Oct 12

Cariboo-Thompson 2017 Election Results

 


First Past the Post Results

The five ridings in this table represent the Cariboo-Thompson region as defined in the 2015 BC Electoral Boundaries Commission report.

By seat count, it’s 100% Liberal. But those five Liberals actually represent just over 50% of the voters in the region.  

The remaining voters, just under 50%, got 0% of the seats.

That’s what’s wrong with our current voting system.  Half the voters in the region got all the representation in the Legislature, and the other half got none.

 

PR is Good for Northern and Interior Voters

A claim that has achieved currency recently is that proportional representation (PR) will reduce the representation of northern and Interior voters.  This is scaremongering designed to rally local support for those making the claim.  There’s no reason to change the regional representation that exists today.  Any proportional voting system can be designed to retain exactly the same regional representation that we have today. All of the models under consideration by Fair Vote Canada would retain the same levels of regional representation that currently exist.

 

Effect of Proportional Representation on Rural Urban Split

Proportional representation would greatly reduce the effect of the so-called “rural-urban split”, which is far less pronounced than some people like to think. The rural vs. urban seat counts are quite split but that’s because our voting system doesn’t fairly represent voters.  Voters themselves are much less split.  Cariboo Thompson voters are not that different from voters anywhere else in the province, including the Lower Mainland.

 

Goodbye to Strategic Voting

One of the biggest changes for voters under a proportional system is the elimination of strategic voting.  If you choose to vote for party A instead of party B, party A will get the benefit.  If you support party A, there’s no point in voting for party B in the hope that party C won’t win.  If party C gets enough votes, they’ll get the number of seats they deserve. The division of votes between party A and party B will just result in the number of seats each of those parties wins, which will be independent of party C.  In other words, there is no vote splitting because most votes count towards electing a representative.   

 

Safe Seats are Gone

Under the current system, if your riding is a safe seat, then even if you support the leading party, there’s less incentive to vote.  Supporters of each party can be reasonably confident with PR that their vote will count towards electing a candidate from their party so there’s always an incentive to vote.  As a result, PR tends to increase voter turnout.  Not voting means hurting your preferred party.

 

How PR Could Change the Outcome

With a proportional system, the existing vote from 2017 would have resulted in three Liberals, one NDP and one Green across the region.  However, since changing the system will also affect voting patterns because of changes to strategic voting and safe seats, it’s impossible to say what the outcome would actually have been.

What we can say for sure though, is that the outcome under PR will be more representative of the wishes of voters in the region.  And that is the whole point.

 

 

Jul 06

The Point of Contention for Electoral Reform

On election night, when the votes are counted, the candidate with the most votes “wins”. At that moment, all the voters in the riding become the constituents of that winning candidate, and that candidate becomes the representative of all the citizens in the riding, even though many of the voters felt that one of the other “losing” candidates would have better represented their views.

That moment defines the point of contention for the electoral reform movement: is it good enough merely to count all the votes, or should we be trying to “make every vote count”?

The choice of the current system is to count the votes.  The goal of the system is to choose an MLA for each riding.  The connection between that MLA and the voters in the riding is tenuous since only about half the riding voted for them.  The other half are represented by the wrong person – that’s not an effective voting outcome for them.


Is this state of affairs ok?  Well no, it isn’t.  We can do better.  The result of those poorly represented voters is a legislature that doesn’t reflect the electorate and more often than not, a government whose majority is based on a minority of the overall vote.  That’s a big problem because it means the power to pass legislation is not based on the support of most voters.

Instead of this state of affairs, we could choose a voting system that uses as many votes as possible to elect representatives.

Voting systems that do that result in a seat count that more closely matches the popular vote for each party.  In that sense, a more proportional outcome is really a measure of the effectiveness of individual votes.  As more votes are counted, more individual voters are more effectively represented,  and the legislature is more proportional, and that works both ways. 

The fact that our current legislatures are so disproportional is a direct result of that moment where we choose a winner and ignore half the voters in each riding.

 

May 30

News Flash – BC Election Results Don’t Match Our Votes!

In order to best represent the diversity of opinion across all regions of the province, our Legislature should roughly match the makeup of the electorate.  Two things are needed:

  1. There should be a match between the number of seats in relation to each region’s population (along with some compensation for areas with very low population density).
  2. There should also be a match between the number of seats for each party in each region, based on the popularity of that party in that particular region.

If these principles were met, it would mean that each MLA would be elected by about the same number of like-minded voters and as much as possible those like-minded voters would be grouped according to the region they live in.

These are in fact the two top principles that were identified this past summer by the Federal Electoral Reform Committee.

In the election just held in BC, around 1.9 million voters cast a ballot and 87 MLAs were elected.  That’s about 22,000 votes per seat.

