In our last couple of messages, we’ve shared two of the key points from Prof. Nadia Urbinati’s affidavit - first, that for a voter to be represented in parliament, that voter must have an MP who advocates for positions that the voter supports, and, second, that democratic theorists are increasingly seeing that constituencies should not be viewed primarily as based on location, but on political perspective.
In this last post on Prof. Urbinati’s affidavit, we’ll share a few of her other key points.
Democracy is What Happens Between Elections! One is that “political theorists now understand democracy not simply as a vote to delegate decision-making to our representatives, but rather as a way of continuously participating in political” society and institutions. That is, she says that it’s widely understood that democracy requires much, much more than voters simply making a decision on voting day. Elections in a democracy should produce a parliament that continuously represents voters in ways aligned with their views.
And if an MP, after being elected, “shows indifference toward our claims” (which is a very common experience for voters who did not vote for their MP), that “would be the equivalent of not fully participating as citizens in the democracy.”
Proper Representation is Key to Legitimacy: A second key point she makes is that ensuring that all voters have representatives who “share similarities with their constituents, including their visions and ideals” and are “willing advocates for them” is essential for making a democracy legitimate - as she says, “governments must know that they are hearing the voices of all citizens through their representatives. The idea of us governing [ourselves] through our representatives is crucial, and not of second-rate importance; it is the condition of legitimacy.”
Proportional Voting Better Supports our Democratic Ideals: Urbinati’s final main point is that these theoretical considerations have strong implications for how we vote: “In a pluralistic state with various minorities, voices, and social interests, the consensus among democratic theorists” is that proportional voting systems are preferred to our current system “because of their greater inclusiveness, fairness, and representativity.” As she says, proportional voting “takes more seriously than FPTP the principle underlying universal suffrage: that every individual has the right to a vote that is counted fairly. The result of counting the vote of each individual fairly under PR results in better support for the democratic principles of equal political opportunity and control than under FPTP”, and it also leads to better laws under PR, since they “are typically more inclusive of various points of view, more consensual, and, therefore, more reflective of the population.”
In summary, Prof. Urbinati’s affidavit provides us with a strong foundation for arguing that our current voting system violates our Charter right to effective representation.
Jesse Hitchcock, Springtide & Antony Hodgson, Fair Voting BC
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