Friday, May 2, 2014

Ranked ballot voting in a nutshell

Ranked ballot voting modifies our existing system by simply making MPs earn their seats with a majority of votes.

This is the voting system parties use to elect their leaders. It’s even how Oscar winners are decided.

2011 Election

The 2011 election shows the fallacy of our primitive voting system, First-Past-the-Post.

Vote splitting between Liberals, NDP and Greens allowed Harper to win dozens of opposition ridings on a minority of votes. This is why his 40% of the vote allowed him to win 54% of the seats (“false majority”) and 100% of the power (“winner take all”.)

RBV ends these distortions and ensures voters don’t get saddled with politicians and governments they don’t want and didn’t vote for.

RBV Process

Another name for ranked ballot voting is instant runoff voting.

With plain runoff voting, there are a number of voting rounds. At the end of each round, the lowest scoring candidate is removed from the ballot, and another round of voting is held. This process continues until a candidate wins with a majority. (The last possible round has only two candidates left.)

With RBV (instant runoff voting,) voters rank candidates by number which determines their vote on each instant round — their vote goes to their highest ranking candidate still on the ticket.

This ensures MPs are elected with a majority. This stops vote splitting and allows for guaranteed “Anyone But Conservative” voting.

Limited proportional

RBV approximates proportional results for large parties like the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP (parties get approximately the same percent seats they got in votes.)

But because federal votes are not distributed, small parties, like the Greens, have a hard time winning seats because their votes are stretched thinly across the country.

Small party leverage

But RBV is not the disaster that FPP is for small parties — who end up with nothing. With RBV, alternative votes are very important.

Under RBV, the Liberals and NDP have to court Green voters with green policies to get their alternative choices. This gives Green voters leverage they don’t have under FPP.

RBV also moderates the debate. Polarizing politics are punished because extremists like Harper loose out on alternative votes.


RBV is a minor upgrade of our existing system, simply changing the ballot from single-choice to ranked. But this small step in voting reform is actually a giant leap forward for democracy.

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