On what electoral reform reforms
For the past several days, I have watched as many people miss the point on electoral reform.
Way too much effort is being spent on the question of "proportional" and not nearly enough on the question of "representation."
Changing voting systems changes voting behaviour, so one cannot simply apply the results of one system to a different system.
Poll aggregators are self-fulfilling prophecies. Voters check for local momentum where none is measured, and share that information with their networks, while the data they are using is national numbers aggregated historically to local campaigns without any measurement of the current impact of the local campaign.
The fundamental breakage of our democracy is that we have 338 local elections, but we vote in a presidential manner - as if the party name or the leader's name are what is on the ballot.
I did not win in 2015 nor lose in 2019 because we did not have a proportional or preferential system; the results I had in both cases had a great deal more to do with the national campaign and the horse race numbers than my own efforts on the ground or those of my opponents. Yet the intent of our electoral system is to send local representatives to Ottawa to work together to find common ground with others across the country (not only the province) to solve our issues together, and do so by adopting a party banner that represents the issues those representatives intend to address.
The problem, at its core, is that local representation matters less and less and national campaigns matter more and more. The two solutions are either
- to say, ok, sure, national campaigns are easier than local campaigns to run and to cover, and we group-think anyway, so let's institutionalize this system by going to a proportional model of some sort, which puts more emphasis on the party and reduces the pretence that local representatives are relevant;
- to eliminate the horse-race and national narrative in favour of encouraging each community to make its own decision, and figure out how to make local representatives become once again relevant as local representatives, bringing that power and influence back to the communities that are choosing those representatives.
It comes down to a values question: proportionality and representation are essentially mutually exclusive; which one is more important to you?
Posted at 12:31 on October 26, 2019
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