Sunday, January 13, 2008

Single Transferable Vote (STV) is the best alternative to our antiquated "Winner-Take-All" voting system

Check out this great piece on which highlights the strengths of the Single Transferable Vote, or STV, a voting system which ensures representation for all voters in the final results, be they in the Iowa Democratic Caucuses or in legislative or parliamentary elections. Some U.S. primaries simply use the "Winner-Take-All" system, handing an entire state's delegates to one winning candidate simply because that candidate won the highest number of votes; the other votes count for nothing.

In parliamentary elections using STV, voters rank candidates running in multi-member ridings (instead of casting a single 'X' next to one candidate). A group of candidates is elected, representing various parties and perspectives, all of them are accountable to the voters. Instead of one person representing your interests, you have several people elected to represent your interests. This is different from our "Winner-Take-All" system where one candidate with the most votes wins the whole constituency outright.

Voters in British Columbia are set to get another chance to endorse STV in a referendum in 2009 (58% of B.C. voters endorsed STV in a 2005 referendum, but the government-imposed 60% threshold meant passage was denied.) If over 60% of B.C. voters embrace STV in 2009, it will mark the beginning of true democracy in Canadian elections...

"STV ensures that a representative democracy is truly representative — that the opinions of all blocs of voters are represented, in the proportion with which those opinions are held by the population. It is used for a variety of elections in many Western democracies, including the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. About two-dozen U.S. cities, including New York, have used STV at various points; Cambridge, Mass., still does, and Minneapolis will starting in 2009 for certain offices..."

"Voters just head to the voting booth and rank candidates by preference on a standard ballot; if a voter’s first choice doesn’t get the number of votes needed to win a seat, his or her vote is counted in the next round for their second choice, and so on. STV makes it more likely that a given individual’s vote, or a give bloc of votes, will make a difference. And because of this, it tends to sharply boost participation. It minimizes the problem of the “wasted” vote, whereby some votes don’t help elect any candidate at all, and voters for that candidate go entirely unrepresented. STV also makes politics less negative, encouraging cooperation among candidates."

"A candidate wants to be the first choice of as many voters as possible, but also wants to be the second choice of the rest, and so doesn’t want to turn them off. Dennis Kucinich, for instance, urged his supporters to caucus for Barack Obama in precincts where Kucinich didn’t have enough support to win a delegate of his own."

"There’s a strong case to be made that one reason STV is used less than it used to be in the United States is precisely because it actually achieved its aims: It yielded a level of popular representation and participation that made it harder for the wealthy and party bosses to wield ironclad control over politics in jurisdictions where it was used, and so they pushed back and got rid of it."

Monday, January 7, 2008

Canadians like minority government, survey finds

An interesting survey came out over the weekend. Canadian voters seem comfortable with the idea of a minority federal government and reluctant to give any party a commanding majority, a poll suggests.

The Canadian Press Harris/Decima survey asked respondents to choose the kind of split they'd ideally like to see in a hypothetical Parliament of 100 seats. The results, on average, gave 36 seats to the Liberals, 31 to the Conservatives, 15 to the NDP, 10 to the Bloc Québécois and eight to the Green party.

Projecting those percentages to the actual House of Commons of 308 seats, the Liberals would end up with 111 seats rather than their current 96 and the Tories would have 95 instead of their present 125.

The NDP would have 46 seats instead of 30, the Bloc 31 instead of 49 and the Greens 25 rather than zero.

Of course, under Canada's "Winner-Take-All" system, one political party with as little as 38% of the vote can form a majority government. This survey suggests Canadians are indeed comfortable with minority governments and are hesitant to grant one party all the power. It's regrettable that our voting system undermines that sentiment and frequently hands one party and its backroom hacks all the power in our governments.

Of particular note is the desire among Canadians to see significant representation for the Green Party. But as we know, our "Winner-Take-All" system ensures that the Greens will likely never win representation in Canadian legislatures.

Without a fair voting system that ensures party representation matches voter support, Canadians will never get the Parliament they seem to truly want.