Another suggestion on improving EasyPR

It was suggested to me that EasyPR‘s proportionality could be improved by merging together some of the urban ridings. Instead of all ridings province-wide electing 2 people, the larger/rural ridings would be left alone to elect 2 people, but the smaller ridings could be merged together and elect more than two each. You could take two dense urban ridings and make one that elects 4 people, or you could merge three dense ridings together, and then divide them into two new ridings that elect 3 each. The more people that get elected in a riding, the more proportional the result.

It could be a so-called “design option” for the system, something that gets periodically re-evaluated each time the federal ridings change. Here are some initial thoughts about advantages and disadvantages to applying this option to the system:

Pros:

– it would increase to proportionality in the denser areas

– to the degree we merge ridings that are dividing up a big city (Surrey, Vancouver, Richmond, etc.), we’re actually making things simpler for voters who now wouldn’t need to figure out which riding within their city they’re voting in, they’re just voting “in Surrey” or “in Vancouver”

– this system could be used as a model for municipal reform (everyone gets one vote, but there are 4+ city councillors to be elected which makes the result proportional) and the closer the provincial and municipal voting systems are the better it is for voter education

– it could allow, as a design option, that third (or fourth) place winners to be selected province-wide based on total votes cast, which would reward ridings with high turnout, or ridings that had grown in population since the last election; this would mean not all of these new larger ridings would get a third-place winner, but that would lead to fewer total wasted votes province-wide

– very small parties (Libertarian Party, etc.) that polls suggest don’t have a high chance of winning any seats can run a “full slate” (at least one candidate in each riding across the province) more easily, and running a full slate is key to a smaller party getting enough votes to electing their leader

– an independent candidate running on a regional issue (eg., a Surrey-wide issue, or a Greater Vancouver-wide issue) could have a greater chance of winning

– in the transition from the current ridings to the new ones, incumbents MLAs from the same party who share neighbouring ridings under the current system, and find themselves in the same multi-member riding under the new system, would have a better chance of both running and winning if that riding elected 3+ MLAs than if it only elects 2

– it would increase the intra-party competition in the urban ridings, increasing the number of ridings with 2 or more candidates from the same party are on the same ballot, which is a good thing as it increases the odds that voters will have a candidate they like from their preferred party, and that the winning candidates from each party are deemed the best candidate by the voters as opposed to the only candidate from their preferred party that was offered to them

Cons:

– it’s not a lot more to explain (your riding will elect 2 or 3 people, depending on where you live) but it is a little more to educate voters on

– it would require a boundary commission to decide not only which ridings to merge, and which ones not to, but also how to then divide them up again and where to draw the borders between the newly created ridings

– it loses the beautiful simplicity for voters that their riding is always the same, whether a federal or a provincial election, as enjoyed by (most) voters in Ontario since the Mike Harris adopted the federal ridings as their provincial ridings years ago

– it would slow implementation, a critically important point during a minority government (though if the government fell before the ridings were merged, the straight federal ridings could be used)

My conclusion is that there are enough “Pros” and few enough “Cons” that it’s worth including this in the system as an option. Any dense urban ridings could be merged, but it would especially make sense if they were within a given municipality that contained multiple federal ridings within its borders, such as Vancouver, Richmond, and Surrey. I think it can be easily argued that if it’s good enough for Surrey to elect 8 city councillors in one big riding, that they can elect a similar number of MLAs in one big riding, as one example.

Up until now I’ve just been discussing the system, but at some point I’m going to “codify” it where I carefully detail it in very specific language. I think I’ll include this as an option when I do that. By then it will hopefully have a newer and catchier name! 🙂

[Please note: An earlier version of this article referred to EasyPR by it’s original working title of “M3”.]

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