Electoral Reform in Canada

The Canadian government is currently looking at electoral reform. I would recommend three major changes.

  1. Introduce a ranked-vote, similar to the Australian system. This allows for greater expression of preference by a voter, without multiple rounds of voters going to the polls. This is also completely compatible with the existing system of local, ridings-based (constituencies or districts in other countries) representatives, which I think is much better than party-selected lists which are sometimes used for PR elections. We also have a very good idea of how this ranked-vote system would work, because Australia (which also has a system based on the Westminster style Parliament) has already done it, and for some time. The only difference in the mechanics of voting from the current Canadian system would be that the voter could rank his preferred candidates 1, 2, and so on up to whatever number he would like, instead of casting a vote for just one candidate (although he can do that as well). How does it work? After counting up the votes using the ‘1’ preferences, if no one has more than 50%, then the candidate with the lowest % is removed, and the votes for that candidate are reapportioned based on those voters’ ‘2’ preferences. The ballots continue to be reapportioned until someone has > 50%. For example, let’s say there is a riding with a Green candidate, NDP candidate, and Liberal candidate. The voter can then rank Green as 1 and NDP as 2. Let’s say it’s Liberal 45%, NDP 45%, Green 10% after counting ‘1’ preferences. The Green candidate is then eliminated, and in this case our voter’s vote goes to the candidate he ranked as ‘2’, which would be the NDP. Hence, his voting for the Green candidate isn’t taking away from the NDP candidate winning the riding.
  2. I would dramatically reduce the number of representatives in Parliament. I would aim for about 100 representatives, which would be one per about 350,000 people. This is simply because having much more than that reduces the impact and visibility of people in a Parliament to the point where (beyond ministers) it’s largely just a crowd, not individuals whose individual votes tend to matter. Compare the U.S. Senate (100) with the U.S. House (435), and how high-profile the members of those two bodies tend to be.
  3. I would introduce a law, similar again to Australia, where a person is fined a nominal amount if they don’t check-in to vote. Voting itself is not compulsory (voting is private, so one can leave the ballot blank), but showing up at the voting booth (or an equivalent by mail) is. (Australia’s last election saw about 90% of eligible voters voting (which for there is very low), while in Canada’s last election it was about 68.5% (which for there is very high).)

That’s about it!

11 thoughts on “Electoral Reform in Canada”

  1. @Anthony

    I would like points #1 and #3 to be part of the American electoral reform. I’m glad Canada is considering some changes. However, I’ve talked to VanMav in the forum, who lives in Australia, and he’s pretty critical of at least point 3. I think he mentioned that the drawback is that you have a large group of voters who aren’t knowledgeable , pro-active about considering issues, etc., voting in an election. I see his point; although, I think voting should be mandatory (or at least showing up to the ballot box).

    The ranked system would have been interesting for the 2016 election in America, considering neither candidate got 50% of the vote. I wonder if Clinton would have beat Trump under a ranked system?

    On point 2, I disagree, in part. I’m not sure if the Canadian parliament is two houses or not, but while I find the Senate number (100) acceptable, I think the US House of Reps needs to be increased, considering that they’re representing so many people now that they can’t accurately represent a community. Right now, I live in Austin, TX, which voted for Clinton by 66%. My US Rep is a Cruz conservative. He represents people in Austin, San Antonio and Ft. Worth, and the rural areas between Austin and San Antonio. Although he’s my rep, he works exclusively for the rural and suburban conservatives in his area. I think increasing the Reps drastically would make gerrymandering very difficult, and would allow reps to better represent people. Originally, I think it was one rep per 25,000 voters. Right now it’s one Rep per 700,000 people. I would want this number reduced by half to allow for more accurate and intimate representation. Say, 1,000 US Reps instead of 435.

  2. Re #2, I’m not recommending that for all political bodies. With about 100 members in the Canadian parliament, it would be exactly what you think would be a good ratio in the U.S. House (1 per 350,000).

  3. I have a question on #3.
    What is the point of living in a free country if you do not have the ability to not vote? I think everyone should vote, but if someone doesn’t want to, why should they be forced to?

  4. @Jesse,

    I agree that no one should be forced to vote. However, I think a small fine if they are too lazy to show up to a polling booth is completely fine.

  5. @Jesse

    It’s basically Compulsory attendance in Australia, not compulsory “voting”, as you could just leave your ballots completely blank if you did not want to vote, and nothing is stopping you from doing that.

  6. So, I guess it just depends on your definition of voting. I consider submitting a ballot no matter what is marked (or not) as a vote, but others could have a different interpretation.

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