Eduard Hiebert

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FPTP bad!  MMP worse!!  "Vote 1, 2, 3..." better!!! Stops vote-splits, overruns & phony majorities

(With Ontarians turning down MMP, is this a lost opportunity, or is there a better way?)

In the paper I submitted to the Ontario Citizens Assembly on Electoral reform I included the following key statement:  "You can not fix something if you do not know what is broken... you can not fix a bicycle tire if you do not know where the hole is.  We can not fix our election system with certainty, without knowing where the holes are that allow minorities to control the majorities."

The following pinpoints the hole within the current electoral system, provides a brief summary of the ills of Mixed Member Proportionality (MMP), based not on emotional arguments, or empty wishful thinking, but a step by step logical argument and concludes by showing the preferential ballot - vote 1, 2, 3... - all but eliminates the current single-mark-ballot (First Past The Post [FPTP]) vulnerabilities to vote-splits and overruns, the latter better known as phony majorities.

The outcry resulting from Canada's and Ontario's democratic deficit drove Ontario's politicians to wrap themselves in the flag, without giving up their control of the agenda in how they structured the "Citizens Assembly" process.  Notably absent from the Assembly's deliberations was that it never got down to defining either the democratic deficit, nor its causes!

The root cause of the democratic deficit is made possible through the use of a single-mark-ballot.  First, the single-mark-ballot, even when the field of choice involves more than two choices, restricts the vote to making one mark.  Then, when these ballots are counted, about the best use of the single-mark-ballot is to only make the limited comparison, which candidate received more votes than any other single candidate.  However, this system is very vulnerable to vote-splitting the voice of the majority voters into smaller pieces so that a minority supported candidate, who may actually be in direct opposition to the interests of the majority but has more support than any other single candidate, is then elevated to elected status.  As this vote is the outcome of the people's vote, it provides the necessary illusion that this was their choice, as one of their own, despite the Trojan Horse credentials of many of the candidate. Such a minority supported candidate, elevated to elected status, makes possible that the will of the majority is being thwarted and trumped by the will of a minority and contrasts sharply with almost all other democratic decision making processes, where the minimum gold standard of democratic self rule is "Majority Rule".

Turning directly to MMP, Mixed Member Proportionality as a system, neither tackles nor addresses the democratic deficit of minority rule but enshrines it more deeply! Here's how:

As statistical background, the two most widely recognised proponents of MMP, FairVote and EqualVoice, along with an overwhelming majority of participants in the Ontario Assembly process ALL agreed and found fptp unacceptable. For example, Fairvote's submission to the Assembly stated fptp is a "dysfunctional voting system that violates core Canadian values"! EqualVoice's said "We believe the Citizen's Assembly should NOT recommend retaining our present first-past-the-post system"!

However, MMP at its core, is really fptp repackaged and then given a new name!  Currently, Ontario citizens elect 107 members to parliament using "the defective and vulnerable to vote-splitting system", fptp. Under the proposed "MMP" system, instead of electing 107 by the defective fptp system, the citizens are short-changed and will continue to use the same defective fptp system, but only be able to elect 90 fptp candidates!  As a foot-note, 90 members elected by the dysfunctional fptp system will be less representative and less proportional of the citizenry than 107 elected by the dysfunctional fptp system!

Returning to "vote-splitting" for a moment, vote-splitting describes what happens to the votes of the majority, whereby the voice of the majority is split into smaller pieces, so that an elite minority representative candidate appears to have more support than any of the majority's vote-split candidates. The effect of vote-splitting, the dividing of the voice of the majority, has a corresponding effect on the composition of parliament's members and is called "overruns".

"Overruns" are where a party's % share of SEATS elected is greater than the % of VOTES received. When a party gains a majority of seats, that is called majority government, but when that party has achieved that status through overruns and does not have the support of a majority of voters, that is truly a phony majority and feeds the democratic deficit. The overruns resulting from Canada' 2006 election are so extensive, that when all 308 MPs together would agree on something, these 308 MPs all together only have the confidence of 48% of the voters who voted in Canada.  That is, of all the people who voted in the 2006 federal elections, only 48% of them voted for the 308 candidates that the dysfunctional fptp system elevated to elected status, where, with contempt for the citizens who voted, now exercise minority rule over the majority with impunity. Is not the true watch word of democracy, "majority rule..."? (For supporting details, please see the paper and spreadsheet on the 2006 federal election available here.)

Adding insult to injury, the party proportional fix component of "MMP", then, in perpetuity, without a mandated right of a citizen review or referendum, gives parties the right to stack parliament, already stacked with "overruns", with a further 39 party appointed members, members who are not subject to direct elections even by the "dysfunctional (fptp) voting system that violates core Canadian values"!

With undeniable certainty, under "MMP", parliament with a smaller number of fptp elected members (90 instead of 107) plus the new party proportional fix, where the parties appoint a further 39 members to parliament (altogether 127), such an MMP parliament has with certainty a greater democratic deficit mandate than the current standalone fptp system.  In summary the democratically dysfunctional fptp (107) is still more democratic than MMP (127) made up of fptp (90) & "party fix" (39).

And in anticipation of the MMP referendum, certain people's loyalties were flip-flopping. Formerly, Wendy Bergerud, when a member of the BC Citizen Assembly process, summarised the situation this way "Would you agree that MMP mixes two of the worst systems together: constituency seats selected by plurality votes and closed-list PR where the party leadership chooses who is at the top and their list?"

Now, what has not been explained and begging public explanation is how FairVote and this same Wendy Bergerud, who is now a member of Fairvote's "15-person National Council... responsible for setting strategic direction and policies for Fair Vote Canada", how Wendy, having condemned MMP now endorses MMP, and furthermore how can Wendy and FairVote together, as one voice, having denounced fptp, how can they now endorse MMP which is but two separate fptp systems bundled together into one system with two components called MMP?

And once, as per above, attention is specifically drawn to that which is dysfunctional within fptp, namely the single-mark-ballot with a relative majority counting system, a solution as the next step becomes almost self-evident.

The deficiency of a single-mark-ballot system using a relative majority count can be fixed easily, simply and with just an eensy-teensy-weensy tiny little tweak to the present system.  Continue using the current ballot but allow people to mark the ballot preferentially, vote 1, 2, 3... and continue counting the ballots as is done now, except if no candidate has the support of the majority of voters, then redistribute the ballots of the weakest candidate according to their second choice, etc until one candidate does have the confidence of the majority.  While a more robust counting system exists, even the simple manual redistributive method of counting would eliminate almost all, if not all of the current vote-splitting, including the corresponding overruns that are so offensive and contributive to the democratic deficit under an fptp system.

And lastly, and certainly not least, while already shown that fptp 107 is better than MMP 129, now we have vote 1,2,3 (107) being even better than either fptp 107!  Not only is a vote 1,2,3 (107) parliament more accountable to the people than either of the other two systems, it would also BE MUCH LESS COSTLY TO ONTARIO'S TAX BASE THAN AN 127 MMP MEMBER PARLIAMENT!  A vote 1,2,3... parliament would provide more bang from the public purse dollar than either the current system or the party preferred MMP system.

Regarding further improvements, later, once this more democratic parliament is in place, further measures of reform such as true proportionality, such as gender parity, minority underrepresentation, etc., could much more properly and more correctly be addressed than with this current bunch driving the process and would immeasurably be preferred to giving the parties a proportional fix to then hang out carrots of proportionality, as would certainly be the case under a party focused proportional fix.



Maintained by Eduard Hiebert