Choice Voting: the next step in electoral reform.

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I have learned much about proportional voting from these threads and especially Wilf Day's valuable contributions.

I think we have to remember that Canada(and the US) are the last real bastions of far right politics in the world.  Of course it will be a tough slog for the pro-democracy movement. And it's why we have to fight even harder than anywhere else in the developed world to further the cause here of electing members of parliament by a fair and proportional voting method. Now is not the time to settle for anything less than fair voting. Aim high and keep plugging away by foot soldiering on. Continue dropping the pamphlets and talking to people. Youre planting the seeds of tomorrow's democracy.

Daniel Grice

I don't feel bad, although I am fairly certain that this proposal CANNOT BE ARGUED DOWN, only up and as such I hope to set the ground floor rather than the ceiling by implementing a system where voters can use their first preference to vote FOR something, rather than AGAINST a person or a party.  

Having been involved an as organizer in two campaigns in BC, and closely following the Ontario campaign, I am well aware of all objections to various reforms that were raised, and this proposal is free of all the ones inherent in many reforms, except from those who would claim it would not go far enough.

This system frees voters to indicate their true preference, and would put the pressure on candidates to earn votes, defeating the sense of entitlement that plurality's foster and rendering useless the almost always present strategy of big parties to stifle competition through fear mongering and strategic voting, rather than through constantly innovating and keeping pace with the will of voters.

The only thing that can hurt the cause is complacency, or people who say they would rather keep a single member plurality unless a certain proposal or criteria is met. Pluralities, (and perhaps SNTV or block voting) should be condemned, not just for the distortions in seat counts, but for the distortions and manipulations of voters they cause in the one chance, every four years, in which voters can express themselves.

Daniel Grice

Fidel, there are lots of right wing governments who get elected under proportional representation systems.

In Germany, still aware of the shame following world war 2, they have an election watchdog that bans radical right wing parties or anyone who advocates anything but strict enforcement of human rights.  However, in next door Austria, they have launched people like Jorg Haiger into government who makes Harper and Bush look like socialists.  



At the culmination of the Ontario Assembly there were many -- including (and especially) Wilf -- who talked about the OCA's design as a stepping stone to the system they really wanted in the end. The thing of it is you really have to make that intention clear to the people who you hope will endorse your proposal.

Otherwise, they will be looking at it as "the proposal" -- the solution to the problem -- which it ain't... per your intentions. The danger of keeping people in the dark is that if it isn't what they feel is "the solution" they won't vote for it -- I figure that's what happened in Ontario (or might of had Onatario been told what it was all about) -- and if it is their choice, then they won't want to change it later when you do want to upgrade.

On the other hand, if you tell people that this is a half-way compromise, a lot of the people you want to support it will say, "but if you know what the ultimate solution is, then why the heck aren't we implementing that now?"

Going for half measures is very problematic. I believe we have such a poor record of reform because PR is a half measure. It isn't enough. In their heart of hearts, people know this. And in a democracy, people matter most.


Daniel Grice

This isn't a half measure or a compromise, this is a foundation from which a parallel, parity, or personal PR system like STV can and should be built upon, or which standing alone, is far superior to first past the post.

If, under any proposed reform, we have single member districts as a component of the system, they should be elected using some sort of runoff vote.  Either full, or limited preferential.  Too many MMP supporters get caught up on the seat count, without bothering to concern themselves with effective local representation.  

Nor do I intent to promote it only for federal or provincial assemblies, as I hope that Canada would also follow England's lead in electing Mayors via a choice voting system.



As I said, we'll have to agree to disagree on that.

Daniel Grice

What system do you prefer, which has a realistic chance of ever being acceptable?  




You're asking precisely the wrong question. And you're tackling the problem from the wrong end.

This is where the OCA went horribly wrong in the middle of their process.

Don't pick a system and then rationalize your choice (or try to argue for it). First, determine the fundamental requirements, make a yardstick of criteria by which to measure candidate systems and then measure 'em. Then there's no question of worrying about whether a proposal "has a realistic chance of ever being acceptable" -- you've already established what is acceptable by agreeing on the yardstick. Actually, you've done better than that -- you will have developed a template of what is desirable in an optimal system.

The usual suspects -- the textbook systems -- will certainly come up short. No matter. We can either accept the deficit in the best of them or use one or two of them as the basis for a custom system. Custom systems are nothing to fear. BC-STV and OCA-MMP were custom systems, not off-the-shelf designs.

