The Stupid Electoral System That Won’t Die

…at least not in Canada. Once again BC voters rejected a referendum on proportional representation during this election. What this means is that electoral reform has failed now twice in BC and once in Ontario. Scott observes that electoral reform advocates might want to go for something like instant-runoff voting (IRV) as it might be easier to follow. Meanwhile Paul Wells suggests, among other things, that continued referendums aren’t exactly going to bolster support for electoral reform.

I think that these are really the two big takeaways from this vote. First past the post (FPTP) distorts voter intent and wastes all kinds of votes. It’s a great system for disengaging voters and creating apathy. But those of us who advocate for electoral reform need to figure what it will take to get apathetic voters to, well, cure their own apathy. It’s patently not enough to blog about insipid Toronto Star editorials or talk among other wonkish types about this stuff. If we want electoral reform we need to identify ways to make it relevant non-bloggers, non-nerds, non-poli-sci majors.

I guess the question now is how we go about building up some genuine grassroots feeling about this topic. How you get people to care about something as abstract as electoral reform in the midst of a deepening recession though is beyond me. Back to the drawing board. In the meantime electoral reformers, enjoy Kraftwerk perfoming Autobahn live (Germany has PR, right?):

Edit: Danielle on the merits of IRV.

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9 responses to “The Stupid Electoral System That Won’t Die

  1. What has to happen ultimately I think is that there has to be a referendum on different types of electoral reform. We were never really given the choice between different types of alternative systems. STV is flawed in too many ways to be a viable alternatives (and supporters of electoral reform have said that). MMP is a much better option than STV.

  2. How you get people to care about something as abstract as electoral reform in the midst of a deepening recession though is beyond me.

    Me either. Abstract? NO. It’s plain and obvious. Canacians are idiots, admit it.

  3. FPTP is a great system for disengaging voters and creating apathy. But those of us who advocate for electoral reform need to figure what it will take to get apathetic voters to, well, cure their own apathy.

    If you can’t beat the apathetic voters, then join them: I will.

  4. Stephen, I’d agree, but getting Canadians informed about one type of electoral reform at a time seems like enough of an uphill battle.

    Toe, I’d disagree, I think most people are just disengaged from this. Those of us who advocate for PR needed to do better in making our case. We failed.

    Eric, it’s an interesting idea in theory, but then governments will continue rule even with dubious voter turnouts – look at the pathetic rates of voter turnout in municipal elections in Toronto, it hasn’t stopped City Hall.

  5. Hi Dan,

    Thanks for the comment.

    By the way, I don’t think pro-PR movement failed. As I said in the linked post, politicians have found the perfect way to make it appear that the people still want FPTP (over any other form of PR) by organizing referenda on the issue. But without the willingness of the major parties to support an better voting system such a referendum is bound to fail.

    It’s impossible to convince a majority of the voters to vote for something (like STV) that is far more complex than the status quo (FPTP).

    Example: had the BC Liberals held a referendum on the carbon tax, then I will bet you that without the support of the party that carbon tax would never have gotten a majority.

    In short, it’s just too easy to say that PR supporters have failed when the mechanism used to implement PR has been designed to make PR fail, leave alone the tactics of Corporate and Conservative who are currently the main beneficiaries of the corrupt FPTP.

    Our BC politicians (save the Green Party) are the ones that have failed us, not the PR movement; we will continue on.

  6. In short, it’s just too easy to say that PR supporters have failed when the mechanism used to implement PR has been designed to make PR fail, leave alone the tactics of Corporate and Conservative who are currently the main beneficiaries of the corrupt FPTP.

    Eric,

    I think you have a point about the proverbial deck being stacked against PR. Nonetheless, in the sense that PR supporters did not succeed in enacting PR we have thus far failed. We need to have a tough look at our strategies, we need to hold to account our fairweather friends (McGuinty created the initiative to get a referendum on the ballot in Ontario and then refused to have an opinion about his own referendum), and I think we need to find a way to communicate our message to a broader audience.

  7. I agree with you here that PR supporters need to smarten up if they ever want a PR system implemented. I just believe we’re not the first ones to blame.

    But how to move forward? A PR system is hard sell when our (elected) politician simply won’t support it.

  8. I don’t think we’re to blame at all, but we still need to do more to succeed.

  9. misterfricative

    How do you get people interested in electoral reform? Maybe you could aim at something like this. http://fuckgrapefruit.wordpress.com/2010/04/26/one-person-one-vote-per-candidate/

    The politicians would hate it — but I think a lot of people would love it!

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