Sunday, October 25, 2009

What would Saskatchewan's legislature look like with a proportional voting system?

Today the ten MLAs from Yorkton-Melfort-Humboldt are all from the Saskatchewan Party. Although 27% of those voters voted NDP, they elected no representatives. Conversely, only three of Regina's 11 MLAs are in the government caucus, although 37% of Regina voters voted SP.

With a regional open-list Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system such as the Law Commission of Canada recommended (but with smaller regions), if Saskatchewan voters voted as they did in 2007 they would have elected 30 Saskatchewan Party MLAs, 22 New Democrats, and six Liberals.

See MMP Made Easy.

That's using a model with at least one-third of the MLAs elected regionally, in five regions. Three local ridings would generally become two larger ones. You might have 37 local MLAs and 21 elected regionally.

One interesting difference would be the 12 MLAs from Moose Jaw-Swift Current-Estevan-Kindersley: instead of a SP near-sweep, my spreadsheet projects three New Democrats and a Liberal, once NDP votes and Liberal votes count equally with SP voters. That would include the two regional NDP candidates and one regional Liberal candidate who got the most votes across the region. Maybe NDP voters would have elected Glenn Hagel and Sharon Elliott or Ken Crush, and Liberal voters Colleen Christopherson-Cote or Tim Seipp or Michael Klein. The 12 MLAs in that region would be eight local, four regional. The SP would no doubt have won seven of the eight local seats, so those SP voters would even elect one of the regional MLAs.

Another change would be the 10 MLAs I mentioned from Yorkton-Melfort-Humboldt: instead of an SP sweep, we'd see three New Democrats and a Liberal. That would be the three regional NDP candidates who got the most votes across the region (maybe Randy Goulden, Marlys Knezacek and Jordon Hillier) and the top-voted Liberal (perhaps Brent Loehr). The 10 MLAs in that region would be six local, four regional. Those SP voters would no doubt have elected all six local MLAs.

Of course, this projection simplistically assume voters would have cast the same ballots they did in 2007. The reality would be different. When every vote counts, we typically see around 8% higher turnout.

And we would see different candidates. Note that, when the SP members from Moose Jaw-Swift Current-Estevan-Kindersley met in a regional nominating convention, they would have not only voted to put the eight local nominees on the regional ballot, but would have added several regional candidates. With only one or two women from the eight local ridings, when they nominated several additional regional candidates, they would have naturally wanted to nominate a diverse group: more women. And 90% of Canadian voters say that, if parties would nominate more women, they'd vote for them.

Conversely, SP voters across Saskatchewan would also count equally. In the 12 ridings of Regina plus Indian Head - Milestone, instead of four SP MLAs we'd see five, and a Liberal (maybe Michael Huber.) If the SP had won three of the eight larger local ridings, who would Regina voters have chosen as the two regional SP MLAs?

The 13 ridings of Saskatoon plus Martensville were less skewed. Instead of seven NDP and six SP we'd see five NDP, six SP and two Liberals: perhaps David Karwacki and Zeba Ahmad?

The 11 ridings of Prince Albert - Battlefords & North would have an extra NDP MLA (perhaps Maynard Sonntag) and a Liberal (perhaps Ryan Bater).

The exact numbers might be different if Sakatchewan had four regions rather than five. But this is only an exercise in projection: the real results would have been different when more voters turned out to vote in what are now "safe seats."

As noted in previous posts, I prefer regional "top-up" MLAs elected personally under the "open list" model. You would have two votes, and more choice. "Open list" means that voters can vote for whoever they like out of the regional candidates nominated by the party's regional nomination process. The party would win enough regional "top-up" seats to compensate for the disproportional local results we know all too well. Those regional seats would be filled by the party's regional candidates who got the highest vote on the regional ballot. Canadian voters have twice rejected models with closed province-wide lists. The open-regional-list mixed-member model is used in the German province of Bavaria, and was recommended by Canada's Law Commission and by Scotland's Arbuthnott Commission.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Imagine that 1.5 million fraudulent votes had been stuffed in Canada's ballot boxes

Larry Gordon wrote:

“Imagine this election scenario. A party wins 155 seats in a 301-seat Parliament and forms a majority government. But after the election, officials discover that 1.5 million fraudulent votes had been stuffed in the ballot boxes, giving the winning party 38 seats it didn't deserve and majority power that it didn't earn.

That would be electoral fraud on a breath-taking scale. Fortunately the scenario is imaginary, but the following one is real.

In 1997 federal election, the Liberals won just 38 per cent of the votes, but the voting system —- not the voters —- gave them 51 per cent of the seats, or 38 more seats than warranted by the popular vote. If Canada had a fair voting system that treated all votes equally, the Liberals would have needed another 1.5 million votes to capture a majority of seats.