A successful Charter challenge will certainly define a basic yardstick -- the arguments for rejecting FPTP will inevitably include statements of necessary first-principle conditions for a new system. We must apply those in any case. But there will be other characteristics with which we will want to complete the yardstick.

I figure that we should be actively working on these... just in case. And as our basic modus operandi.

Erik observes that there is significant dispute about our constitutional rights... and then refuses to discuss these. I would argue that if we can't agree on those rights then the locus of our democratic deficit is there, not in the electoral system, and that's where we should focus our efforts.

If the kids on the block go out to play pick-up hockey they have to agree on the basic rules -- raising or not, how big the goals have to be, how to choose sides, etc.  -- or else it won't be any fun or fair. Generally, settling on these rules isn't a problem. They're often relatively pragmatic. And once they're agreed you can play on and have fun. In fact they enable the game.

At this jucture we need to be enabling our democracy too.


how about approval voting? you get a ballot where you would check off every candidate you approve of getting your vote and the candidate with the most votes wins the riding. this lets everyone indicate exactly who they would and wouldn't approve of. EVERY vote gets counted, so you don't have to worry about ranking order.

so, if i support the ndp, but would be ok with green as well, id check those off. and if i just hate cons, i check off everyone but the cons (strategic voting, so long as it doesn't stop you from voting for who you want, is ok by me).

Conversely, there's disapproval voting  where you'd vote for everyone you DISapprove of (Cons) gets a check; essentially the same thing, but in reverse. It should yield the same results, but doesn't, because of the way human psychology works.

Think about em.

Daniel Grice

Approval voting is open to plumping, and disapproval voting would only intensify negative campaigning.  I can't see any clear advantages over instant run offs. (Same with variations of condorcet)  In smaller group situations or ngo/business, there may be some merit when there is no clear differences between the candidates and you are only trying to find a consensus, but in politics, when you are also trying to determine a mandate, they fail to demonstrate a clear order of preference.  

Skeiseid -

If the courts define proportionality as a clear requirement on electoral systems, I would gladly comply with there decisions.  


Party proportionality won't be one of the arguments that win a Charter case... but individual rights will be.

Proportionality isn't a sufficient condition for an adequate electoral system. It'll be a secondary characteristic of one though, an incidental one.Why not work on the fundamentals? Red line, blue line... the pros do these as well as the bantams (just to continue the hockey metaphor).

If the courts sustain the challenge, we'll all have to comply -- including the politicians -- gladly or otherwise.




Just an observation on the "dogmatics" -- this from the NDP policy document pointed to by Wilf in another thread:

New Democrats believe in:
a. Reforming Canada's electoral system through mixed member proportional representation
b. Ensuring electoral reform is based on a transparent process with wide citizen involvement
c. Assisting under-represented and marginalized groups to participate fully in the political process
d. Protecting the right to vote by ensuring that regulations on voter identity do not unduly restrict a
citizen from casting a ballot; and
e. Investing in public education addressing democracy and politics, primarily for young people.

These are people who believe they know the answer (and what's best for "us") rather than in striving to facilitate us reaching the best answer through a good process.

Statement "a" is at odds with "b" unless their view of participation and involvement is for citizens to do what Jack tells them to do -- choose MMP. Paternalism is for lemmings.



Wilf Day

skeiseid wrote:
Statement "a" is at odds with "b" . . .

This document is a summary of past convention resolutions. The first, "a," is a summary of the 2003 resolution. It omits, for example, the point added from the floor at the 2003 convention, wanting a 5% threshold. The second, "b," is an extract from the 2006 Quebec City convention resolution, which was in turn a composite put together in the resolutions panel after some interesting negotiations. It omits a few points too. To construe them together, "b" is the process, "a" is the outcome the NDP proposes.


Yes... they're contradictory and illogical.

It's a very poor process indeed where you've reached your conclusion before you gather the evidence and weigh it to solve your problems.

As Holmes (Sherlock, not Mike) said, it's a critical mistake to do so. 

It may be "transparent" for the NDP to expose this (when other parties almost certainly hide key aspects of their dogma) but it also points to a flaw that makes them hard to vote for.

Addendum: The quote:

" It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."

Maysie Maysie's picture

Closing for length.



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