Comments and questions about EasyPR, and my responses

I’ve received several comments and questions about EasyPR, so I thought I’d address them below.

Some people noted that since it’s a much fairer and more proportional system, that we might see revitalization in the BC Conservatives or other smaller parties. That’s likely true, and we might eventually get as many as four or five parties receiving at least 5% of the vote, and thereby electing their leader to the legislature. You could set the leader vote threshold higher, perhaps the 10% suggested in PEI, or even 15%, if desired. However, I think the 5% threshold (which is common threshold in MMP systems for earning top-up seats, I may add) is a strength of the system as it improves proportionality, and every 5% of the province-wide vote is another 50K or so votes (depending on turn-out) so it doesn’t seem unfair to me to set it as low as 5% as that’s a substantial level of support for a party to earn. But the percentage could be changed from time to time, if it was functioning other than as intended.

It was noted that this system wouldn’t work federally unless you increased the size of the ridings or doubled the size of the house . I’m using the federal results just to test the system, as it saves me redistributing the provincial results into the federal ridings, though I’m open to doing that as time allows. I think pretending the federal results were provincial results works well as a test case. I’ve suggested this model for BC, but it could just as easily be used for provincial elections in other provinces that have legislatures significantly larger than their number of federal seats (which is most of them), perhaps creating small overall changes up or down in the number of provincial politicians. It just so happens in BC that it works out with no change in MLAs for BC under our current numbers if the number of elected provincial party leaders stays at 3. One interesting wrinkle is that from time to time the number of federal ridings increases in BC, which would have a corresponding effect on the size of the BC legislature, but the number of provincial politicians in BC has long been close to twice the number of federal seats that BC has, so this seems very appropriate.

There was a question whether that increase in parties that were contenders could push the top two finishers close to, or even below, a majority of the votes cast in the riding, forcing the system to go to 3 people elected per riding. I think the answer realistically is no. I used the federal results to model this, which meant there were 3-4 parties contesting many ridings, and I still averaged 75% of the vote across the province going to the top two candidates. Had I used provincial results redistributed into the federal ridings, I think I would have been at 80-85% of the vote contained in the top two finishers. The BC Liberals won one riding with 76%, after all! The lower the top finisher though, the higher the second place candidate tends to be, and that even in a four way race you see that, so it seems like highly competitive ridings might drop to the 60-65% level, and that less competitive ridings would be 85% or even more, and that the average will remain close to 75%. A local example of a competitive 3-4 way race is Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke in 2015:

NDP Randall Garrison 35.01%
Liberal David Merner 27.35%
Green Frances Litman 19.94%
Conservative Shari Lukens 17.50%

Were these provincial election results and were they conducted under EasyPR, Randall Garrison and David Merner would both be elected to the provincial legislature, and would together represent 62.36% of the vote. And this hotly contested a race (where first place did only twice as well as fourth place) is likely to remain an exception, the reality is that even if there are 4 or 5 parties winning seats across the province, most ridings will have only 2-3 parties who have targeted it and are trying to recruit a star candidate with the intention of putting serious resources into it. But even in the exceptions, it appears the top two candidates will typically constitute close to two-thirds of the votes cast.

Some people thought this was a reduction in the number of MLAs, but it keeps it exactly the same at 87. The 42 federal ridings elect 2 MLAs each, which gives us 84. Add in the 3 party leaders, and we’re back to 87. It might go down or up by one as the fortunes of the smaller parties go, and that would depend in large part what threshold the parties had to meet to get their leader into the legislature, but it’ll stay approximately the same. I think people will understand that having the leaders represent a small riding when they’re supposed to represent the entire province doesn’t make much sense, and is actually one of the most confusing elements of FPTP for people. People already think of the Premier as the province’s leader and don’t think much about the fact that party leaders are somehow also supposed to represent the tens of thousands of people in their riding in their spare time.

Having leaders be elected to represent the entire province was inspired by PEI’s FPTP+Leaders system. It was a terrible system because it wasn’t proportional, but the +Leaders component itself got more and more intriguing the longer I reflected on it. And it makes sense, why should party leaders represent a riding or a region if their duties are province-wide? Under STV they’d still represent a region. Under MMP they’d likely represent a riding, or be picked off a party list that (in a BC implementation) would have them representing a region. Don’t we want our party leaders focused on what’s best for the whole province, not just one riding or just one region? If so, let’s make our system work in a way that reflects that.

Any region where one party won almost all the seats will create some re-election problems for some incumbents. In the Interior where the Liberals won almost all the seats, up-island where the NDP won most of the seats, and other similar areas, there may not be enough seats to go around for all the incumbents if they all run again. However, it’s unusual for all the incumbents to run again, so that may alleviate the problem somewhat. However, in areas like Greater Victoria and parts of the Lower Mainland where they’re competitive between two or more parties, the MLAs for those parties will correctly believe that two of them can run in one of the new ridings and that there’s a good chance they’ll both win (because the area is divided, and because they have name recognition due to their incumbency advantage). And this is an issue whenever changing systems, and this system suffers it less than most.

There was some question about the branding. I thought about calling it dual-member plurality, but there’s already a largely unrelated system called DMP. I thought about calling it multi-member plurality, but there’s already a system called MMP. I then settled on Multi-Member Majority because M3 because it gets across the idea of what we’re trying to do, which is to make sure a majority of the voters are directly represented in each riding thanks to multi-member districts. But I got some feedback that it would be good to break out of the alphabet soup that is so closely associated with proportional representation, and one small focus group later we had the final branding of “EasyPR”.

Thank you to all who responded with comments and questions!

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