Using Vancouver as an example of a region, there were around 260,000 votes cast.  Roughly 134,000 went to the NDP, 87,000 to the Liberals, and 34,000 to the Greens.

Vancouver elects 11 MLAs, so according to the “all voters are equally represented” strategy outlined above, the voters of Vancouver ought to be represented by 6 NDP MLAs, 4 Liberals and 1 Green – that is roughly proportional to the vote for each party.

So that’s how it would go if we had some kind of proportional voting system.

What actually happened is quite different.

With our current system, each riding elects one MLA based on whoever gets the most votes in that riding.

The total number of votes for the winning candidates in Vancouver’s 11 ridings is about 143,000.  That leaves roughly 117,000 votes cast for “losing” candidates.  That is thousands of voters in each riding who would have preferred a different MLA to the one they ended up with.  It includes all the Green and “other” voters in the city, as well as many many NDP and Liberal voters.

In Vancouver Langara for instance, 10,000 voters elected a Liberal MLA, while around 11,000 other voters would have preferred a Green or NDP representative.

The result using this system of counting is 8 NDP MLAs and 3 Liberals which is quite different from the proportional numbers shown earlier.  That’s because the first past the post calculation ignores those 117,000 voters.  That’s the reason that the result is out of whack with what Vancouver voters actually wanted. 

This distortion is repeated in every region of the province, with about 50% of the vote cast for “losing” candidates across the province, and therefore half the electorate represented by an MLA they didn’t vote for.

May 11

So-called Urban Rural Divide

The urban rural divide is real, but it’s made much worse by first past the post.

The top half of the chart contains regions where the Liberals won by a significant margin.  Under first past the post, it really is winner take all. The seats are allocated by a ratio of about four to one for the Liberals and two regions were 100% for the Liberals.

The proportional seats are allocated based on overall percentage of the vote across each region.  In these regions the Liberal seat count is more in line with their actual support.  There is significant NDP and Green support across all these regions as well but it does not result in seats under FPTP.

The situation in the bottom regions is exactly the opposite:  almost four to one for the NDP vs. Liberals under FPTP, but the ratio under proportional seats is much lower.

Our voting system is causing our regional differences to be greatly exaggerated.

May 06

The Crux of Strategic Voting

The crux of strategic voting is that you know your preferred candidate is not likely to win, so you have to decide whether to vote for them anyway or vote for another candidate with a greater chance of winning.  It’s a critical decision in this election where the Green and NDP platforms are quite similar in many ways and the Liberals have a number of positions opposite to both, so a Green supporter who is in a riding with little chance of winning might be tempted to support an NDP candidate who is running a close race with a Liberal.

This is a complicated and difficult situation for any voter to be in, and it does not happen with proportional representation because in proportional voting systems, the crux described above can never happen.  In a party based proportion system your vote will always count towards electing your candidate or an alternative candidate from the same party.  In STV your vote will always count as you choose in your preferences.

May 05

Here’s How A Proportional Legislature Could Look

Numerous Advantages to Proportional Representation

The proportional seat allocation is shown in the rightmost section of the table.  The left and centre sections show the vote percentage and seat allocation from the 2013 election.  The method for the proportional seat calculation is detailed below.

More Balanced Regional Representation

Most obviously, the two main parties have much better distribution of seats throughout every region.  This would greatly reduce the sense that the NDP are the more urban party and the Liberals more strongly represent rural voters.

No Splits – No Sweeps

There are no regions where one party sweeps all the seats.  This is as it should be since there are no regions where all the voters vote for one party.  Those regions that are swept are badly represented in the legislature.  Their representatives are either all in the government or else they’re all in the opposition.  That’s not effective representation.

Take a look at the Fraser Valley.  With 9 seats, the proportional allocation gives seats to all four parties.  Ironically, it’s that four way split that ends up causing all the seats to go to the Liberals with the current system.

Greens and Conservatives Shut Out

The Greens and Conservatives are almost entirely shut out of the legislature, in spite of the fact that they received around 13% of the vote, which proportionally results in around 11 seats.  Those seats mostly went to the Liberals instead.

False Majority

We have a majority government that is based on a minority of the provincial popular vote.  So 44% of the voters in the province elect a majority government.  The red 13.5% indicates the percentage of seats that were awarded to the Liberals over and above their percentage of the vote.  What possible justification can their be for us to continue using a voting system that arbitrarily provides this many bonus seats to the winner?

A majority government is a fine thing if it’s supported by a majority.  It’s also true that a majority doesn’t mean the government can do whatever it wants since there will be another election in a few years.  Nevertheless, there is no reason to believe that a false majority government will bring in better legislation than a minority or coalition government that actually represents the will of the electorate.

How the Numbers are Calculated

The columns on the left show the percentage of the vote for each party in each region in the 2013 BC election. For instance, the Surrey region, which contains 8 seats, voted 48% for the Liberals and so on.