The imaginary scenario would be criminal because individuals manipulated results to give an undeserved 1.5 million vote advantage to one party. The real-life election in 1997 also produced an undeserved advantage equal to 1.5 million votes. The only difference is the fantasy fraud was perpetrated by individuals, whereas the culprit in real life is a voting system that distorts what we say with our ballots.”

In the same vein, let’s look at The Bloc Bonus, and other chronic bonuses.

In the 2008 federal election, the Bloc won just 38 per cent of Quebec’s votes, but the voting system gave them 65 per cent of those seats, or 21 more seats than warranted by the popular vote. If Canada had a fair voting system that treated all votes equally, the Bloc would have needed an extra 2.8 million votes to capture 65 percent of Quebec’s seats. (More precisely, an extra 2,843,986 votes to capture 65.333 per cent of those seats.)

In the 2008 federal election, the Liberals won just 46 per cent of the City of Toronto’s votes, but the voting system gave them 91 per cent of those seats, or 10 more seats than warranted by the popular vote. If Canada had a fair voting system that treated all votes equally, the Liberals would have needed an extra 4.6 million votes to capture 91 percent of Toronto’s seats. (More precisely, an extra 4,604,061 votes to capture 90.909 per cent of those seats.)

In the 2008 federal election, the Conservatives won 65 per cent of Alberta’s votes, but the voting system gave them 96 per cent of those seats, or 8 more seats than warranted by the popular vote. If Canada had a fair voting system that treated all votes equally, the Conservatives would have needed an extra 11.3 million votes to capture 96 percent of Alberta’s seats. (More precisely, an extra 11,301,192 votes to capture 96.429 per cent of those seats.)


No wonder some Toronto Liberals and some Alberta Conservatives are willing to put up with the Bloc Bonus.

Who cares if the equivalent of 2.8 million fraudulent votes had been stuffed in Quebec ballot boxes, when you’re benefiting from the equivalent of 4.6 million fraudulent votes stuffed in Toronto ballot boxes, or from the equivalent of 11.3 million fraudulent votes stuffed in Alberta ballot boxes.

Proportional representation would be good for Canada.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Democratic nominations: why is Germany more democratic than Canada?

You can't turn on the television without hearing of a candidate being appointed to run for parliament somewhere in Canada.

In Germany, this would be illegal.

But isn't Germany the place, you may ask, where half the MPs are elected on a party list? Aren't they appointed? And anyway, can't parties do whatever they like?

No, and no. Germany has laws to guarantee democratic nominations.

Why can't Canada have laws making nominations democratic?

Germany's Law on Political Parties states "The nomination of candidates for elections to parliaments must be by secret ballot:" Sec. 17. Their Federal Elections Act states "A person may only be named as a candidate of a party in a constituency nomination if he or she has been elected for this purpose at a members' assembly convened to elect a constituency candidate:" Sec. 21(1).

The Law Commission of Canada designed a democratic voting system for Canada. The nomination system was outside the mandate of that study, but their model was the German system.

What about nominations at provincial conventions for candidates to be on province-wide lists of party candidates for the federal parliament? Doesn't the party leader decide which candidates get the top ranking, almost guaranteeing them a seat?

No. Again, Germany's Federal Elections Act requires that the order of names of the candidates in the provincial list must be laid down by secret ballot: Sec. 27(5). (This matters for federal elections in Germany, where half of the MPs are elected from closed party lists. By contrast, in provincial elections in Bavaria the list order doesn't matter, since voters vote for the candidate on the regional list they prefer, as well as for the local candidate they prefer.)

But aren't those provincial conventions controlled by the party brass?

No. Even the election of convention delegates is democratic: "The elections of the delegates to delegates' assemblies (party conventions) shall be secret" says Sec. 15(2) of the Law on Political Parties. And if the party allows executive members to be automatic ex-officio delegates at conventions, that Law states that the number of them eligible to vote must not exceed 20% of the total number of delegates: Sec. 9(2). And the usual practice is that the provincial convention to elect list candidates is held only after local constituency candidates have been elected; most good list positions go to candidates who have already won a local nomination. (The SPD, for example, makes sure at least 40% of each group (5 or 10) of candidates on the list are women. Occasionally the list includes a "list-only" minority or female candidate not nominated locally.)

But if an incumbent MP loses the nomination, can't the party brass protect him or her? Not much. The provincial executive may object to the decision of a membership meeting. "If such an objection is raised, the ballot shall be repeated. Its result shall be final:" Sec. 21(4) of the Federal Elections Act. An interesting example from the recent German election was the nomination of Bärbel Bas for the SPD in Duisburg I, defeating an incumbent MP for the nomination. At the first nomination meeting she won by only five votes. A second meeting was called: she increased her margin to 17 votes, and then won the seat in the election.

A notorious instance of breach of these provisions arose in Hamburg in 1993, when the Hamburg constitutional court ruled that the CDU had not abided by the provisions of the law in its selection procedures for the Land election of 1991, and a new election had to be held.