Do We Have to Waste Half the Votes?

As we shared with you in our last message, we’ve now submitted all our written arguments for the upcoming Charter Challenge court hearing (Sep 25-27 in Toronto).  We’re currently waiting to receive the government’s written argument and are now working on our oral arguments.

In the meantime, we wanted to share with you a few more details from Fair Voting BC’s affidavit, which presents some insightful metrics we’re using to reinforce a number of our key arguments.  

In a previous message, we reported that over half the voters in the 2019 election cast “wasted votes” (votes that didn’t help elect an MP). While this was true in that election, the court will want to know if this is a consistent pattern across time, and if changing the voting system will likely change this.

To answer this question, we defined a Representation Metric that could be calculated both for countries such as Canada that use the First Past the Post voting system and for countries that use proportional voting.

More Than Half the Votes Are Wasted in Canadian Elections

In Canada, the Representation Metric is simply the proportion of voters who cast a vote for an elected candidate. Thanks to work by Byron Weber Becker (University of Waterloo), we were able to show that for nearly the past hundred years (since 1935) the Representation Metric has averaged less than 50% over the past 40 years.

Representation Metric for all federal elections in Canada since Confederation. The Representation Metric expresses the percentage of voters who have voted for an elected MP. Since 1984, the Representation Metric has averaged just 49.8%.

Are As Many Votes Wasted Under Proportional Voting?

Absolutely not.  In Proportional Representation (PR) voting systems, the Representation Metric is typically much higher (and the “wasted votes” much lower), because far higher proportions of the ballots cast affect the resulting makeup of the legislature. To demonstrate this point, we analyzed the results of recent elections in three countries using different types of PR systems (Norway (List PR), New Zealand (MMP), and Ireland (STV)).  Under all three of these systems, the Representation Metric would have been far higher, ranging from about 77-79% under Ireland’s ‘direct representation’ STV system up to as high as 94-95% under Norway’s List Proportional Representation system.

Representation Metrics for Canada (2019 federal election) and two recent elections in each of three selected countries using proportional voting (to demonstrate consistency of findings). The darker shade represents those voters who are represented by a representative for whom they have explicitly voted (‘direct’ representation), while the lighter shade represents those voters who are represented by a representative who won a seat by virtue of votes cast for the representative’s party (‘indirect’ representation).

This evidence is critical for us to make the points that (1) our recent experience in Canada is not an anomaly, but rather a routine and expected outcome of elections under FPTP, and (2) any number of alternative voting systems would markedly increase the proportion of represented voters.

Charter Challenge In the News

The Charter Challenge is in the news! Maxwell Cameron, a professor in the Department of Political Science and the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia, contributed an opinion piece to The Globe and Mail titled “The Charter challenge of first-past-the-post could lead to a better electoral system.” To read the piece, click here

Thank you so much for your continued support. More details shortly!

Jesse Hitchcock, Springtide & Antony Hodgson, Fair Voting BC

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  • Jesse Hitchcock
    published this page in Blog Updates 2023-08-18 13:43:43 -0300

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Key Events in the Case:

  • We're currently waiting for our appeal to be heard (scheduled for Nov 2024)
  • We submitted our appeal factum in late April 2024.
  • We filed our Notice of Appeal on Dec 29, 2023.
  • Justice Ed Morgan issued his ruling on Nov 30, 2023 and unfortunately dismissed our application.
  • The case was heard September 26-28, 2023 in the Ontario Superior Court.
  • We received the government's affidavits in late Fall 2022.
  • We served the government with our affidavit and evidence package in May 2021.
  • We filed the case with the Ontario Superior Court in October 2019.

How you can help

The main way you can help is to support the case financially. We are now raising $30,000 to support our preparations for filing a leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada (spring 2025). You can support the case for as little as a dollar a month.

What to expect

At each step, we set a donation goal based on our estimate of the costs for the next stage of the process, and invite our supporters to contribute towards that goal to ensure the case can continue to move forward.