Thursday, October 11, 2007

MMP Referendum Defeated

The results are posted on the Elections Ontario website.

63.2% of valid votes cast instruct the government to remain on the FPTP system.

It's disappointing to say the least, but we respect the decision of the electorate.

As of right now, this blog will not be posting any new items.

Thanks, everyone, who contributed.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Comment Moderation On

Comment moderation has been enabled on this site until the polls in Ontario close.

The Truth About FPTP - The Summary

Over five pieces, I have discussed the truth about FPTP. If you couldn't tell, most of it was in response to the ironically named "Truth" About MMP list put out by the advocates for the status quo.

The fact of the matter is, the referendum isn't about choosing whether or not we should move to mixed member proportional (MMP); it's about choosing to remain on the first-past-the-post or moving to mixed member proportional.

The advocates of the current system will tell you the real solution is to fix the current system and not to change, but somehow in the same breath argue that the system has worked well unchanged for a couple of hundred years.

The advocates of the current system will tell you they support electoral reform but that the real solution is to find a different electoral system other than MMP, but somehow fail to explain why we haven't explored a different electoral system for a couple of hundred years.

The fact of the matter is, the advocates of the current system want to remain on first-past-the-post. What they don't want you to know, however, is the truth about first-past-the-post.
This is the truth about FPTP.

Cross posted from The Progressive Right.

Andrew Coyne : Quick Hits

Andrew Coyne is back with some quick hits on the biggest myths about MMP.

Parties breeding like rabbits, where Andrew shows that Germany under MMP has approximately the same average number of political parties as those under FPTP (Canada, UK, and the USA).

In unstable governments, Andrew breaks down the number of elections by electoral system.
No. of elections 1945 - 1998
Germany 14

PR: party list
Italy 14
Norway 14
Finland 14
Netherlands 16
Belgium 17
Sweden 17
Denmark 22

Plurality (first past the post)
United Kingdom 15
Canada 17
Australia 22
Hordes of extremists shows us that the only extreme one-issue party we'll find is the "Party for the Animals" in the Dutch pure PR system.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Truth About FPTP - Politics as Usual

What is tactical voting? Why is it prevalent in FPTP?

Tactical voting is voting for a party or a candidate that a voter may not want in an effort to defeat a candidate the voter does not want to win. Usually, the voter chooses the candidate most likely to defeat the candidate.

For example, a voter prefers Candidate A, but really dislikes Candidate B. If the voter perceives Candidate C has a better chance of defeating Candidate B, the voter will vote for Candidate C in the hopes of making sure Candidate B is defeated.

This has even occurred recently when Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty called for tactical voting. Hoping to defeat Opposition Leader, John Tory, he attacked the NDP by saying that "a vote for the NDP is in fact a vote for the Progressive Conservatives."

Tactical voting is often described as a vote against someone instead of a vote for someone. This tends to lead to voter apathy.

It's prevalent in FPTP for the simple fact it's only necessary to have the most votes in a riding, meaning close ridings have this occur more often. The candidate who benefits most from tactical voting will often play up fears in the hopes of just slightly tipping the balance in their favour.

It's a compounding effect, as this negative campaigning also leads to voter apathy.

I like some of the policies of one party, but I like some of the policies of another party. If I select FPTP, will the parties work together?

Most certainly not. As false majorities are the norm, political parties that form governments declare they have the mandate to do as they see fit - that may be to implement a radical platform or to completely abandon the promises they were elected on.

Voters are left to vote "all or nothing" and hope for the best.

I support Party A, but my riding has consistently supported Party B. I feel like my vote is wasted. Is it?

A vote is never truly wasted, but it may seem to you that your vote is unnecessary. This could lead someone to stop voting.

I find I can't support the old line parties anymore. I like a smaller party - if I vote for them, what are the chances my candidate will win?

It's not likely - in fact, it's a practical impossibility.

The FPTP system, by setting the threshold for winning so low, makes it harder for smaller parties to get seats. Under FPTP, even a small party with a sizable portion of the popular vote may not get a seat in the legislature!

