|Table of Contents
Taking back our democracy!
Stopping Vote-splits, Phony
Majorities AND giving Back-Benchers a Spine
14, 2008 A.D.
By Eduard Hiebert.
with as few as two or three, there is a simple, yet very powerful two-step process by
which citizens in any electoral constituency can organize, first to reduce, then eliminate the effect of vote splitting, as
well as phony government majorities.
these citizen initiated steps will also give their elected representative
an unmistakably clear signal that it would be in their own best interest
to be loyal to their constituents first, ahead
of the representative's loyalty to the party leader.
those who believe our present system works well, please skip to BACKGROUND
for an analysis about how it fails. For those who already feel that the
results of our provincial and federal elections do not properly reflect
the 'will of the people' and that system can and must be improved, read
outline will employ the basic mechanics of a publicly transparent and fair
pre-election process similar to Elections Canada's procedures but reduced
to the minimum required to get a fair and
accurate result using the least resources of time and money possible. Communities
with more resources could build in further user friendly options.
The secret ballot
employed would be a 'preferential ballot' where the voters may mark their
ballot by ranking (1, 2, 3...) as many of the
candidates in their electoral district as the voter wishes to rank, from
one of them, to all of them.
pre-election poll would be conducted by way of a mail-in
ballot. To avoid cost, there is no need to
have pre-printed official ballots. Voters
could get their ballot from a dedicated internet site or even write up their own
ballot on a piece of paper.
avoid costs to the voter, and
to increase citizen participation rates, voters at their option could
use a one, two or three envelope method.
three envelope method consists of the ballot placed into envelope
number one is placed into envelope number two.
On this envelope the voter would self-identify with name, address,
their district voting number as provided by Elections Canada or their
provincial counterpart. I
would also highly recommend the voter be required to place their signature
on the envelope, better still make a simple statutory declaration that
he/she is who he/she says they are, and then sign the declaration.
This envelope is then placed into envelope number three, which with
proper postage, is then readied for mailing.
Depending on the degree of anonymity desired,
envelopes two and/or three may be optional, provided all the necessary
information is still contained on the outer envelope. When the
envelope containing the ballot also serves to identify the voter, for the
purpose of maintaining ballot secrecy standards, the voter additionally
should be allowed to identify the envelope as "envelope #1".
avoid further costs to the voters and increase participation rates,
several members of a family or any small group of people ought to be
allowed to accumulate the various distinct individually prepared envelopes
and mail or deliver them within one common outer envelope or secured community election drop-off box.
In no case ought a ballot be
considered valid unless it is enclosed in its own distinct number one or
number two envelope.
brevity, this outline omits all of the necessary rules and procedures
required from the point of receiving and validating the ballot envelopes,
to actually counting the ballots in the presence of the candidates'
scrutineers, should they decide to participate.
more robust counting methods exist (to be web-posted later at this
location), this outline
will focus on the physical redistribution method.
Ties may preclude more robust counting methods.
ballots are segregated into piles based on the number one choice.
The ballots of the weakest candidate are then redistributed on the
bases of their second choice, and this is repeated until only two
candidates are left standing.
the counts after each distribution ought to be recorded and made public,
the focus here is that the two left standing are the people's choice of
who are the two most preferable.
count should likely be completed at least 24 hours before the official
polling day in order to get the preferential ballot information out in
time for voters to make use of this information on polling day.
author is investigating a list-serve server service, which for the cost of
about $150 per poll, would allow each district to have their own in-house
public forum, where voters could discuss matters of common interest or
even pose questions and receive answers from the candidates.
Such a list-serve, where people sign-up on their own through a
fully automated menu, could in addition to a website be a very fast and
low cost method to get the results out to anyone who wanted them, in time
for the election.
entire process is predicated on the citizens reasserting and reclaiming
the democratic ‘critical path’! Elections are really about citizens making choices and this method
ensures that neither the politicians nor the media is on the critical
path. They are however invited to participate as servants to the
USEFUL IS SUCH A CITIZEN CONDUCTED PRE-ELECTION POLL?
validity of this poll, like any poll, including "official"
elections, is dependent on the participation rate.
