Monday, March 13, 2023

If Saskatchewan had a democratic voting system in 2020 . . .

After the 2020 election, communities in all of Saskatchewan outside Regina, Saskatoon and the two northern ridings have no voice in the opposition. They have no local voice to question any government action or inaction. Their regions face one-party rule.

With a regional open-list Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system such as the Law Commission of Canada recommended, if Saskatchewan voters voted as they did in 2020 (and assuming the Green vote doubled with PR, as one can normally assume), they would have elected 38 Saskatchewan Party MLAs, 20 New Democrats, and three Greens.

With MMP, we still elect the majority of MLAs locally. Voters unrepresented by the local results top them up by electing regional MLAs. The total MLAs match the vote share. With the regional "Open list" version, voters can vote for whomever they like out of the regional candidates nominated by the party's regional nomination process. Like this ballot that won the 2016 referendum in PEI.  

See MMP Made Easy.

I’m using a model with almost 40% of the MLAs elected regionally, in five regions. Eleven local ridings would generally become seven larger ones. My simulation has 39 local MLAs and 22 elected regionally. 

Assumption about Green Party

I am not a Green Party supporter, but it is well-known that pre-election polls generally show Green Party support at double the level of Green votes cast on election day. Half of Green Party supporters vote “strategically” for another party, or stay home. When every vote counts, the Green Party vote will generally double. In the 2020 election, 2.25% of votes went to the Green Party, so my projection assumes this will become 4.5%. Most proportional voting system have a threshold of 5% or 4% of the votes for a party to win representation. With only 61 MLAs, the right threshold for Saskatchewan would be 4%. In 2020, the new Buffalo Party got 2.54%, but I have no reason to project their vote under PR to go above 4%, so my projection does not include Buffalo Party MLAs. 

Five regions

Problems with your Area Clinic in Weyburn, Moose Jaw, Swift Current, Rosetown, North Battleford, Prince Albert, Tisdale, or Yorkton? Who're ya gonna call?

The 1
2 MLAs from the southwest (Moose Jaw-Swift Current-Weyburn-Kindersley) are all from the Saskatchewan Party. Although 20% of those voters voted NDP, they have no voice in the opposition. Instead of a SP sweep, my spreadsheet projects two New Democrats, once NDP votes count equally with SP voters, and a Green. That would be the two regional NDP candidates who got the most votes across the region. Maybe NDP voters would have elected Melissa Patterson from Moose Jaw and Stefan Rumpel from Swift Current, and Green voters Kimberly Soo Goodtrack from Wood Mountain Lakota First Nation. (Stefan Rumpel told voters he wants proportional representation because it can increase diversity in government.)

The 12 MLAs in that region would become eight local, four regional. The SP would no doubt have won all eight local seats, so those SP voters would even elect one of the regional MLAs.

Voters in the 13 Regina-region districts (including Indian Head - Milestone) would have elected six NDP MLAs, not just five. Perhaps Bhajan Brar? And they would have elected Green Party leader Naomi Hunter.

For the 10 MLAs from Yorkton-Melfort-Humboldt, instead of the SP winning them all, we'd see two New Democrats. That would be the two regional NDP candidates who got the most votes across the region (maybe Thera Nordal from Southey, east of Last Mountain Lake, and Stacey Strykowski from Preeceville near Yorkton). The 10 MLAs in that region would be six local, four regional, so those SP voters would even elect two of the regional MLAs. 

The 15 ridings of the Saskatoon-region (including Martensville-Warman) were less skewed. We’d still see six NDP, and along with eight SP we'd see a Green Party MLA: perhaps Delanie Passer? 

For the 11 MLAS from Prince Albert, Lloydminster & North, the NDP would have elected two more: maybe incumbent Prince Albert MLA Nicole Rancourt, and Amber Stewart from The Battlefords.

