Friday, March 07, 2008

Old Tricks

That's what the folks at Fair Vote Canada are up to these days. Seems they don't like Ed Stelmach getting a stable governable majority. Why? Well, it doesn't represent the "popular vote". Unfortunately, the popular vote is about as real as the Easter Bunny. So, here, for free, another civics lesson for the folks over at fair vote. Here's how the Single Member Plurality system that is currently in place works:

In every riding in the province candidates ran for election. Some (okay, most of these candidates) sought the endorsement of a non-democratic institution called a political party. Political Parties are big powerful interest groups that have a large influence on democratic results. One representation of this power is that many jurisdictions print the party's name under the candidate's on a given ballot for the purposes of simplicity and transparency. However, they are not being elected; their nominated candidates are. In each of Alberta's 83 electoral districts people went to the poll and they voted for which of the CANDIDATES on the ballot would best represent the people of that riding in Edmonton. Now, granted ONE of the considerations when deciding on which candidate to elect is which party they belong to. However, things like name recognition, view of the candidate (ie did you like them when they were at your door), candidate's position on local and provincial issues, etc. also factor into the decision. After each voter in each electoral district had made this calculus the votes were counted. In SMP votes are counted as follows.
  1. Votes at each polling station are separated by candidate into piles and tabulated.
  2. The results from all the polls are added together.
  3. The candidate with the most votes (or a "plurality") is declared the winner and becomes the elected MLA for the riding.
Once a winner in each riding is declared, the elected members are sorted out. The Lieutenant Governor then makes a calculation: who is most capable of governing the province? That person he names Premier. He does this most easily by looking at which political party the elected candidates ran for in the election. In this case, 72 of the 83 delegates were endorsed by the Progressive Conservative Party. Thus, the Lieutenant Governor will ask the leader of that party, Ed Stelmach, to be Premier of Alberta. That's it.

Where does the popular vote fit into all this you ask? Well, it doesn't. At no time were Albertans asked which party they wished to govern the province. They were asked one question and one question only: Which of the candidates would best represent your riding in Edmonton? That's it. That's the question SMP answers, and it answers it well. If you want to ask the electorate a different question, fine. However, don't expect SMP to provide the answer to a question it doesn't ask.


Scott Tribe said...

Well, Aaron, when a particular voting system only managed to get 41% turnout - there's a problem with the current voting system.

You anti-electoral reform folks can dig your heads in the sand over this all you want, but declining voter turnout going to have to be addressed at some point.

Andy said...

Turnout has declined (generally) in Canada while the voting system has remained constant -- doesn't that suggest that declining turnout has little or nothing to do with the voting system?

I'm not sure that the 41% turnout is really a problem. If the 59% of non-voters are somehow dissatisfied with the result of not voting, we can expect to see them return to the polls next time.

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