In recent times, the federal Liberal-favoured ranked balloting system of voting has been tried in various places and has demonstrated an important flaw. For anyone who may not have following this, it’s the system where you rank the candidates on the ballot, so that the last-place candidate keeps being dropped off until one ends up with a clear majority.
And now the Provincial government has given municipalities the green light to use ranked balloting in future municipal elections.
This is similar to a run-off election, where the voters keep going to the ballot until one candidate has a clear majority. Now, on the face of it, this seems like a good idea. That is, it seems good for your representative to have a clear majority. But there’s a problem that I hadn’t really noticed before.
The candidates usually tell their supporters who to choose for the number spot. Of course, the voters always have the free choice not to listen but, more often than not, they listen. This is because they’re choosing this candidate because they like his/her stance on things and therefore trust their judgement on who should be the alternate choice. So now they make a choice based son someone’s else’s position, usually caused by an any-but-whoever situation.
So in effect, in a three-way race, the third-place candidate, who the most voters trusted the least, ends up choosing who wins.
By way of example, suppose the first ballot produces a count of 45% for Candidate A, 35% for Candidate B and 20% for Candidate C. Candidate C is now dropped and the second-choice votes now get counted as first choice. Candidate C, who was trusted by only one in five of the voters, has asked his/her supporters to throw their support behind Candidate B.
Candidate B is the winner with a final count of 55%, although more people supported Candidate A as their first choice and the Candidate C supporters end up with their second choice, which the Candidate B supporters might not have reciprocated. If you’re looking for “every vote counts”, this isn’t it, because now the votes of the Candidate A supporters, who numbered the highest, don’t count.
Of course, there are two other main options for the way in which we vote. In one, you vote twice, once for the candidate and once for the party. Then some mathematical formula that few seem to fully understand figures out who won. There are a lot of people who have a hard time understanding first-past-the-post, so do we really want a system that even less people will understand?
Then there’s proportional representation, where every party or candidate gets the percentage of votes allotted them. While I used to be for it at one time, it has its weak points as well. The major thing, of course, is the possibility – or even likelihood – of getting a totally confused Italian-style Parliament, with a couple of dozen little parties jockeying to make alliances to get a piece of the power, ending up in frequent elections.
And, since the allotment of seats is by going down a list which is submitted by each party, you might never get anyone you actually know. And, although it would be political suicide for any party not to remember about regional representation, they could, if only once, take all of their candidates from one city.
No matter which one gets picked, someone will be upset about the results for any of the reasons given above, and likely others. Maybe we should just stick with what we have. At least it’s a devil we know.