The Canadian electoral system should be changed to ensure democratic expansion. As such, it should be replaced with the proportional representation electoral system. This system demands fair representation of the respective political groups and the voters as well. It allows a number of representatives to be elected from one district as opposed to the current system in which only one person is elected. The number of seats taken depends on the percentage of acquired votes (Altman, 2000).
Party List Voting
This type of voting is considered to be the most common form of proportional representation.
Under the party list voting system, each group produces a number of candidates proportional to the available seats within that district. In addition, each party or group gets a number of seats according to the number of votes acquired. Individuals are also allowed to vie although they are put on a different list and represented as a party of their own. The two major lists here are the closed and open systems. In the closed system, the party puts forth a list of candidates in a given order and the voters are allowed to vote for that particular party as a whole without showing any preference for a particular candidate.
When the party wins, the candidates are selected from that list according to the set order. In the open list system, voters are the ones who decide on the fate of a candidate as they vote for a candidate individually and not as a party. In addition, the person with the highest number of votes is elected. This system is most common in the European democracies (Blais, 1990). The system is ideal for large states or legislatures and it ensures good representation of the districts in a particular state.
This would particularly be good for Canada given that it is a large state (Gregson, 2004).
Advantages of Proportional Representation
There are a number of advantages associated with this system. For example, the system takes into account such minority groups as women. Representation is diverse and campaigns are not characterized by propaganda as is the case with the other systems. There is also a significant reduction in voter bribery.
The system is also characterized by a large voter turnout given that the voters have a large pool of parties to choose their candidates from. The system is characterized by fairness and flexibility, is more modernized in comparison with the other systems whereby the winner takes it all (Grubel 2004).
Mixed-Member Proportional Voting
This type of voting system is also referred to as compensatory proportional representation. Here, the two systems are combined and the number of candidates from the two systems is equal: both from the plurality and PR systems. The system is preferred due to its effective in ensuring good representation of the members of a district. The system seems to be a compromise of the two representative systems.
People choose the district representative on one side and on the other side they get to choose their party candidate of choice (Franklin, 2005). In this system, there is a set threshold that the party must meet. For instance, a party must get at least 5% of the total party votes across the nation or win three district races so as to get representation into the legislature. In this system, the seats are equally divided among the party contestants and the number is then added to the district representative.
This is a good system in ensuring geographic as well as ideological representation. Politically, this system usually results in the formation of coalition governments with representatives from both the district level and party level (Gastil, 2008). In the event that the winner of the constituency seat is on the party list, then the candidate cannot occupy the two seats; instead the candidate who is closely behind replaces him/her in the party list while he/she takes the constituency seat. The regional open-list system was recommended for Canada although it has not yet been adopted. In overhang seats, a particular party acquires more seats than the number of seats allocated. The assembly seats are usually allocated to the parties depending on the number of votes acquired.
The system is particularly good for t countries with a large population like Canada. The system ensures that the local as well as the national concerns are addressed. It is particularly of great significance in areas that are known to have geographical, social, economic and cultural diversity (Harvey, 2008).
The Potential for Tactical Voting
There is always the fear that minor parties stand a high chance of weakening the major ones especially if they do not meet the set threshold. In tactical voting, party votes are usually considered to be of greater importance than the respective constituency votes in determining the election results. Voters may therefore tend to apply the tactic of splitting their votes so as to have double representation (Henry, 2000).
The system is likely to be abused especially when a party decides to divide itself into two parts whereby one represents one half of the party and concentrates on the acquisition of constituency seats while the other concentrates on the acquisition of other lesser seats. The result would therefore be an overhang. It has also been proved that the system is complicated and the voters may have difficulty in trying to understand it particularly when it comes to the differentiation between the constituency vote and the party vote (Golding, 1998).
This type of voting is also referred to as the Single Transfer Vote. In this system, voters rank the candidates in order of preference.
In the event that his or her preferred candidate is eliminated, the vote cast is automatically transferred to the next candidate. This ensures that no votes are wasted. This system is mainly applicable to non-partisan elections (for example, city council elections).
Through this system, a particular voter can cast his or her vote for a number of candidates. Chances are that the most preferred candidate will be the best in terms of performance hence ensuring that the only the most qualified individuals joins the legislature. The system is good as it ensures that the voters have the final word when it comes to making decisions about their candidates. The system therefore helps to minimize the problems associated with dirty politics (Howe, 2000).
