STV elections, not single member exclusions nor list appointments.


The consensus of the Ontario Citizens Assembly was for a proportional count, as seems to be the case among submissions so far. Then, the key question is: do all the voters get a preference vote (as with Single Transferable Vote, STV) or is a preference vote granted only to the privileged, who rank candidates on Party Lists, including in the Mixed Member Proportional system, MMP?

I agree with the British Columbia Citizens Assembly recommendation of the Single Transferable Vote for proportional representation with its democratic preference voting, that can rank choice of candidates from the same and different parties, to transcend divisions for a desired degree and kind of national unity.
If the Citizens Assembly decides STV is the best system for Ontario, its less sparse population, than in BC, might justify a marginly more proportional representation.

References, to this Guidelined Submission, link to my original submission, on the web page, Citizens Assemblies of Canada choose a voting system.
To sugar the pill, that review has appropriate color paintings and monochrome engravings of pioneer Canada!
Questions from Assembly members are welcome. (E-mail:


The mandate.

The Ontario Citizens Assembly mandate regards the electoral system, in particular these questions:

  1. The type of ballot (for example do voters mark one X or rank candidates according to preferences)
  2. How our votes are counted at election time
  3. The number of representatives per electoral district (riding)
  4. The geographical size of electoral districts
  5. The size of the legislature

The first two questions concern the general nature of electoral systems. All elections consist of a vote and a count. The kind of vote and the kind of count is the main Assembly decision of principle: voter choice. Indeed, to elect means to choose out. That decision will condition the three remaining questions, which relate mainly to how local is the representation to be.

1: The choices of vote.

In principle, electing or choosing is very simple to understand.

Firstly, the type of ballot. The Assembly mandate says: for example X-voting or ranked choice. But one or the other is all the choice there is to make. It is one or the other. That is essentially all there is.
The different ways of counting X-votes or ordinal votes comes after the two choices of vote.

It gets better. The X-vote and the ranked vote are not really different kinds of vote. They only differ in the amount of choice they offer. The X-vote gives a single order of choice: one candidate before another or others. The X-vote, for single order of choice, is the least elective of votes, sometimes a tactical (strategic) vote for a lower preference to keep out a least prefered candidate.

Giving each voter more than one X-vote says nothing about the order of choice between each of the X-voted candidates. Several X-votes per voter, for several candidates, count against each other. Cumulative Voting allows some candidates to have more X-votes than others. But one X-vote for a candidate still counts against one of, say, two X-votes for a more prefered candidate. Also, cumulating more than one X-vote, on one candidate, denies those cumulated votes to other candidates who might be worth prefering compared to the rest. Cumulative voting was a failed experiment in ranked choice.
(This is also the defect of points systems, like the method of Borda, that gives more points to higher ranked choices.)

Lower preferences do not count against higher preferences, with a proportional count of a preference vote, in a multi-member constituency: If the most prefered candidate gets more votes than a winning proportion of the votes, that candidate is elected, and the surplus vote cannot count against the win, when it is transfered to help elect next prefered candidates.
This method is called the Single Transferable Vote, STV.

The arithmetic, of counting surplus votes to transfer, is the Gregory method, also called the Senatorial Rules, as used for Commonwealth senates. (Currently, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has proposed that citizens vote on potential senators during federal elections, using STV.)

When there are no surplus votes to transfer, then STV falls back on an exclusion count: the candidate, with the least first preferences, is excluded and his votes re-distributed to next preferences.The exclusion count is not as logicly water-tight, as the Senatorial Rules, because some candidate gets excluded, at a stage in the count, when they just happen to be trailing the other candidates. This summary justice has been criticised out of proportion to its effect, which it is not practical to exploit, anyway.

Premature exclusion of a trailing candidate may be more simple than strictly just, but STV has already taken more trouble than any other system to respect voter preferences, making it the least exclusive voting system.
For instance, Single Member Plurality (First Past The Post) is more exclusion count than election count, whenever there are more than two candidates. (Even for just two candidates, SMP is as much an exclusion as an election.) Party Lists are the preference votes of party bosses, and you cannot get much more exclusive than that!

2: The choices of count.

When we ask how to count who are the most representative candidates, again there is a pleasant surprise. Just as there are only two choices of vote, so there are only two choices of count, majority counting and proportional counting. And it gets better still. Remember, X-voting, giving one choice to order, is only the most limited kind of vote compared to preference voting, giving many choices to order: 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc choice.

Likewise, a majority count is only the most limited kind of majority count, offering one majority of over half the votes in a single member constituency. There is a certain proportional count (called the Droop quota) which offers many majorities in a multi-member constituency. With a two member constituency, two candidates are elected on a quota of one third the votes each, thus proportionly representing two-thirds of the constituents. With STV, a two member constituency is of two majorities over a remainder of up to a third the votes going unrepresented. Three members represent three-quarters the constituents: three majorities over the remaining constituents of up to a quarter, who still go unrepresented.

