Thursday, August 15, 2013

Voting systems in a nutshell

There are two different ways voters can be represented in a democracy: by person and by party. This is the main reason there are many different voting systems.

Definition: Seat/Riding: A riding is a territory where voters elect one or more representatives. Each representative occupies a seat in the legislature and has one vote. A majority of votes is required to pass bills and govern.

  1. Westminster: (Our existing system of democracy.) Voters in a riding elect an individual to represent them (MP) who belongs to a party. A party or coalition needs a majority of votes from MPs to pass bills and govern.

  2. First-Past-the-Post: (Our present voting system.) Westminster where the leading candidate wins the seat (single-member plurality.) The winner can be a minority candidate the majority doesn’t support (due to vote splitting.) Collectively, dozens of wrongly-awarded seats can give a 39% minority party false majority power: majority of seats, minority of federal votes.

  3. Preferential Voting (ranked ballot): Westminster where the majority candidate wins the seat. Uses instant elimination rounds. Voters rank candidates instead of marking one with an ‘X’. Lowest candidate is eliminated in each round until one gets a majority. A person’s vote on each round is their highest ranking candidate still in the running. Reduces wasted votes. Stops vote splitting. Prevents false majorities.

  4. Proportional Representation: Ensures parties get the same percent seats they got in votes (10% of the federal vote means 10% of the total seats.) Eliminates wasted votes and vote splitting. Ends false majorities. Coalitions tend to form stable multi-party majority governments. Used in 85% of developed countries.

  5. Party list PR: Parties produce lists of candidates. People vote for parties. Seats are awarded to each party proportional to the federal vote. Parties appoint candidates to seats.

  6. Mixed-Member Proportional (PR): Combination of Westminster and party-list PR. People vote for a candidate and for a party. Winning candidates are awarded seats. Additional party-list seats are awarded to parties to ensure total seats are proportional to the federal vote. Parties appoint members to party-list seats.

  7. Single Transferable Vote (PR): Voters rank candidates who belong to a party. Many candidates are elected to a single, large riding. Seats in each riding are awarded to parties proportional to the riding vote. Highest ranking candidates get party seats. Collectively, this approximates federal proportional representation.

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