A Misrepresentative City Council – Is Your Voice Truly Heard?

In a city as diverse as Vancouver, the value of  proportional representation in civic elections is to ensure that all members of our communities are represented on council. How can city council make decisions that properly reflect the wishes of the community if the community is not properly represented? It can’t.

It should be obvious that a representative democracy should have a voting system that ensures proper representation. But this is not the goal of the at­ large voting system that we currently use, which, instead, is designed to choose majorities whenever possible. It does this by awarding extra seats to the party that “wins” the election. This award is not explicit, but is a clear and demonstrable side effect of the way votes are counted. There are many examples of past civic elections in both Vancouver and Burnaby where this unearned dividend resulted in council sweeps. In the Vancouver 2011 election, Vision won seven seats with only 34% of the vote and repeated this almost exactly in the most recent election on November 15th, 2014.

And the problem is no different on a provincial or federal level. In order to represent multiple viewpoints for any given constituency, it’s necessary to have multiple representatives for that constituency. No single person can represent multiple different points of view. It’s also why a single member ward system would be a bad choice for civic electoral change.

We do have multiple representatives in our current first past the post voting system, but the other requirement is to count votes in a way that ensure that equal numbers of voters who vote the same way are represented in the outcome. This is the purpose of the quota in the single transferrable vote system, and the reason for the party vote in mixed member proportional systems.

Proportional representation voting systems are designed to ensure that all voters are represented on city council. PR voting would lead to more democratic civic councils whose decisions better reflect the voters’ wishes. Let’s stop repeating our past. Talk to your council and push for change to our civic electoral system.

Image courtesy of flickr.com/jmv

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