In some organizations, where the official election attracts as
little as 10% of the eligible voters, the elected still control taxes and levies from the
other 90% worth over $1 million to the organization annually, yet those
elections are considered valid.
the single mark ballot, through vote-splitting, undermines the value of a
citizen's vote, many citizens
now already try to vote strategically, including gathering in two's, three's or more and decide how to vote, so as
not to cancel (‘waste’) each other’s vote.
the added power and safety delivered by the preferential secret ballot method,
this allows total
strangers to collaborate, for common cause and purpose.
At low participation rates, this method will more accurately reduce
vote-splitting than any similar sized strategic voting plan can
accomplish. The preferential secret ballot method not only affords greater accuracy, but allows
diverse groups to democratically join forces to attain the best possible
indication of which two candidates really are the two most preferred.
In a few very tight ridings, a participation rate of
only a 100 people could realistically contribute to a more satisfying
democratic, will of the people, result. To see how
close your or any of the 308 federal riding 2006 election outcomes was,
please see the spreadsheet links provided at the bottom of this
for human error and those that prefer voting on party-partisan ideological lines,
irrespective of their local candidate, as
this method's voluntary participation
rate increases, votes-splits will be reduced to zero!
this it follows with democratic
rates increase, democratically united citizens will have the
final say as to which local candidate was elected, regardless of their
other words, this system has the power to put democracy back into the
hands of the citizens, with the elected, seeking favour of the
electorate. The elected serving as servants of the
citizens rather than the state, or other interests.
one electoral district the group could start with as few as two people
serving as the poll officials. As
the participatory democracy levels
more people would be self-identified and willing to step up to the plate, either with their
time, money or other resources to help make this happen, including
increased numbers who would help count the larger number of ballots
method is an organic citizen based system, growth can be self-perpetuating and self-expanding.
Armed with enlightened self-interest, every participant can become
an active advocate to draw in even more participants!
and also of significant importance, this method is based on sound,
democratic principles that invite participation and collaboration, even
among polar opposites, so long as they adhere to the principles of
democracy: a rule based
society where 'one person one vote' is 'one person one vote' regardless of
wealth or political stature of any kind.
is, this system invites collaboration for the common cause at the local
level, and is a self-correcting method, more powerful than the adage given
to two children when they fight over an orange and can then be resolved by
the rule, one cuts, the other chooses.
should the partisans of one group attempt to distort the outcome of the
poll, unless they are a true majority, they can not distort the outcome,
for if they do, they do so at their own peril as they would have some hard explaining to
do, why in an open public process their candidate did poorly.
some specific examples of vote-splitting in Canada.
Then a brief note on why it is necessary for citizens to seize the
initiative for change themselves, rather than to hope that those in
government will propose any meaningful democratic reform.
Lastly, a sketch of the structural limitations as to why 'strategic
voting', is hit and miss.
federal and provincial elections, use a 'single-mark ballot' system.
Those who speak for the party hierarchies that profit from this
phony-majority vote-splitting system prefer the term 'first past the post'
and shine up the system's counting method further, by pointing to the
half-truth that those candidates who were 'elected' 'received more votes
than any other'!
the rule 'received more votes than any other' makes Canada's single-mark
ballot extremely vulnerable to vote-splitting.
This practice also makes a sham of the universal gold standard
applied routinely in almost all other decision making settings, when a
decision is being measured, that at a minimum, will be accepted as
for a very short list of certain election types, wherever else a vote is
taken, the universal gold standard for democratic rule is applied and is
expressed in the principle of 'majority rule'!
Oddly, even Canada's party-partisans, of every political stripe,
from Harper, to Dion, Layton, May... and all of their provincial
counterparts, when squaring off against each other within their own
strongly contested nomination meeting or leadership race, the rule
'received more votes than any other' will be summarily rejected and some
form of majority rule will be used.
when it comes to civic elections, who has not heard a media election
pundit, often an anti-democratic party-partisan, claim that the first past
the post system makes for 'strong government'?
There, the key question not asked, is strong for whom, the people,
or those gaining unfair privilege from this anti-democratic measure?
quick review, the single-mark ballot is extremely vulnerable to
vote-splitting, because the phony majority rule 'more than any other' is
applied, instead of the much more common 'majority rule'.
when two candidates A and B, support a popular point of view, together
they may represent as much as 65% of the vote, but since the majority
position is divided by two candidates, C a third candidate advancing a
minority view can 'slip up the middle'. Vote-splitting, 'slipping up the
middle' is impossible when a
preferential ballot is used and counted properly.