This is an essential but over-looked fact about electoral counting: With STV, a proportional count is a many-majorities count over a residual minority. Majority counting, so-called, is just one-majority counting in a single member constituency. STV is a rationalisation of the (over-all) majority system, making for fairer or more equal representation.

With STV, a proportional count is a multi-majority count. There is no reasonable basis for treating majority and proportion in terms of two kinds of system, the Single-member and List systems, or as combinations of system, like the Mixed and Parallel systems.
Supporters of the Mixed Member Proportional system assure you it is easy to understand. Evidence, from all the countries where MMP is used, that many people do not understand the Mixed system, owes to the unreasonableness of a mixed-up system, not of mixed-up people.

3 & 4: Representatives per electoral district & their geographical size.

As constituencies get proportionately bigger, they represent more majorities relative to the residual wasted votes of less than the quota. Diminishing returns do set in, so a five-member constituency, giving a proportional representation of at least five-sixths of the voters, or some eighty-three per cent, is often considered by reformers as fair enough, without becoming too remote from local boundaries.
Even the odd nine-member constituency, given that voters rank at least their nine most prefered candidates, is only going to improve the representation to at least ninety per cent of voters.

The British Columbia Citizens Assembly report retained a minimum of proportionality in a few two member constituencies for its most vast wildernesses. Also recommended was a two member constituency for its nomadic original inhabitants. Whereas, the densest electorates might have unitary urban constituencies of more than five members, with perhaps as many as seven or eight members. Four to six seats would make up the bulk of the constituencies.

Being more densely populated than BC, Ontario might want a higher average PR than recommended for BC by their Citizens Assembly. Michael Bednarski (1068) submitted a sample map of STV constituencies for Ontario, averaging about seven members. (I support his arguments in his separate submission 1179.) Quite rightly, his draft had caveats, but it was interesting that the smallest constituency was of three members and there were not many of those.

That degree of proportional representation would not just be of the mainstream cultures and opinions but would also be capable of collecting all the main social tributaries of a province, diverse in character and outlook. This promotes a popular participation that does not just affirm conventional wisdom but allows new views a voice in a changing world and makes politics relevant again.

Just as the railways made possible Canada and the USA, as great federations, so there are tele-conferences and other convenient communications to reach out to remote communities for their political, as well as business, educational, social and recreational needs. Some constituents business or official problems shouldnt need a trek to a single members base or a choice of members bases. The multi-member choice of trek would offer more options, anyway.

Local representation is served by STV multi-member constituencies being varied in proportion to the sizes of local communities. But local representation is primarily served by more or less local levels of government, at district, provincial, or federal levels. No level needs to be put in the election straight-jacket of a single-member system. That turns Elections for voters primarily into Locations for place-holders.
In a democracy, the representatives are supposed to serve the represented, and not the other way round, as has made a world sickness of politics.

Single seat constituencies are too non-descript, laborious and expensive to bound and revise bounds. This is implicitly recognised in local elections, often left somewhat multi-member, despite the politicians favoring monopolies, which they call links, because it sounds better.

STV boundaries are much simpler and cheaper to change. They offer stability to real local communities. If they undergo a rise or fall in electorates, this change can be equitably met by an increase or decrease of a seat in the multi-member constituency. The natural and communal bound can be an identified source of civic pride, unlike the ever shifting single member bounds.

Critics of STV sometimes make themselves look foolish by complaining STV is not accountable enough and then complaining that it is too accountable (as in Britain with the Plant report and the Jenkins report). This comes from failing to distinguish two different kinds of accountability: top down and bottom up.

The single member system resembles the territorial accountability of the feudal system. The local lord or squire was accountable to his king, who gave him his territory in return for allegiance in the supplying of serfs for his wars. So, the lord had to keep his serfs in good enough condition to be destroyed by fighting. This was top down accountability.

The single member system is a decayed form of top down accountability. The king no longer has executive power. Now the MPs as local lords or squires are accountable chiefly to themselves, having taken control of the government thru their party organisations.

This is the kind of accountability meant by the assembly brief, Electoral Systems Simulations, Part 1, on pages 17 and 24, with regard to local representation and mixed member systems:

Every citizen has one MPP from his or her SMP district, which promotes accountability.

Not only has this single member accountability ceased to be top down, its exclusively territorial nature also resists accountability from the bottom up direction. Some politicians express this resistance, in the contrary complaint against STV that it is too accountable. That is because constituents can choose among several representatives in a multi-member constituency. Every member has to work well to ensure the voters give them high enough preferences to achieve their quota of votes for election. In other words, this objection to STV is against its democratic accountability.

