly the Liberals have done on the Prairies in the past 3 decades. Look at how poorly the Reform/Alliance did in Quebec and the Atlantic. Now look at the popular vote in these areas and you see the issue.
Part of the reason we never seem to get electoral reform is that the concerns of the voting public - in general - and the concerns of the activists, are not one in the same.
Activists, and those who are most ardent in their support of electoral reform, will hit on point 1 the hardest. The problem with this, is simple really - it means more minority governments. Polls have shown that Canadians do not want this. Canadians are fine with a party winning 40% of the vote and a majority of the seats.
Most Canadians, however, do understand the problems caused by #2 and #3. It is these arguments that are most often raised before a campaign to change the voting system comes up, but these arguments fall to the wayside when #1 becomes the dominant issue.
The challenge therefore is to design a system that allows "losing" parties to win seats, especially the smaller parties, without over-turning every election majority with a minority.
So how do we do this?
There are a few ways to do so. Lets look at PEI for one simple method, among many, that we can use.
Take a look at the PEI election, now, take a look at it compared to the 4 Federal ridings.
PEI currently has 27 MLAs in their Legislature. Previously, they had 32. We thus know, for a fact, that they can physically fit 32 people in their legislature. Thus, we are going to add 5 new MLAs to PEI to fix some of the problems of our electoral system.
We are going to do this, in part, using those Federal ridings.
Egmont, for example.
49% voted Liberal. 35% voted for the PC Party. However, the Liberals won all 7 seats here. Thus the "largest under-represented party" is clearly the Tories.
"But" I can hear some of you say "I only want Electoral Reform so the Greens and NDP can win more seats!"
But alas, we have a third of voters in Egmont who have no representative, compared to half that (16% to be exact) that voted for the NDP and Greens combined.
In fact, the same is true for the Charlottetown riding.
Malpeque produces an interesting result.
The Liberals won 2 seats on 36%, and the Tories 3 seats on 38%. The Greens meanwhile won 1 seat and 19%.
There are many ways to calculate representation for proportional representation. One I prefer is to divide your result in half.
Thus, the Liberals, are at 36.33%
They have two seats.
Half of that is 18.165
And half that is 9.0825
I won't run you through all the math, but what we end up with is an additional Green seat.
Lastly is Cardigan, where it is the NDP who get the seat.
This gives us our 4 basic seats, one per riding, but you'll note I said 5 earlier. Where is this extra seat?
This comes at the end. You take the new totals for the entire province, and find out who remains the most under-represented.
You end up with the Greens on 2 seats and 10.81%, compared to the NDP on 1 seat at 10.98%. The NDP is thus the most under-represented.
Your end result is this as follows:
18 - Liberal
10 - PC Party
2 - Green
2 - New Democrat
This does reduce the majority of the government.
Before these additions, the government had 66.67% of the seats, whereas after, they only have 56.25%
You'll also note that I said that this would not reduce too many majorities. How can this be, you say, if this reduces it by 10%!?
The answer can be found in 1996
One can see visually that it would be the Tories who win the extra PR seat in Egmont; in the Island's west. This means of the PR seats, the Tories would take one. While I've not run the numbers, it's likely the Liberals would win the other 3, but the NDP would likely win the final seat.
This means that while the 2015 election's 18-8-1 split gets us a 18-10-2-2 split, the 1996 election results in 19-11-2
The closer the win, the more chances that the winning party will lose in particular areas, and thus, gain more PR seats.
While this proposal is specific to PEI, the basic idea can be applied anywhere.