When there are four or more candidates, anti-democratic outcomes of
even under 33% are possible.
details of the Federal election or Ontario's, please see the papers and
spreadsheets of the electoral outcomes candidate by candidate in each of
the electoral districts available on the page found
& phony local majorities, Canadian examples
an example of the anti-democratic effects of vote-splitting, consider
Canada's general election of 2006.
the 308 candidates elected to Parliament, 185, (60%), were elected in
constituencies where more people voted for a candidate other than the one
elected! Turning the number
around, a mere 40% of the elected were endorsed by a majority of those
that even bothered to vote!
Ontario, in the so-called "landslide" election victory of the
government of Dalton McGuinty, the number of candidates elected by a
minority of the citizens who voted rises to a staggering 69%.
is, in 74 out of 107 Ontarian constituencies, a clear majority of citizens
did not vote for those who 'won'. Each
one of these vote-splits resulted in a phony majority at the local level. As a result, the majority in each of these constituencies may
be denied a representative who will speak on their behalf and the majority
can expect to be subjected to policies that they did not vote for.
worse, the local phony majority elected candidates, with but very few
exceptions tend to end up having more loyalty to the party-hierarchy that
supports them during the election period (conditional to their towing the
party line), than to the electorate whom they theoretically represent.
This is made demonstrably clear by the fact that in parliament,
elected 'representatives' will vie for positions as 'committee members' to
do their party's bidding, and by the fact that those who show any tendency
to speak on behalf of their constituents and against their party's
position, are relegated to the insignificant roles allowed to
'back-benchers' for the entire time that exists between elections.
further consideration of vote-splits and phony majorities at the local
level is the accumulative effect on all of parliament.
Returning to McGuinty's so-called landslide, at the global level,
one sees direct evidence of this in that even though his party garnered
only 42.2% of the popular vote, his party received 66% of the seats in the
is, the single-mark ballot, so vulnerable to vote-splits, gave Dalton
McGuinty a so-called 'majority government' and whether one applies rather
elementary math or the straight forward democratic rule of 'majority
rule', indisputably this
amounts to what some have described as a phony majority government.
We can not change what we refuse to acknowledge.
Truly, how can an election that leads to a phony majority be called
a healthy democratic process. How
far must the citizens be pushed before they see these elections are but an
illusion of democracy?
results are far from uncommon in the first past the post system that more
properly ought to be called a single-mark ballot system which, to
anti-democratic effect, restricts voters to a single mark, even when there
are more than two choices.
electoral outcomes like these becoming the norm, and with governments of
all stripes imposing their partisan policies ahead of the interests of
their constituents, it is easy to understand why only 53% of Ontarians
decided that it was worth their while to show up at the polls.
on Steven Harper's 'minority government', even when one considers all 308
of the candidates who were elected as our MPs, the Harper government is an
even more phony government than McGuinty's, in that less than half the
people who voted, did not even vote for one of the 308 elected!
This does not even take into account that only 65% of eligible
while vote-split outcomes are not uncommon in Canadian elections,
virtually all other institutions, including elections internal to the
parties, with almost no exception, do apply the ‘majority rule’
universal gold standard when a decision is being measured, that at a
minimum, will be accepted as democratic.
is it that in Canada's system of governance and electoral politics, this
tried, tested and true measure is not applied?
Who wins? Who loses?
is no doubt that among those who seek the power associated with high
political office go to great lengths to cloak their actions and their
motives with 'regal' or 'statesman-like' language, and with
neutral-sounding administrative language such as 'in the interest of the
people' and 'the will of the majority'.
the reality is that the offices of government are progressively becoming
less oriented to serving the people or even to responding to the
democratic will as expressed by the grass-roots of their party.