Place-holders hanker for unaccountable safe seats that can dis-count those with the common complaint, noticed in submissions, that they have never been able to elect anyone they wanted to. Ive found that to be the case in Britain, as well.

5: the size of the legislature.

Eileen Wennekers (1124) noted that Ontario has a below-average number of seats for a provincial parliament. So, she alternatively researched possible STV boundaries for a more typical size provincial parliament, with a spread from three-members up to one nine-member.
Otherwise, STV could simply be a judicious combining of existing single member constituencies, with proper consultation of constituents.

The size of the legislature would be increased by the introduction of additional members proportionly elected from party lists. Some contributors have suggested new members elected separately without affecting the existing plurality system. Whether MMP or Parallel system, this arrangement sets up two kingdoms: a divided authority of the manufactured majority party versus proportional partisanship. The unresolved conflict, in these self-contradictory claims to legitimacy for larger versus smaller parties, institutionalises mutual rancor.

Order and proportion are essential to electoral system.

To top.

The section above, on the Ontario government mandate to the Citizens Assembly, shows that electoral system, or the logic of choice, depends on order and proportion. This is not surprising as order and proportion rule many branches of knowledge, technique and the arts.

Here, I just want to show how order and proportion are the essence of electoral method, however scant the political regard for them. Thus, simple plurality systems rely on the order of candidates first past the post, to decide the winner. Open list systems also rely on simple plurality order to elect candidates on their list, according to the number of seats they win on a proportional count of party votes.

In other words, simple plurality and open lists depend on order of election. But they do not depend on the order of election, from a preference vote, instead of the X-vote splitting support for more popular candidates to let in the less popular. Nevertheless, we know that voter order of choice is an essential attribute of electoral system, because parties themselves generally ensure their leadership contests are with an exhaustive ballot. And presidential contests usually use a second ballot, so that if your first choice doesnt come thru, you can vote for a second choice.

Tho, the American presidential election still counts on squeezing out a third candidate by polling day. The USA reminds me of Britain during the eighteen years constitutional ice-age of Conservative government. Then the Labour government thawed elections into a chaos of systems, like constitutional global warming.

Electoral change is coming to the individualist USA rather differently than it came to Europe and those influenced by European methods. Americans have many leadership contests, such as for President, the state governors, city mayors, as well as other leading civic posts. So, split voting appears to have impressed itself on Americans perhaps more than disproportion.

For instance, in Minnesota, across Lake Ontario, they have had a two-times elected governor on a minority vote, as for the presidencies of Clinton. This was thought to have encouraged the assailing of his authority. While the Ontario Citizens Assembly have been in session, the Better Ballots campaign won a referendum on Instant Run-off Voting (Alternative Vote) in Minneapolis, for Mayor, City Council, and Park and Recreation District Commissioner. But proportional voting (by the single transferable vote) is introduced into Minneapolis for multi-seat elections to Park Board, Library Board and Board of Estimate and Taxation.

That may not seem very grand. But Tony Solgard, the president of Fair Vote Minnesota said he is well aware of the proportional advantages of STV over single seat IRV.
The Fair Vote Minnesota website has the pdf, What it takes: The Minneapolis Better Ballot Campaign for Instant Run-off Voting (december 2006). I was agog at the efficiency of their organisation.

Moreover, it is often over-looked how widespread STV is becoming in all manner of elections. This is particularly true of educational bodies in Britain, Australia, the United States and even in Europe. (Tho very incomplete, see Wikipedia, History and use of the Single Transferable Vote. The awful truth is that STV has gone beyond a political cause. The number of British citizens using STV compares to the Irish electorate. The other day, I came across a web page on football governance, commenting that their club supporters use a good system, the single transferable vote.)

Let me emphasise the necessity of preference voting, as a condition of proportional counting, in electoral system. Closed lists, also used in Mixed Member Proportional systems, do need a preference vote. It is just that the party boss who ranks his partys candidates on the list is the only voter preferentially enfranchised.

Democracy requires preferential enfranchisement of all voters, not just party managers. And party list systems are not just at fault here for their double standards. In the simple plurality system, in Britain, there has been a trend for the two main parties to impose national lists of candidates on local constituency associations and their dominance by white male professional candidates. Party HQ is doing the ordering of candidates from different social groups, in proportion to their numbers in the nation.

In Britain, a new Tory leadership A-list is an attempt to impose proportional representation on a simple plurality system, without giving the voters the benefit of the real thing. That is no better than a party list system that gives a suffrage only of one preference vote per party boss.
Historicly, the voters were only enfranchised with the one-preference X-vote, when it is long over-due for them to be preferentially enfranchised with ranked choice of candidates on the ballot.