In this system, when a candidate has reached the appropriate threshold, the extra votes are transferred to the next candidate of choice. The candidate who is not likely to win is eliminated and his/her the votes given to the one who is likely to win. The process continues until the appropriate candidates are chosen. This system is preferred as it ensures that the votes are not wasted. The system ensures good party representation as opposed to the plurality-majority voting where the elections are not only characterized by misrepresentation but underrepresentation as well (Karp, 1999).
Significance of the System
The system can be of great importance when dealing with such fundamental issues in Canada as health reforms. The system gives room for the full representation of voters’ ideas and it shows no ideological biases. It ensures that a consensus is reached when handling difficult issues.
As much as the policies are made by the majority, the minority are also included in the discussion of very significant issue hence ensuring that all possibilities are exhausted before a conclusion can be reached (Testa, 2008). With a variety of candidates to choose from, chances are high that one of the candidates voted by a particular voter will be elected as opposed to the system where only one representative is voted in and the rest are left out. The representation is mainly based on political viewpoints rather than geographical representation. In the current Canadian system, only those candidates that are of the winning candidate’s viewpoint are represented while those of the losing candidates have no representation at all. The result is therefore unfairness and biasness. In the current society, people are so mobile and even close neighbors could be holding viewpoints that are completely opposite yet they all need to have their viewpoints represented at the legislature (Kay, 1998). The system gives room for new ideas and solutions given that no idea is ignored, even from the minority group. In the winner-take-it-all system however, the winning side brands the losing side with the negative connotation and there is almost no room for consultation.
In such a system, the candidates do all that they can to win the elections including voter bribery. In the proportional representation system however, the campaigns are issue based and not depended on propaganda, corruption and dirty politics. Less money is therefore required for the campaigns hence reducing corruption and promoting democracy. The candidate does not need as much votes in order to win an election. This system is ideal in reducing gender, racial and other forms of discrimination for the minority groups. The adoption of the system will therefore result in equal representation of the Canadian population (Teixeira, 1987).
Loser Delegation System
In this system, the candidate who has very minimal chances of winning is allowed to delegate his/her vote to the candidate who is likely to win in his/her district or any other district with no regard to the party. The votes that are usually delegated may not necessarily have an effect on whoever enters the legislature but may greatly have an impact on the subsequent votes within the legislature (Loenen, 2002).
Change to Proportional Representation
The change to this kind of system does not necessarily demand the overhaul of the current constitution. Instead, it requires that the laws be passed by the legislature in favor of the system without necessarily having to amend the constitution. This may also be done through the voter initiative. Through political mobilization, the system could be initiated in the Canadian system by changing some laws that are applicable (McNair, 2007).
Canada’s Electoral System Reform
The pressing for the Canadian electoral reform started during World War I and was spearheaded by different groups. The recommended system has been the proportional representation system. Reform efforts have however not borne fruits given that the government has always failed to pass the appropriate laws to support such a reform. Most groups like the political parties and farmers associations adopted the system in carrying out their voting activities and this proved successful a good example being the BC’s Liberal Party (Mill, 1861). The current Canadian electoral system has several weaknesses that need to be addressed. The country uses the system of single member plurality and which in the real sense does not reflect the voters’ representation to the fullest. There has been a general decline in the voter turnout in the recent years hence prompting the need for a new system that would ensure increased voter turnout.
The system majorly represents the majority groups while leaving out the minority who also need to be represented. Most of the wishes of the minority groups are therefore left out. There has been a call for the change of the current electoral system and the adoption of a system that can be relied upon like the mixed member system which increases chances of equal representation between the majority and minority groups (Newman, 2006). Canada’s law commission has recommended electoral reforms although the breakthrough has not been much.
In 2005, the citizens were allowed to vote on a referendum concerning the need to change the current electoral system. The percentage needed for the electoral reform was only less by 2% given that the motion of electoral reform needed 60% of the votes across the provinces. The total vote count amounted to 58% of the total vote count hence falling short of what was required. Shortfalls of the current electoral system were manifested when the present liberal government managed to come to power even after getting lesser votes across the provinces, in comparison with the conservatives (Wolfinger, 1991). Several debates have been held in and effort to resolve the issue of electoral system restructuring. In addition, different recommendations have also been given although very little has been done to the same effect.