Instead they are being seen as high offices from which one can
impose top-down rules on the members of the state, and use the powers of
the state in an almost dictatorial way to ensure that those partisan rules
of acting as trustees of the people, those who hold the highest government
offices are increasingly acting in the fashion of corporate kingpins, who
are empowered to pursuing the goals that they set for their organizations
with little need to recognize the wishes or needs of those who work
for the corporation.
in that way, positions of 'trust' in government have no meaning, nor does
the democratic concept of 'one person one vote', as our democracy, in
reality, before our very eyes, without a vote, is being transformed into
the corporate model of 'one dollar one vote'.
today's view within parties that they compete to win power, no matter what
the cost, and to use that power to impose their policies, no matter whose
rights, interests or the environment that they may harm, party rule, as
practiced and endorsed by party leaders and the party establishments are
more closely in keeping with the jungle rule of 'might makes right'
paradigm that dominates today's corporate board rooms.
one gives pause for a moment, other than one term being more palatable
than another, what is the functional difference between the competitive
jungle rule of 'might makes right' versus the corporate board rooms rule
of 'one dollar one vote'?
our democracy, without a vote on the matter, through the backdoor of the
accumulated effect of vote-splits year in and year out is being
transformed from 'one person one vote' to a one of 'might makes right',
citizens are seen less as persons to be protected, supported and served,
than as masses to be manipulated so that they can give the veneer of
legitimacy to an 'elected' government.
existing voting system suits their end, for the vote splitting that occurs
within the existing system means that they can gain control of both the
government and the parliament with the support of far less than 50% of the
voters. As a result it is
highly unlikely to expect that any meaningful reform will be proposed by
those who are within and who profit from the current system that gives
governments far more seats in parliament than are warranted by the popular
we to wait until our Party Partisans will fix the single-mark ballot
a Stephen Harper, Paul Martin, Brian Mulroney or a Dalton McGuinty or any
number of other political leaders have intoned with all the solemn
sobriety and seriousness of a real statesman about the need to deal with
the 'democratic deficit' or to act so as to bring about a 'democratic
renewal', not one of them, as a government leader,
has taken any real steps to ensure that citizens can exercise real
democratic control over the election of politicians, let alone exercise
real control over what governments and politicians do in between
a final nail to the coffin that
party-partisans will lead the way forward towards genuine electoral
reform and meaningful democratic renewal, review for a moment how BC,
Ontario and PEI addressed this very question.
Each of these provinces actually went so far as to 'give' their
citizens a say in the matter by conducting a province wide referendum on
pretence aside, by dictating the terms of reference, the party-partisans
in control of government had control of the process and if you control the
process, you control the outcome. The
most recent of these, in name only, Ontario's process was officially named
"Ontario's Citizen Assembly on Electoral Reform"!
In the end, the citizens of Ontario were straight jacketed into
choosing between the status quo and one option which on the basis of a
sound rational analyses was the equivalent of asking Ontarians to jump
from the pot into the fire.
further details, please see the paper called "FPTP bad!
MMP worse!! "Vote
1, 2, 3..." better!!! Stops vote-splits, overruns & phony
majorities" also available here.
have reviewed a number of electoral outcomes and in electoral district
after electoral district, I have found between about 62% and 94% of the
voters, will in effect have collapsed their single-mark ballot choice and
voted for either one or the other of the two most popular candidates.
problem with strategic voting, is that at some point, all strategic voting
plans, must rely on guesstimates as to which two candidates will be the
most popular and then, within the confines of the official single-mark
ballot, collapse ones best remaining choices to which may be described as
voting for 'the lesser of two evils', which some have pointed out, is
than the secret ballot box, all polls, without exception, even good
quality polls, tend to have many weaknesses.
For starters, they invariably involve small samples made across
many constituencies and that the picture so obtained may hide, even
distort and be contradictory to local realities.
example, the poll may be correct that party A and B will be the overall
favorite. If you then vote
for one of those two, but in reality, in your constituency party A and C
end up being the two most preferred, then in the event you voted B, your
vote contributed to a vote-split and thereby essentially was not only a
wasted vote, in effect, ended up being an indirect vote for the very one
who was your 'most evil' option.
relying on polls made public by various agencies and parties become even
more problematic, when the pollster, either in error or deliberately tries
to lead the voters, instead of simply revealing the voters'
fact that voters must expose their choice to a total stranger, is a
further factor that reduces the reliability of a poll in contrast to the
accuracy of a secret ballot poll.
a preferential ballot, organized at the community level, is a first step
to taking back our democracy.