What is Proportional Representation?
Proportional Representation (PR) is an umbrella term for electoral systems in which the proportion of seats a party receives reflects the proportion of votes they obtained.
What is Wrong with our Current System?
Because a candidate only needs to get one more vote than the other candidates, rarely will a candidate win a riding with a majority of support. This leads to a large percentage of voters not having their ideas/principles/voice represented in government.
FPTP vs PR
Why is PR Important?
The First-Past-the-Post electoral system is not serving Canadians’ best interests because it does not result in the actual popular vote. As the name implies, it works like a horse race. The first candidate to get more votes than any other candidate wins the election. The rest take 2nd, 3rd and 4th place respectively and the remainder of the votes do not go toward electing anyone.
In the 2011 election there were 7,000,000 votes cast, or nearly half of the votes cast, which did not go toward electing anyone.
Proportional Representation guarantees that all votes elect someone on the ballot, that there will be a candidate of everyone’s choice, even their second choice, representing them in the House of Commons. They may also choose the party.
In this way, there will never be a need to manipulate an election or vote strategically to get the lesser of all evils to represent you.
PR is important because it returns legitimacy to our democracy. When a government is elected in proportion to the votes they received, more people have their voices represented and the ruling party would have a majority of support from Canadians. Many Canadians currently “vote strategically” in order to prevent certain parties or candidates from winning in their riding – this means they are voting for a “lesser evil” instead of the candidate which they prefer.
What are the Different Systems?
Who Uses PR?
There are many different proportional representation systems – any electoral system that results in every party receiving approximately the same percentage of seats as the percentage of votes they received is a proportional system. The two most commonly discussed are Single Transferable Vote (STV) and Mixed Member Proportional (MMP).
Voters mark their preferences for as many or as few candidates in a multimember riding with a certain percentage of votes needed for a candidate to get elected. The extra votes on top of what a candidate needs to get elected is called the surplus. The way second, third, fourth, etc. preferences are tallied can vary.
They could take the surplus from one candidate and apply the second preferences from those ballots (chosen at random, but a specific number of ballots) to the other candidates who have not yet reached the quota. This continues (with third, fourth, fifth preferences, etc.) until all of the seats in the riding are filled.
They could also take all of the second preferences from candidates with a surplus and apply those with a transfer value (e.g. candidate with surplus’s surplus votes divided by candidate with surplus’s total votes) to the second preference candidates. If, after transferring those votes, another candidate reaches the quota, they are also elected. If, however, no candidate reaches the quota after transferring the first elected candidates second preferences, the candidate with the lowest number of votes would be eliminated and their second preferences would be transferred at full value. This would continue until all of the seats in the riding are filled.
MMP consists of a ballot where you vote for two things: a constituency MP (like in our current system, which is elected in a FPTP method) and a party. Each party then receives the percentage of seats that matches the percentage of votes they obtained, usually within a minimum threshold of 5-10%. In the “open list” version, recommended by the Law Commission of Canada, the top regional vote-getters from underrepresented parties fill top-up seats until those parties’ share of seats reflects their share of the popular vote.
81 countries use elements of proportionality when electing their national assembly, including most long-term democracies, most European countries, and most of the major nations of the Americas. Most of these have used it for decades. New countries almost never opt for a system like Canada’s when setting up their first democratic voting system.
Which System does Fair Vote Canada Endorse?
Fair Vote does not endorse a single system, but instead endorses PR in general. Our goal, as the Vancouver Chapter, is for the Canada, British Columbia, and BC Municipalities to change their First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) system to a system which would elect governments which are proportional to the public’s support. Our view is that any PR system is better than the current system.