Saturday, July 20, 2013

Vote-reform referendum Catch-22

Canadians are divided three ways on voting reform:

  1. The status quo (FPP)

  2. Proportional representation (PR)

  3. None of the above (but open to PV ranked-ballot compromise)

This means any two-way referendum will likely produce a false FPP victory due to vote splitting.

Referendum Catch-22

This is how two-way referendums tend to play out:

  • PV/FPP referendum: PR supporters feel PV is a fake reform, so they opt for the status quo. They’ll wait for a PR referendum.

  • PR/FPP referendum: Middle-ground voters think PR is too extreme, so they choose the status quo. They’ll wait for a PV referendum.

Two solutions

There are two ways to avoid this odious paradox:

  1. Three-way referendum: Hold a three-way referendum with a runoff election. This ensures Canadians support one voting system with a majority.

  2. Incremental approach to voting reform: Achieve democratic voting in steps. First step: legislate PV directly. Since it only changes the voter’s ballot from single-choice to ranked, it’s a minor upgrade that doesn’t require a referendum. Second step: hold a PR/PV referendum.

Caveat Emptor

Vote splitting killed the PV referendum in the UK — destroying electoral reform in that country. Vote splitting will likely kill another Canadian referendum driving the final nail in the vote-reform coffin here.

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