Of course, this projection simplistically assumes voters would have cast the same ballots they did in 20
20. The reality would be different. When every vote counts, we typically see around 8% higher turnout. And one recent study suggested 18% of voters might vote differently. No more strategic voting. We would likely have had different candidates -- more women, and more diversity of all kinds. Who knows who might have won real democratic elections?

Different candidates: when the SP members from Moose Jaw-Swift Current-Weyburn-Kindersley
met in a regional nominating convention, they would have not only voted to put the eight local nominees on the regional ballot, but also would have added several regional candidates. With only one woman from the eight local ridings, when they nominated several additional regional candidates, they would have naturally wanted to nominate a diverse group: more women. In 2020 Saskatchewan elected 17 women and 44 men. But 90% of Canadian voters say that, if parties would nominate more women, they'd vote for them.

Note: this is only a simulation

In any election, as Prof. Dennis Pilon says: "Now keep in mind that, when you change the voting system, you also change the incentives that affect the kinds of decisions that voters might make. For instance, we know that, when every vote counts, voters won't have to worry about splitting the vote, or casting a strategic vote. Thus, we should expect that support for different parties might change."

In these local simulations, for the names of regional MPPs I use the local candidates who got the highest percent in the region without winning the local seat. They would be the most likely winners under open-list MMP,

The open-list Mixed-Member Proportional system: 

Every MLA represents actual voters and real communities. 

We’re not talking about a model with candidates appointed by central parties. We’re talking about the mixed member system designed by the Law Commission of Canada, where every MLA represents actual voters and real communities. The majority of MLAs will be elected by local ridings as we do today, preserving the traditional link between voter and MLA. The other 36% are elected as regional MLAs, topping-up the numbers of MLAs from your local region so the total is proportional to the votes for each party. 

You have two votes. One is for your local MLA. The second helps elect regional MLAs for the top-up seats. All MLAs have faced the voters. No one is guaranteed a seat. The region is small enough that the regional MLAs are accountable. 

Competing MPPs:

You have a local MPP who will champion your community, and at least four competing regional MPPs, normally including one whose views best reflect your values, someone you helped elect in your local district or local region. 

How would regional MLAs serve residents?

See how it works in Scotland. 

The ballot would look like this ballot that PEI voters chose in their 2016 plebiscite, unlike the closed-list MMP model Ontario voters did not support in 2007. 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.

However, when Quebec’s Chief Electoral Officer reported In December 2007 on a compensatory mixed system, he reviewed several options for the design of a mixed proportional model for Quebec. He leaned towards an open list system with a party option: giving voters the choice of using their second ballot to vote for a party or one of its regional candidates. This would help parties that choose to present a “zippered” list, alternative women and men. 

The Jenkins Commission in the UK had a colourful explanation accurately predicting why closed lists would be rejected in Canada: additional members locally anchored are “more easily assimilable into the political culture and indeed the Parliamentary system than would be a flock of unattached birds clouding the sky and wheeling under central party directions.”

Technical Notes:

1.    The calculation for any PR system has to choose a rounding method, to round fractions up and down. I have used the “largest remainder” calculation, which Germany used until recently, because it is the simplest and most transparent. In a 10-MPP region, if Party A deserves 3.4 MPPs, Party B deserves 3.1, Party C deserves 2.3, and Party D deserves 1.2, which party gets the tenth seat? Party A has a remainder of 0.4, the largest remainder. In a region where one party wins a bonus (“overhang”), I allocate the remaining seats among the remaining parties by the same calculation.

2. The purpose of the compensatory regional seats is to correct disproportional local results, not to provide a parallel system of getting elected. The Law Commission of Canada recommended that the right to nominate candidates for regional top-up seats should be limited to those parties which have candidates standing for election in at least one-third of the ridings within the top-up region. The UK’s Jenkins Commission recommended 50%. This prevents a possible distortion of the system by parties pretending to split into twin decoy parties for the regional seats, the trick which Berlusconi invented to sabotage Italy’s voting system.


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