Friday, March 28, 2014

The two kinds of voting reform Canadians support

There are two kinds of electoral reform: proportional representation and ranked ballot voting.

PR distributes votes to parties, federally, so they get the same percent seats they got in votes. RBV fixes our existing system, locally, by making MPs earn their seats with a majority.

If we had either system, odds are Harper never would’ve came to power.

(There are three versions of PR used in the developed world: Party list PR, Mixed-Member Proportional and Single Transferable Vote.)

The great divide

Canadians are divided on electoral reform. About half favor RBV and think PR is too drastic of a change. The other half want PR and believe RBV doesn’t go far enough.

The only way we can have a fair process on electoral reform is by putting all options on a referendum ballot: PR, RBV and our present broken system, First-Past-the-Post. Then hold a runoff vote to ensure one option is chosen by a majority of voters.

(All 3 PR versions can also be included on the ballot so one is chosen by a majority using the same process.)

Deadly invisible-option vote splitting

Any two-way referendum is certain to fail, producing the dreaded outcome of an FPP false majority.

With a PR referendum, RBV supporters opt for the status quo believing they will get a chance to support their system some time in the future. With a RBV referendum, PR supporters opt for the status quo for the same reason.

This is why 5 two-way referendums have failed in Canada and the UK.


We need democracy to get democracy. If politicking electoral reformers get the opposing option removed from the ballot, they will end up cementing corrupt FPP as the democratic choice of Canadians.

Let’s make sure the choice of Canadians is respected and represented by putting all options on the ballot.


  1. Ron, I believe we can have both RBV and PR. There is no reason why we cannot have RBV at the ballot box and PR at the national level based upon those results.
    I would be interested in you thoughts on this.

    1. I agree that would be a good idea.

      The two modern forms of PR are Single Transferable Vote and Mixed-Member Proportional.

      STV has many MPs per large riding and already uses a ranked ballot to elected MPs.

      MMP is a hybrid of our existing system (single-member ridings) plus party-list seats to ensure seats are awarded proportional to the vote. So it makes sense to have directly-elected seats done with the ranked ballot. That way constituents don't get saddled with politicians they don't want and didn't vote for.

      But there's a big difference between what's ideal and what's practical.

      The fact is the corporate-owned media is fiercely opposed to PR. They prefer single-party dictatorships to multi-party democratic governments (the norm in the developed world) because they are easier to lobby and influence.

      So if a citizen's assembly is commissioned and it comes up with the ideal voting system, and that voting system is overwhelmingly rejected by voters in a referendum (which happened in BC, Ontario and PEI) then we're screwed.

      This is why a three-way referendum is extremely important. Odds are very good that either ranked ballot voting (single member) or PR will get chosen. If RBV gets chosen, corrupt FPTP would be out of the picture for good. Then PR supporters can fight to make the system more proportional (and voters will have direct experience with voting reform and will be more receptive to their message.)

      Fact is RBV is close to proportional for major parties (Lib, Con, NDP.) It's unfair for small parties (like the Greens,) yet it gives Green voters more leverage with their alternative votes (especially with 2-way competition for these votes between Liberals and NDP.)

      So I think voting reformers need to think practically above all else, and work incrementally if it's required. Otherwise we can end up cementing corrupt FPTP as the democratic choice of Canadians -- which is something the vast majority of Canadians don't want (who feel our voting system is broken.)


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