The middle columns show how the seats were allocated using our current first past the post voting system.  Continuing with the Surrey example, the results were 5 Liberals and 3 NDP seats.

The right hand columns show how the same 8 regional seats would have been distributed if it was done proportionally.  The proportional calculation is done using the percentage for each party times the number of seats, and then assigning seats based on the largest fractions.  For instance, in Surrey, 48% of the vote for the Liberals times 8 seats is 3.84 seats.  The NDP with 41% of the vote would get 3.28 seats, and the Conservatives with 6% of the vote would get 0.48 seats.  The allocation proceeds with 3 seats each for the Liberals and NDP, which leaves 2 seats.  Those two go to the party with the highest fraction left over, which is one to the Liberal and one to the Conservative.

This calculation is not a model for any particular proportional voting system but is just a way to show how the seats may have been allocated if it was done more proportionally than with first past the post.

 

May 02

Party Platforms on Proportional Representation

In this election, both the NDP and the Green Party have made a commitment to change the voting system – to make it more fair by ensuring that every vote counts towards electing a representative.

The Liberals say that the status quo is good enough and there’s no need for change.  This is laughable.  This is exactly the same argument they’re making about political party finance rules and for exactly the same self-serving reason:  the current rules are entirely to their benefit.  But they are not to the benefit of voters.  We need to have our finance rules amended so that big money does not have undue influence, and we need to have our seat assignment rules fixed so that the number of seats held by each party in the legislature is a fair representation of that party’s support in the popular vote.

There are many ways to do this and Fair Vote Canada does not advocate any particular one over the others.

Read the NDP platform here and the Green platform here.

We also have interviews with John Horgan and Andrew Weaver conducted by Fair Vote Canada’s Victoria Chapter.

See interview with John Horgan here, and interview with Andrew Weaver here.

If either or both of these parties are able to form government, it will be the strongest government commitment to PR in BC history.

It’s past time to end the distorted and unfair outcomes of first past the post and establish a voting system that results in a Legislature that reflects the wishes of BC voters.

May 02

Regional Breakdown of Seats in the 2013 Election

This chart shows the regional breakdown of the 2013 BC election results.

Each pair of bars is scaled to the number of seats in the region. The top bar, “Votes” shows the percentage of the vote for each party and the second bar, “Seats”, shows the number of seats won in the election.

All the numbers behind the chart can be seen in more detail here.

In every region, one party gets too many seats at the expense of all the other parties.  This leads to an outcome where certain regions are over-represented in government and others are over-represented in opposition.  In the legislature it seems as if the regions of the province are pitted against one another. But this does not reflect the reality: it’s actually just an unfortunate artifact of the voting system.

The reality is that Liberal, NDP, Green and Conservative voters are found in every region.

The most extreme distortions are found in the Thompson-Cariboo, Okanagan-Shuswap, and Fraser Valley regions.  All the seats in those three regions went to the Liberals.

As a result, those three regions are over-represented in the government caucus.  Out of 49 elected Liberals, 21 members were from those three regions, making up nearly half the government’s seats. 

On the other hand, the NDP won more seats than it should have in Vancouver and some of its suburbs, and in Victoria and Vancouver Island, again at the expense of the other parties and their supporters.  The result is that these ridings are under-represented in the government caucus and over-represented on the opposition bench. 

So we end up with a regional breakdown where the government has its strength in certain regions and the opposition has its strength in other regions.

And we have a legislature where one set of regions is falsely arrayed against another.

Policy decisions can’t help but be unbalanced under these conditions.  Without accurate regional representation in the legislature and especially on committees, how can we expect to get legislation that fairly represents the wishes of the whole province?  This applies to just about everything the government decides on, from transit to pipelines to drug policy to education to housing and everything in between.

If every region had the appropriate number of representatives from each party, including the Greens and Conservatives, we’d have a more balanced government, a more balanced opposition, and more balanced legislation, no matter which party was in which role.

May 02

BC’s History of False Majorities

 

Nearly every BC election has resulted in a majority government and nearly every one has been based on less than a majority of the vote.  This chart shows the history of false majorities in BC going back to 1952 when W.A.C. Bennett was first elected.  Only one election since then was not a false majority, and that was 2001 when the Liberals won 58% of the vote – which notably resulted in 97% of the seats.

May 02

How Many Votes Do You Need To Win?

Fair and democratic representation should mean that every vote is treated approximately equally.

With FPTP, smaller parties need a much greater number of votes to win a seat.  This is because they are not concentrated enough in one riding.

This table shows how many votes were needed to elect one member for each of the three major parties in the 2013 BC election.

Should we deny these 146,000 plus Green voters a proportionate voice in the legislature?  Is this the kind of democracy we want?