In our last message, we introduced you to Prof. John Carey, who has written the main affidavit we’ll be relying on to describe to the court how proportional voting systems better deliver on key democratic goals such as inclusion, fairness, and representation.
Prof. Carey draws a sharp distinction between single-winner and multi-winner systems. He outlines how multi-winner systems improve the link between voter support and representation, representation of diversity (including by gender, race, ethnicity, and ideology), voter participation and citizen engagement, government stability, and government accountability and policy outcomes.
Distortions in Outcome Undermine Democracy:
In his section on the link between voter support and representation, Prof. Carey plainly states the problem (emphasis ours): “Most of the scholarship on elections and representation shares a normative premise that the level of support among voters should correspond closely to the level of assembly representation each party wins. By this standard, distortions between voter support and the resulting representation undermine democracy. Under most electoral rules in place around the world, distortions tend to favor voters of the largest parties. This pattern is more pronounced under FPTP than any other widely used system and is plainly evident in Canada’s House of Commons.”
In other words, our current voting system clearly does not do the main thing that voting systems in democracies are supposed to do, and this undermines Canada’s claim to being a true democracy.
Multi-Winner Systems Can Fix This: Carey lays the blame for this squarely on the fact that our current voting system uses single-winner districts, and notes that “moving to districts of magnitude 4- 8 is sufficient” to correct most of the distortions created by single-winner systems, while still “allow[ing] representatives to retain close ties to their communities.”
FPTP More Idiosyncratic, Perverse: Carey also notes that “single-winner systems are vastly more vulnerable than multi-winner systems to idiosyncratic outcomes - for example, cases where a party loses voter share from one election to the next but increases its share of representation, or the reverse,” noting that, in BC, “from 1979 to 1996, the New Democratic Party lost vote share across each of five provincial elections, from 46% to 39%, yet it went from a minority party in opposition in the first three periods of government to a single party majority in the last two periods.”
He goes on to say that “FPTP also opens the door to even more perverse outcomes in which a party or candidate wins fewer votes than another in that election, yet nevertheless captures a greater share of representation. Such outcomes violate the principle that all votes should count equally.”
This content gives us a lot to work with as we draft our arguments to the court.
Thank you for your continued support. More on Prof. Carey’s other arguments shortly!
Jesse Hitchcock, Springtide & Antony Hodgson, Fair Voting BC
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