The Mix-Member proportional system was suggested by a set secretariat although this was overruled by the Ontarian voters who rejected it in a referendum that was held in 2007 (Odenwald, 2008).
Advantages of the Single Member Plurality System
This system seems to be the most preferred over the proposed system due to a number of factors. This system is particularly significant in democracies with multiple parties as the majority government is likely to be produced in such a case in such a competitive system. Such a government is usually stable and more accountable to the voters. Coalition governments on the other hand are characterized by squabbles and finger pointing.
Leaders always want to take credit for the positive happenings but avoid cannot shoulder the blame for the wrong happenings. The system also allows the voters and views and interests to be represented by their own single representative and no conflict of interests (Phillips, 1975).
Disadvantages of the System
In this system, the number of wasted votes is enormous.
A candidate only needs one vote ahead of his opponent in order to be declared a winner and the rest of the extra votes are just wasted. In the real sense, the party seats are never the exact representation of the number of votes acquired. There is no full representation of the electorate given that only those ascribing to the view of the winning candidate or party are fully represented while the rest are not represented (Douglas, 2005).
Is Proportionality Relative?
In assessing the two systems, the question of relative proportionality has to be considered. While comparing different systems, it has always been thought that one system offers greater representation than the other. The proportional representation system in particular has been compared to other systems like the plurality system where the winner takes it all.
The plurality system is thought of as being disproportional and that it does not fully represent the voters’ interests. Canada for instance still employs the plurality system although many people are dissatisfied with it and are pressing for the appropriate voting system reforms (Pinto, 1991).
Problems of Party Proportionality
Proportional systems often use party proportionality to measure their representation and hence proving to be limited in some way. Some systems have in fact been proved to be so much obsessed with the issues of party proportionality hence resulting in the balance of power being left to small parties that are idiosyncratically governed hence forming governments that are unstable. The Canadian case has particularly been worsened by the fact that most of those parties that come to power do not even get the 40%of the required total vote so as to form the government.
This results in weaker governments and weaker legislature characterized by a weaker judiciary (Brooker, 2008). PR system’s overdependence on political parties makes the system inefficient in a way, given that political parties are slowly losing their influence on the people. Voters are slowly becoming independent of the political parties and hence they require an alternative system that does not excessively depend on the political parties. The closed list system is disadvantageous given that the voters are allowed to vote for a party as a block and not necessarily individuals hence the voters’ freedom to choose the candidate of their freedom of choice is curtailed (Courtney, 1991).
The PR system has been adopted by many nations as compared to the plurality system. The system is particularly common in most European countries with German being included. The system was also adopted by France when the Second World War ended although it was later discarded in 1958.
At one point, the system had been recommended for adoption by parliamentary assembly of the United Nations so as to enable the Indian lower casts to be included or be represented (Chowdhury, 1997).
Some countries usually have only one electoral district where only one candidate is expected to win while others have different candidates being elected from one given district or constituency. The proportion of representation is therefore measured per the number of representatives or candidates from that particular district. In the case of a Multi-member District, the winning candidate is expected to have majority of the votes in comparison to the other candidates. Some quotas may for instance demand that a candidate get at least 50% of the total votes in that district and have more votes than the rest although the quotas may vary (Smith, 1991). The issue of gerrymandering is therefore significantly reduced in the PR system. Proportionality in an electoral system is not necessarily made possible by the employment of Multi-Member Districts. In some cases, a party can win a certain number of seats and yet fail to raise the whole number of candidates required to fill them hence resulting in an under-hang (Choe, 1997).
A lot of resources have been channeled towards ensuring that Canada gets a new electoral system and several referenda held in trying to get the country a new electoral system most of which have borne no fruit (Seligson, 1995). However, the current plurality system has very many shortfalls and it needs to be replaced by a more appropriate system. The PR system seems to be the best option for country given its large size and population. The system will ensure greater representation of peoples’ interests across the wider geographical area (Carty, 1991). Canadians only get to exercise their democratic rights during the time of an election. It is however surprising that most of their votes are wasted given that their favorite candidates at times lose by a very small margin (Rose, 1997). This has led to the frustration of many individuals who opt to stay at home on the elections day given that their candidates are likely to lose in the election. Voter dissatisfaction seems to be playing a big role in the lower voter turnout.
