Friday, May 8, 2009

Who Will Benefit From STV? (Thoughts On STV 8)

It's commonly believed that adopting any form of proportional representation (including the STV) would benefit the left. The assumption is made based on the traditional voting pattern: we have two front-runner parties - usually center-right Conservatives and the center-left Liberals, both with about 40-45% support and we have a solid left party - the NDP, with roughly 10-20% support. If proportional representation is adopted - this voting pattern would result in a continuous NDP-supported Liberal minority or a Liberal-NDP coalition; or that's what FPTP supporters predict. But their prognosis fails to consider the largest political block in Canada.

I'm talking about the non-voters. A typical voter turnout in a Federal or a Provincial election is about 60%. That means - roughly 4 in 10 registered voters choose not to cast their ballot for one reason or another. Sure, some of them just don't care. But there are plenty of others who don't vote, because they are not satisfied with the choice on the ballot:
People tell me they're sick of seeing their vote thrown in the garbage if they live in one of the 2/3 of ridings that are safe and they didn’t happen to vote for the incumbent party.

Theyre tired of electing politicians who ignore what their constituents want and do what their leaders want them to instead.

And I hear that people have had it up to here with politicians who attack each other relentlessly in an endless vitriolic war of words that poisons us all against our democratic process.
How many times has a political party in your riding foisted a candidate on you who is an embarrassment but whom you vote for anyway because they are with the party you like?
To that I may add - how many times were you dissuaded from voting your conscience because it would split the vote, making it easier for the front-runner you hate the most to win the riding? How many of us are tired of having to support a front-runner just because "the other guy is a lot worse"? Now, if a fair voting system encourages at least 1 in 4 non-voters to go out and cast their ballots - what's going to be left of those old voting patterns? Who is going to hold the balance of power then? What if every second non-voter gets out and votes? (75%-80% turnout used to be common up until mid 1990s.)

Adopting STV will benefit everybody; it will empower every voter, regardless of the political views. Everyone will have an opportunity to vote his conscience without worrying about splitting the vote. Election results will be fair to both sides of the political spectrum, without disproportionally benefiting those who have succeeded in either absorbing or neutralizing their closest opponents. (Or - whose closest opponents have eliminated themselves, like it happened to the BC Social Credit, BC Reform and BC Unity Party.)

Sure, not everyone likes to let go of a dream of an easy majority with 38-40% of the vote. But let's not forget that a swing of mere 3-5% could result in another leading party winning a majority with about the same share of the vote; and runing the country virtually unopposed, much to the frustration of those 55%-62% of the voters who voted against it.

Remember - the tide can always turn. Today, the center-right is nominally united while the center-left is fractured, tomorrow it could be just the opposite. If we reject a fair voting system just because we look forward for the drawbacks of the FPTP to deliver some short-term political gains for us - we shouldn't complain when our opponents take the advantage of the situation and start using the very same features and drawbacks of the First Past The Post system against us.


Chrystal Ocean said...

Well said. If one's values include fairness, justice and a conviction that in a democracy everyone's vote should matter, regardless of whether you agree with that vote, then BC-STV wins over FPTP.

Wayne Smith said...

This is not a partisan nor a left/right issue.

If you are a Liberal in Calgary or a Conservative in Toronto, you know this voting system is not working for you.