Unfair elections

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The first-past-the-post system of voting leaves candidates with a minority of votes all the power

Our electoral system has some problems, obviously. One could write a whole book on the problems and then go on to continue appending it with additional volumes for the all of time and never run out of things to say – but in reality, in practice, people want solutions. Now, we cannot outright solve the fact that we are continually electing politicians however problematic they may tend to be. They are invariably a necessity, it seems, within the system.

Nonetheless, we should resist dismay; things have indubitably been far worse in history than at present, but there are certainly some issues that should be addressed. We have ourselves a new mayor, and some sharp looking new members of council. Together, perhaps, they will be keen to tackle some pressing community problems besides the stadium proposal. One must remember not to hold their breath in these situations, of course; they, too, are human. A fresh regime change is prime time for promising new ideas on all fronts, I hear.

Besides regularly electing politicians and not other types of people, there is at least one other large problem with our current electoral system, which runs on what the sophisticates call a first-past-the-post basis. The problem is that exact premise. What results, more often than not, is a regime in power that explicitly has not received a majority of the vote. We see this, repeatedly, on the national scene particularly now with Harper's precious ‘majority’ Parliament. We see this, likewise, on the local scene. The majority of voters did not want Fougere to be elected. However, he is, nonetheless, the new mayor-elect and we have already had a chance to admire his smiling face on the front page of major news publications.

So how does this work? What is the solution? One question at a time now, folks. Election results show that Fougere received 42.2 per cent of the vote (out of 33 per cent eligible votes actually cast). As one who has even just a basic understanding of arithmetic can see, this obviously falls short of half the total ballots cast (about 14 per cent of total eligible voters’ support). This means that 57.8 per cent of the votes were cast explicitly against Fougere; meaning almost 60 per cent of voters did not prefer Fougere. This means, according to our electoral process, that he gets the big chair.

Solutions might reside within a redefined electoral process, one which does not operate on the first-past-the-post premise. There are fairer alternative processes available, the chief of which is called proportional representation – for the national case – and another potential option (for civic cases) is multiple balloting. Today, more than 80 countries use these fair voting methods. Canada is not yet one of them. See FairVote Canada. We are limiting ourselves and the general efficacy of our electoral processes by relying upon systems that do not translate results into democracy. Not to not mention it or anything but we are living in a state, and also a city, governed by regimes which, as shown in the electoral results, weren’t (and likely still aren’t) actually supported by a majority of Canadians.

Dustin Christianson
Contributor

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