The voter system therefore needs to be rethought so as to ensure that the voters exercise their democracy to the fullest (Carroll, 1995).
Altman, D. (2000). The Politics of Coalition Formation and Survival in Multiparty Presidential Democracies: The Case of Uruguay, 1989-1999.
Party Politics, 6(3), 259-283. Blais, A., & Carty, R. K. (1990). Does proportional representation foster voter turnout? European Journal of Political Research, 18(2), 167-181. Brooker, K. (2008).
Another election, another wasted vote. September 8th 2008. Calgary Herald. Carroll, D. et al.
(1995) Civil and Voter Registration and Identification System: Proposed Implementation System. Washington: Microsoft Corporation. Carty, R. K. (1991) Registering Voters: Comparative Perspectives, Massachusetts: Harvard University. Choe, Y.
(1997) How to Manage Free and Fair Elections: A Comparison of Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Goteborg: Goteborg University. Chowdhury, J.
A. (1997). Voter Registration and Identity Cards in South Asian Countries. London: Macmillan.
Courtney, J. C. (1991) Registering Voters: Comparative Perspectives.
Massachusetts: Harvard University. Courtney, J. C., & David Smith. (1991).Registering Voters: Canada in Comparative Context.
” Democratic Rights and Electoral Reform in Canada. Toronto: Dundurn. Douglas J. A. (2005).Proportional Representation: The Case for a Better Election System. New York: Routledge.
Franklin, B., Einstein, A., Brown, R. M. (1985). Insanity: doing the same thing repeatedly again and expecting different results. Ontario: Broadview Press Gastil, J.
(2008). Political Communication and Deliberation. Sage Publications. Golding, P., & Elliott, P.
(1999). Media Studies: a Reader (second edition). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Gregson, I. (2004). Overhauling our electoral process. SFU News Online.
March 18th 2004. Grubel, H. (2004).
The Case against Proportional Representation. Toronto Star. November 14th 2004. Harvey, J.
(2008). Canada needs electoral reform. Telegraph-Journal.
October 22nd 2008. Henry M. (2000), Making Every Vote Count: Reassessing Canada’s Electoral System.
Ontario: Broadview Press. Howe, P., & Northrup, D.
(2000). Strengthening Canadian Democracy. Policy Matters, 1(5).
July 2000. Karp, J. A.
, & Banducci, S. A. (1999).
The Impact of Proportional Representation on Turnout: Evidence from New Zealand. Australian Journal of Political Science, 34(3), 363-377. Kay, A.
F. (1998). Locating Consensus for Democracy.
St Augustine: American Talk Issues Foundation. Loenen, N. (2002), Citizenship and Democracy: A Case for Proportional Representation. Ontario: Dundurn Press.
McNair, B. (2007). An Introduction to Political Communication. New York: Routledge. Mill, J.
S. (1861). Representative Government.
Newman, G. (2006). Electoral system. London: Macmillan Odenwald, B.
(2008). Newly-wed Odenwald decries swapping and its causes. Fair Vote Canada, Press Release. September 15, 2008.
Phillips, K. P., & Blackman, P. (1975). Electoral Reform and Voter Participation: Federal Registration, a False Remedy for Voter Apathy. California: Hoover Institute. Pinto D. M.
(1991) Electoral Registration in Britain: Is There a Case for Reform? Massachusetts: Cambridge. Rose, R. (1997). Evaluating Election Turnout.
A Global Report on Political Participation. Stockholm: International IDEA. Seligson, M. et al. (1995). Who Votes in Central America? A Comparative Analysis.
Elections and Democracy in Central America, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Smith, D. E. (1991). Federal Voter Enumeration in Canada: An Assessment.
Registering Voters: Comparative Perspectives, Massachusetts: Harvard University. Teixeira, R. A. (1987).
Why Americans Don’t Vote: Turnout Decline in the United States, 1960–1984. New York: Greenwood. Testa, R.
(2008). Proportional Representation vs. First-Past-The-Post Wolfinger, R. E. (1991) The Politics of Voter Registration Reform.
Registering Voters: Comparative Perspectives. Massachusetts: Harvard University.