Sunday, November 25, 2012

One Canadian reason for Instant Runoff Voting, or at least Single Transferable Vote

I am looking at the last elections in Canada, which were in 2011 and they use First past the Post voting. Now, Stephen Harper is the Prime Minister, the Conservative Party's leader, and in the election he received 53.9% of the seats. The New Democrats under the late Jack Layton and the Liberals under Ignatieff both pulled the majority of the rest of the seats creating spoilers for each other across the country.

Wikipedia has really good information about the results in Canada in 2011,,_2011 and,_2011 and I recommend looking at the elections where no party received over 50% of the vote. Here is a summary table of the votes received in each of the provinces from there to see the clear change in representation with FPP as opposed to what the people want. I understand this isn't as detailed, but the link above gives detailed information, this is meant as a quick overview.

Across Canada, the Conservative Party received 39.6% of the vote, yet they received 53.9% of the seats.

Province Conservative NDP/Liberal/Green Conservative Seats NLG seats
Alberta 66.8 33.2 96 4
British Columbia 45.5 54.5 58 42
Manitoba 53.5 46.5 79 21
New Brunswick 43.9 56.1 80 20
Newfoundland 28.4 71.6 14 86
Northwest Territories 32.1 67.9 0 100
Nova Scotia 36.7 63.3 36 64
Nunavut 49.9 50.1 100 0
Ontario 44.4 55.6 69 31
Prince Edward Island 41.2 58.8 25 75
Quebec 16.5 43.5 7 93
Saskatchewan 56.3 43.7 93 7
Yukon 33.8 66.2 100 0
All of these are percentages from the links above.

Looking at a lot of ridings we get a similar picture on a fine scale. The majority of Canadians voted for either the Liberals or the New Democrats, but since they could choose only one candidate their votes were split and Canadians are stuck with Stephen Harper, even though 60.4% of Canadians voted for left-wing parties. The American election that just happened saw a similar result where 51% of Americans voted for their Democratic Representative candidate yet the Republicans are in full control of the House of Representatives due to Gerrymandering. In Britain which also uses FPP the Conservative Party received only 36.05% of the vote but received 47.08% of the seats. The list of British elections that year again shows a large number of seats with the majority of voters voting for either the Liberal Democrats or Labour but still the Conservative gets elected, in many cases the winner won less than 40% of the vote, with the majority going liberal. In the cases where the Liberal Democrats or Labour won, or the one case where the Green candidate was elected if there was redistribution with IRV nothing would change because they would receive the votes from the other left-wing party which means that there would probably be no difference in victor assuming people vote for the same first choice and fill their ballots out correctly which is usually not a problem in the democracies that use proportional representation.

This is an inherent flaw with First Past the Post Voting. It does not represent the majority. America, Canada, and Britain need to adopt Instant Runoff Voting or Single Transferable Vote for our elections so that we can have an accurate representation of what the people want in our democracies and see third party participation with neglected issues rise to give Democracy back to the people! A better choice would be to choose Single Transferable Vote though, which would make it so that third parties would more likely be represented which would increase the possibility that minority views could be heard in our legislatures. This is why even though there should be 17 or 18 Greens in Australia's parliament despite using the alternative vote there is only one Green in parliament. By making large districts with multiple winners as Fairvote proposes we could have third parties represented and vote for the candidates we want without having either a) a very long ballot or b) vote for the party instead of the individual which locks voters into boxes for which party they prefer regardless of candidate.

This is not just western nations too. Malaysia in 2008 saw again the same pattern of a large difference between the votes received and the seats attained between their two large coalitions in 2008 where the right wing got 50% of the vote but 63% of the seats and they also use FPP. India saw their largest coalition receive 37% of the vote and 48% of the seats, and their third largest coalition received 21% of the vote but only 7% of their seats still with the same system. In my opinion a difference over 10% between votes and representation represents a system failure. In the United States in 2012 the Republicans received 48% of the vote and 54% of the seats, while not as extreme as these other countries is also worth noting because it is across the 50% mark.

But is it really that much better with ranked voting? The data says yes. In 2010 the Labor Party received 50% of the vote and 55% of the seats in Australia. In 2009 in Germany the CDU received 33% of the vote and received 40% of the seats while competing against 4 other major parties all of whom received seats. In 2010 in Sweden the Social Democrats received 30.7% of the vote and received 32% of the seats. Australia, Germany and Sweden are just three examples of the larger trend where proportional representation more accurately represents the views of the People and are much better systems. This is why I think we need to move to Fairvote's plan after looking at how India, Malaysia, Britain and Canada's elections reflect our own so much in minority rule with the same inherently broken election system while Australia, Germany, and Sweden have very accurate representation of what the people ask for in their parliaments. To quote CGPGrey from youtube, would anyone accept a sport where there was a 10% chance that the loser could win? Of course not, and we shouldn't accept it in our elections.

Learn more at and CGPGrey's channel on youtube.
Here is a map of where different systems are used:

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