One of the most interesting questions I’ve had was, how could my proposed EasyPR be improved? It’s an interesting question, because no system is perfect and every system has room for improvement. There are ways it could be improved, and even made more proportional, and I’ll explore that in this post.
The most obvious way it could be improved would be converting it to a ranked ballot. That would add a bit of voter education, but it wouldn’t be too bad (I believe in the ability of voters to indicate that they like this candidate the most, this one second, this one third, etc.). While almost all votes under EasyPR contribute to electing someone thanks to the Leader Seats, this would increase the number of votes that help elect a party leader and an individual candidate.
The second most obvious way is to increase the number of ridings in the Province. The more ridings, the closer to the voters’ intentions we get.
However, the most interesting way it could be improved is by changing from a rigid 2-people elected per riding, to electing the top person in each riding and then awarding additional seats based on votes. This would lead to a few ridings electing only a single candidate (typically because turnout was really low, though also possible if the top candidate did unusually well). Most ridings would elect 2 people. A few ridings would elect a third, and conceivably even a fourth, either because turnout was very high in those ridings (and relatively even distribution between the candidates would help too) or because they had grown in population a lot since the last time the riding boundaries were redrawn.
Philosophically, I actually prefer allocating the additional seats this way. By doling them out by total votes cast you help guarantee that each MLA represents a similar number of votes cast to every other. This system would help compensate ridings that had grown in population since the last redistribution, and it would reward ridings with high voter turnout. It would lead to fewer “wasted” votes province-wide.
I also really like the idea that it creates an advantage for local politicians and local activists to really lean on their friends, family, and neighbours to get out and vote, with their riding could get more representation as a reward. That would turn the “my vote doesn’t count” argument on its head!
It definitely has its democratic advantages, so it would come down to what our politicians are brave enough to advocate to the public for, as incumbent politicians running for re-election wouldn’t like not knowing with certainty how many people their riding will elect in the next election.
Also, by rewarding high turnout with more representation, you punish parties/candidates that engage in voter suppression tactics. Suddenly two candidates exploiting wedge issues against each other may not be so sure that will help either of them get elected. Get into mud-slinging with your opponent and the total vote for both of you may go down, and if that’s being done on a local level against another local candidate and you could conceivably see your riding drop from electing 3 people to only 1 in the next election.
Conversely, really engaging with the public with a positive message that mobilizes the public and increases turnout, and the odds of your riding electing 2, or even 3, people goes up. It could be a game-changer for the civility in our politics, rewarding the community-minded politicians at the expense of the more divisive ones. Consider the above proposal a design option of EasyPR that can be selected in how it’s implemented. EasyPR can be a rigid number of seats per ridings (making it effectively SNTV pegged at a certain district magnitude), or it can be a floating amount of seats per riding depending on vote performance of each candidate (in either percentage or raw numbers, but I prefer raw numbers).
This suggestion would mean more third-place candidates would win seats, and that would make the system more proportional overall.
[Please note: An earlier version of this article referred to EasyPR by it’s original working title of “M3”.]