On May 19, we announced a major milestone in the Charter Challenge for Fair Voting - we served the government with our evidence package!
In that note, we promised to share details on the evidence and expert testimony. Today, we are providing highlights from Dr. Nadia Urbinati’s affidavit.
Role of Expert Witnesses
Expert witnesses serve the court by impartially providing an objective and unbiased opinion, uninfluenced by who has retained them, and based on their expert knowledge of the field. In rendering their opinions, they must carefully consider all the evidence on both sides of any question.
Our First Expert Witness - Prof. Nadia Urbinati
Dr. Urbinati is the Kyriakos Tsakopoulos Professor of Political Theory at Columbia University in New York City. She is a political theorist who specializes in the theory of political representation (she wrote the chapter on Representation in the forthcoming Cambridge Handbook of Constitutional Theory (2021)) and studies the ways in which political systems address key normative democratic goals such as political equality, liberty, justice and political participation.
In her affidavit, she focuses particularly on the questions of what it means to have a voice in the deliberations of government and the impact that electoral systems have on democracy, representation, accountability and inclusiveness.
In this post, we will briefly describe Dr. Urbinati’s arguments about the place and importance of political representation. In later posts, we’ll discuss her arguments about what it means to have a voice in the deliberations of government and of the role that electoral systems play in delivering (or impeding) representation.
Dr. Urbinati says that representation (having an elected representative) is crucial for citizens to have a voice in the processes of government between elections, and that representation can only be effective if voters see their views being argued for by their representatives.
Dr. Urbinati goes on to explain, “If I don’t see my representative supporting or promoting my ideas and my claims, I feel unrepresented and the legitimacy of the system of representation is reduced. There is a break between society and parliament. This is true even if I am ‘formally’ represented, exercise my right to vote, and participate in civic life.”
The implications for our current voting system are pretty obvious - since MPs are elected by only about half the voters on average, the other half of voters are forced to suffer formal ‘representation’ by someone they have not voted for, who they do not support, and who does not support or advocate for the voter’s views. Dr. Urbinati sees this as a significant failing of the First Past the Post system, and our argument to the court will highlight this key fact.
To learn more, please check out Dr. Urbinati’s affidavit here.
Jesse Hitchcock, Springtide
Antony Hodgson, Fair Voting BC
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