Larger parties then use this as evidence to refer to these parties as "fringe" or not representative of electoral wishes.

Wow, it's looking grim. But, if I do support the candidate of my choice and they win, they will bring the needs of the community to the legislature and represent the constituency first, right?

No. If anything, political parties have more power over candidates, making them more responsible to the party brass than the voters of Ontario.

All candidates will want to maintain high standing within the party - toeing the line to ensure they are not booted from caucus or removed as a candidate. This is over and above the party support and finance that a candidate needs to get elected at the riding level.

Up next, a summary.

Cross posted from The Progressive Right.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Truth About FPTP - False Majorities

Wikipedia defines representative democracy thusly:
Representative democracy involves the selection of government officials by a majority of votes by the people being represented. Representatives may be elected by a particular district (or constituency), or represent the entire electorate proportionally proportional systems, with some using a combination of the two. Some representative democracies also incorporate elements of direct democracy, such as referendums. A characteristic of representative democracy is that while the representatives are elected by the people, to act in their interest, they retain the freedom to exercise their own judgment as how best to do so.

Keep that definition in mind as we progress.

I've heard that one of the strengths of FPTP is that, in most cases, governments elected in this system are majority governments. Is that true?

Well, that is true. But, it's called a false majority.

A false majority is when representatives of one political party form a clear majority in the legislature, but were elected with a minority of the popular vote.

Surely though, it's rare for a political party to win a minority of the votes but to take a majority of the legislature. Right?

That's not right. In fact, that's the most common result in FPTP. It is rare for a political party to actually obtain a majority of the popular vote. Even advocates for the FPTP system acknowledge this.

For historical purposes, the last time an Ontario election resulted in a political party forming government receiving a majority of the votes was in 1937, when a coalition of the Liberals and Liberal-Progressives took 51.6% of the popular vote. They took 65 of 90 seats (72%).

But, FPTP just says that a party has to take the most votes to form government. So, FPTP always ensures that the party with the most votes forms government. Is that true?

That is most certainly not true.

  • In the 1998 Quebec general election, the separatist Parti Québécois took 42.87% of the popular vote compared to the Liberal Party which took 43.55%. Yet, the PQ formed a majority with 76 of the 125 seats.
  • In the 2006 New Brunswick general election, the Liberal Party took 47.1% of the popular vote compared to the Progressive Conservative Party which took 47.5%. Yet, the Liberals formed a majority with 29 of the 55 seats.
In short, FPTP cannot even guarantee that the party that forms government actually has achieved a plurality of the votes!

FPTP could be called "Second Place Forms Government Sometimes, Too".

Isn't it undemocratic to have a minority of the population electing a majority of the legislature?

It most certainly is, but supporters of FPTP will tell you this is the most desirable form of government.

Up next, politics as usual.

Cross posted from The Progressive Right.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Darryl Wolk : Why I Voted for Mixed Member Proportional

Darryl Wolk tells us why he supports mixed member proportional, including the understanding that while MMP may not be perfect, it is far and away a better electoral system.
There is a lot still unknown with Mixed Member Proportional because we have to see how it works in practice. I believe this system addresses most of the problems with our current system. MPPs would be more accountable and free to cast their votes independently. Seats would be allocated closer to the percentage of the vote they receive. Less strategic voting and the opportunity to make your vote count. Voting Green would bring about a result in the legislature if 3% of the population supports them. I think people should be voting for something positive not the "lesser of two evils". I want to see the spirit of compromise among elected officials so that things can get done. The grass roots members would get more say because of the list not less by elected the people who appear on the list. Italy and Israel are often thrown around as examples of proportional representation is not working while Germany and New Zealand are examples of where it works well. I know what I am getting with the status quo and I am willing to take a bit of a risk in order to see some meaningful change and reform to our outdated system. MMP is not perfect, but it is better than what we currently have. I don't think it is the magic bullet to address low voter turnout; but it may over time inspire more people to get involved or at least feel their vote means something.