Reform First-Past-The-Post Into Something Workable


While most suggestions for electoral reform so far have involved scrapping FPTP I feel the system is still salvageable. Here is how:

This idea keeps First-past-the-post system largely intact. Voters still cast a single vote in a single-member constituency. The candidate who receives the most votes still becomes the MP. The next step is different. Rather than have each MP in Parliament cast a single vote you give each MP a vote proportional to their party's share of the
popular vote.

The formula would be Popular Vote / # of MPs in party = Voting share of each MP.

I would like to draw your attention to the 2011 Federal Election. The Conservative Party won 166 seats (53.89%) with 39.62% of the popular vote. The NDP won 103 seats (33.44%) with 30.63% of the popular vote. The Liberals won 34 seats (11.03%) with 18.91% of the popular vote. The Bloc won 4 seats (1.29%) with 6.04% of the popular vote. Finally the Green Party won a single seat (0.32%) with 3.91% of the popular vote. Using my system each Conservative MP would have a vote valued at 0.23, each NDP MP vote valued at 0.29, each Liberal vote valued at 0.55, each Bloc vote valued at 1.51, and the single Green vote valued at 3.91. 
Voting power in Parliament under the proposed system:
Conservative voting power: 38.18
Liberal voting power: 18.7
New Democrat voting power: 29.87
Bloc voting power: 6.04
Green voting power: 3.91
As a result the FPTP electoral system will have been rendered mostly proportional.

Some eagle-eyed readers may note that the totals above do not equal 100%. This is true. For starters only 99.11% of the popular vote went to parties who won seats. So were did the remaining 3% that is missing go? I think this is due to not rounding numbers on my part. I will do so now. Below are the new voting power totals (with MP share rounded and in brackets):
Conservative voting power: (0.24) 39.84
Liberal voting power: (0.56) 19.04
New Democrat voting power: (0.30) 30.09
Bloc voting power: (1.51) 6.04
Green voting power: (3.91) 3.91

Again, slightly off at 98.92% which is better than the previous 96.7%. But in either case does this matter? As a percentage of 96.7 the Conservatives totals of 38.18 is 39.48%. If rounding is included 39.84 is 40.27. For the NDP it works out to 30.88% & 30.41% respectively. The Liberal totals come to 19.33% & 19.24%. In all three cases it would seem that rounding to the second decimal place provides little in the way of overall change to voting power. Only in the tightest of minority situations would it even matter. As such, not rounding the totals is acceptable. 

Advantages of the system I have proposed:
-The voting system does not change at all for Canadian voters.
-It is as understandable and simple as FPTP is.
-It renders the House of Commons mostly proportional.
-It is no more expensive than FPTP is.
-It benefits (or at least does not harm) all of the main political parties in different ways.
-It makes votes for parties in ridings where they will never win matter.

Now, this system is not perfect. It should also be noted that votes for parties that do not win a seat still do not count. At the federal level this should not be an issue since such parties generally receive less than 1% of votes cast. The Green Party's high of 6% being somewhat acceptable as well.

So how would things like confidence votes and picking a Speaker work? Surprisingly well as it turns out.

Picking a Speaker (and other scenarios)- Under the current system picking a Speaker lowers the vote total of his or her party. However, under this system I foresee a rule that states the voting power is recalculated at the beginning of each day. In short a Speaker would simply have to drop his party affiliation and his party's total would not be affected. Likewise, re-calculating the numbers each day means vacant seats would not affect a party's total vote (which they currently do). I would not extend this rule to MPs who end up as independents for one reason or another due to potential loophole abuse. At the same time, poaching MPs from other parties will no longer be advantageous as having more MPs will not mean more voting power.

Forming a Government- While voting power should be based on popular vote I feel the formation of governments should remain based on seat count. The reasons are simple: regional representation and a larger talent pool to draw on.

Confidence Votes- I would keep explicit confidence motions and the Speech from the Throne as being based on seat totals but have all other legislation based on voting power. Implicit confidence motions such as a whipped vote on a government bill would be based on voting power. This allows a stable government to form but requires them to deal with the other parties fairly. It also avoids the other extreme of deadlock.

Concluding Remarks
I don't think this is a perfect system. I do however think it is an improvement. As far as I can tell this is a new idea. I called an earlier draft of this idea The Bennett Method but refer to this one as Single Member-Proportional Vote


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  • commented 2015-07-21 08:53:31 -0400
    Thank you for bringing those points up, Brandon.

    “Where else in the world has this been implemented?”

    -In government weighted votes are not used, as far as I know. Within corporations shareholders are given votes at meetings based on the number of shares they own (not what inspired this idea but it was nice to know similar ideas were in use). You do see instances of chambers being weighted (US Electoral College, Canadian Senate, Grand Council of the Iroquois League) but the idea of weighted votes for elected representatives appears to be new.

    “Why not?”

    -If I had to speculate it is due to Parliamentary Procedure (Robert’s Rules of Order for example) which dictates the members of an assembly have equal votes. So this idea might be seen as ‘heresy’ to some. A secondary reason may be that elected representatives don’t like the idea that their votes would not be equal (no matter how much it improves the overall system). Finally, we always have the possibility that no one has thought of this until now.
  • commented 2015-07-20 23:52:24 -0400
    In general, a good question to ask about a proposal for electoral reform is, “Where else in the world has this been implemented?” If the answer is nowhere, “Why not?” must also be fairly thoroughly explored.
  • commented 2015-07-19 23:11:20 -0400
    Thanks for taking a look Denis.

    To answer your question about constitutionality of moving away from a one seat=one vote I’d point out it doesn’t matter much either way. The constitution is clear that issues that only affect the Commons can be dealt with without provincial input.

    I actually only include the math for thoroughness. A non-math description would be something along the lines of saying that votes in Parliament would be weighted to reflect differences in popular vote. If you wanted a slogan “Elections by plurality, Parliaments by proportionality” would work.

    Thank you but I actually meant adding it to your page so everyone would have a better idea.
  • commented 2015-07-19 21:33:06 -0400

    I am just trying to work out the constitutionality of it, but I don’t see a prima facie problem.

    From a sales position though, getting people to wrap their heads around math is tough. How would you put it into words, without the formula?

    Btw, you can have a couple of examples of the system I propose on

    and another go at explaining it

    Put simply, under SMDPR people vote principally for a party, and secondarily for a candidate (while voting as they do now). Parties only get the power the voters afford them, but ridings may not get the candidate that would have won under our current plurality system. Candidates only win in their riding if their party is popular enough, and if they are popular enough both within their party and within their riding.

    I worked up Ontario yesterday, and 18 ridings would have had an MP other than one from their riding in 2011.

    Final word is, you can’t both have and get rid of FPTP—there has to be some change.

    I like your idea.
  • published this page in Remedies • Canada 2015-07-07 10:25:38 -0400

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