Distracted by Ear Gremlins

(Mundane translation:I have a cold affecting my ears and throat, and it is making thinking and thinking-dependant tasks difficult to complete)

On behest of my chum Roy, I’m going to talk about voting systems. If you get bored, blame him. There is a voting simulation being run right now at http://www.threeontariovotes.ca/home.php and it gives you three different voting systems to try out: First Past The Post, Alternative Vote, and Proportional representation.

We use First Past The Post as our electoral process right now. The first candidate in each area to get the most votes on election day gets the seat.

In Alternative Voting, you would rank the candidates in order of preference. If a candidate is the first choice of more than 50% of the voters, they win. If no one has 50% right away, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is dropped, and votes that had the dropped candidate as the number one choice are now given to the candidate the voter ranked second. They repeat that process until one candidate has a majority.

In a Proportional Representation system, you vote for a party, and the party fills the seats they win with people from their pool of candidates. You don’t get to directly vote for a person.

I like the alternative voting because the elected candidate has a majority of votes, even if it took a round or two to get there. I don’t like proportional representation because I want to vote specifically for the person who will represent me in the parliament. I know that in our current political climate, elected members are discouraged from voicing any opinion that differs from their party, and that lessens the efficacy of the representatives, but I believe that this could be changed.

The interesting thing that I’m realizing about our current system is how much of an incentive it provides for political campaigns to pursue voter alienation as a strategy. When you only need to get more votes than the next closest guy, turning voters off of the electoral process works in your favour, especially if your platform is divisive and emotional. Instead of trying to convince moderate voters that your platform has merit, you can focus on the much easier task of weakening your opponents support with smear tactics and cheap fear-mongering.

In our current election here in Ontario, you can see each major party engaging in this right now. With a week to go, none of them are completely focused on discourse and debate. The PCs have been using alienation tactics from the start, and the Liberals are close behind. Not even the “noble” NDP are above chasing moderate voters out of the voting booth. If we had a voting system that depended on not only getting more votes than the next guy, but in getting enough votes to have a majority, the power of divisive campaigning would be greatly reduced. They would all have to spend some time convincing the voters that, even if they weren’t their first choice, they’d do a good enough job to be ranked second. This would hurt the PCs/Conservatives the most, since they only thrive in an environment with a low voter turnout and open hostility between the Liberals and the NDP.



Published by Chris

I'm an author, freelance writer, dad, and civic busybody living in London, Ontario

3 thoughts on “Distracted by Ear Gremlins

  1. I had an interesting call from a survey company. We here in MB are also having a provincial election, so the survey revolved around this. The lady asked a series of questions involving all parties and then narrowed the questions down to negative statements about the NDP and the Conservative party and did I agree or disagree with each statement.
    After I got off the phone I thought, well that was weird and then it dawned on me. That survey was paid for by the Liberals! The questions very carefully did not mention anything to do with the liberal candidate. Sneaky!
    And P.S. I would prefer the Proportional Representation system. I don’t know the candidates in my area, that sort of luck comes with someone who’s lived in the area a number of years and knows the history of the candidates, as a busy mom of two I don’t have time to do my research, so I go with the party who closest represents my values and so on.

  2. I have never heard of this “Alternative Voting’ system before. It sounds a little complicated but nothing Elections Canada can’t handle. I, too, would love to see this implemented. The ‘first past the post’ method does have its advantages in systems with a lot of different political parties (that can actually have a chance of making up the gov’t, the Rhino Party just doesn’t cut it!) and some countries (Italy iirc) are trying to move to it. It’s a complex issue to be sure but it would be good to see some kind of change however small.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: