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.


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