Decisions, decisions on voting systems

Decisions, decisions. 

It is apparent these days that our current electoral system, First Past The Post (FPTP) is simply not meeting the needs of Nova Scotia voters.  As voter turnout continues to drop, we see one party or another given a majority government based on a minority vote.  I'd say it's high time we look into the alternatives.

So which system should we replace FPTP with?  There are many out there, but the most often cited and implemented are the Alternative Vote (AV), Single Transferable Vote (STV), and the Proportional System.  I'll try to explain each as best I can, so bear with me as I'm no expert.

The Alternative Vote.  The voter marks multiple candidates on their ballot ranked in order of popularity and the ballots are then counted.  The candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated, but his or her votes are transferred to the second choice on the aforementioned ballot.  Repeat with the other candidates until a winner is declared.  Easy peasy right?  AV is similar to FPTP in some ways however.  It isn't a form of proportional system and doesn't allow for political diversity.  Both AV & FPTP can, over time, result in two party rule.  And it will not prevent gerrymandering (Yeah, I had to look it up as well).  An AV system can however, avoid what is referred to as the 'Spoiler Affect'.  A spoiler affect can be brought on by a third (or more) party entering an otherwise two party race, siphoning votes from one party which may have won the majority, but allows the other party who would not have had the majority to claim victory.  Possibly the best benefit of an AV system, is the usual parties and candidates can no longer be complacent, as they would need to campaign harder for votes to place higher on the ballot.  Sounds good right?  Well, let's look at the other two first shall we?

The Single Transferable Vote.  An STV system can end up sending more than one representative to a legislature, which theoretically can double or triple the size of said legislature incurring more cost.  Current political boundaries would need to be redrawn and a number of representatives for each area chosen.  In an election, the total number of votes are divided by the number of reps in the area, and that would be the threshold needed to be selected.  Example, in an area with three representatives, 33% of the vote would be needed, and so on.   Much like the AV system, multiple candidates are ranked on the ballot, and votes are transferred from the lowest performing candidate or party to the voters second choice. In an area with only two parties running, multiple candidates from the same party can run.  If from same party, and one candidate gets more than is needed to be elected, those remaining votes are transferred to the other candidate from the same party, possibly resulting in that candidate being elected as well.  An STV system is more proportional-ish than FPTP or AV, but proportionality is not STV's goal.  The goal is more citizens have a local representative whom they voted for, and can feel better about approaching and the number of unhappy voters is minimized.  Sounds good, but not exactly my system preference.

A Proportional System.  This system is a little easier.  People cast votes for their favorite party, not a candidate.  The voting results are then matched as closely as possible based on number of seats in the legislature for each party.  Now, mind you a threshold is needed.  Sort of hard to assign 2 (or less than) % of the seats currently available isn't it?  If one votes for the party, and after the votes are counted, how are the candidates who fill these seats chosen?  Well, each party draws up a candidate list in order of preference, and those on the list are assigned the seats after being told how many seats that party gets.  This system tries to match seating to how voters actually voted.  This system actually sounds better to me.  Implementation sounds easier, and it could provide a smaller party a seat that they otherwise would not have in an FPTP system, and more voices of the political spectrum would be heard.

I know which I would probably go for, but which is the one Nova Scotia should use?  The answer to that, will hopefully one day, be up to you.


J.A.(Jim) Murray

Party Secretary

Atlantica Party


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