Even Britains Tories have tacitly accepted that proportional representation is an essential ingredient of their image if they are to be re-elected. They have not accepted that PR must be more than about image. Not for them, the principle effectively applied in genuinely democratic method. The Tories remain zealots for equal constituencies, which is, actually, proportional representation between constituencies, the sort of PR that has historicly given them disproportionate representation, owing to their - and Labour - obstruction of proportional representation, in the usual sense of within constituencies.

This evidence shows that the most die-hard opponents to proportional representation implicitly rely one-sidedly and self-servingly on the PR principle in their own basic claims to electoral legitimacy. Proportion, like preference, is an indispensible property of electoral system.
And there is a well-tried electoral system that effectively combines these two essentials, in a proportional count of a preference vote. That is the single transferable vote, STV.

Principled recommendation: STV.

To top.

As explained, above, in the mandate section, STV is the generalised electoral system, from one preference for one majority (as in a two-party system), to many preferences for many majorities: ranked choices transferable over the proportional count, in many-member constituencies. STVs consistent generalisation of the vote with the count is the true or scientific explanation of choice. This generality defines transferable voting. Its lack, in other systems, explains why they are defective.

STV proportional representation of all society not just parties.

STV proportionly elects individual candidates, so that all human attributes or groups, including parties, are fairly represented, according to the characteristics of the candidates that voters think important. For instance, in the British health service, STV proportionly represents women, immigrants and specialists. First past the post had monopolised the General Medical Council with white male General Practitioners.

Other proportional counts oblige you to vote for oligarchic lists, leaving social representation to party patronage. The lists deficiency may be glossed over by a few extra-electoral sops, which are really props to a bad system. Women may be bought off by a statutory requirement of equal numbers of candidates by gender. And some or other ethnic minority might be guaranteed seats, setting them apart from ordinary constituents, and indeed the needs of ethnic constituents apart from their ethnicity.

The Mixed Member Proportional system generally has dual candidacy: two safety nets for preventing candidates being rejected by voters. If their safe seat in the single member system lets them down, they can still be elected from safely high on their party list. In supporting STV, the Richard Report for the Welsh Assembly defended voter choice against MMP generally denying them the basic right to reject candidates.

Only STV elects the most prefered individual representatives to parliament (which makes STV uniquely accountable, not having the safe seats in monopolistic single member systems or high on party lists). And, thereby, by prefering certain candidates of more than one party, STV popularly prefers a power-sharing government, supposing no one party of candidates wins a majority of seats.

STV has unique power of prefering a government, in the cross-party PR of government to opposition support.

STV gives democratic authority to a prefered coalition, if necessary, making for effective parties, that are known to have the support of the country as their chosen partners for government.

Lists or Mixed systems do not allow voters to choose a government, which can wait months on caucus wheeling and dealing. Some party-minded electoral reformers simply took offense against the forbidden topic, for them, of ineffective parties using List systems, on Continental Europe before the second world war, and their being thrown impatiently aside for dictatorships.
The party vote puts party before country and individual rights.
Ignorant or unscrupulous critics usually pretended proportional representation always meant ineffective party list systems.

Dictatorship and its mentality in nominally democratic countries is still with us. But the modern world may be better remembered for devastating greed, if it survives it. The other week, the traditionly conservative Economist magazine published a letter from an American political scientist, stating that the remarkable thing about corruption in the East is how like it Western corruption is. Its unflattering tone towards a sample of top people in Western governments was most unacademic. It is perhaps a symptom of political and economic affairs having gone beyond the acceptable, even among the still comfortable classes.

In Britain, the Power Inquiry, for instance, noted a world-wide disillusion with politics. But what do we hear from the party-minded electoral reformers? Ive heard it for thirty years, as well as in Ontario CA submissions: Something to the effect that most modern democracies use proportional representation. And most of those use party lists, at least for additional members to the single member system. (That is the herd instinct masquerading as reason.)

Apologists long said that Italy and Israel may have had stability problems but dont let that put you off the rest. Some pointed to the German MMP system, as particularly free from unstable government. But the German Christian Democrats became just as embroiled in financial scandal as the Italian Christian Democrats before them.
The most recent German election was a classic in prolonged public helplessness to determine their own prefered coalition majority, under a party-proportional system.

Maybe the most serious charge against all party vote systems is their corporatism. The business corporation, lacking personal accountability, is the disease of our time, that has allowed a rape of world resources and habitat destruction that is ultimately in the interest of none. Now these party list proportionalists blithely pronounce, as a remedy, the very disease for elections that ruins the environment and public welfare: namely, corporatism. The group as a legal individual breaks equality before the law. It is the anarchy of one law for big business - or the party list - and another law for the rest of us.

Party list supporters are not the only ones to say that American democracy is a scandal of gerrymandering and campaign finance bribery. Political academics interviewed Ronald Reagan, as president. He and former presidents Ford and Carter were deeply concerned about these very issues. As Gerald Ford said: Congress has become an incumbents House and that is not healthy for a democracy.

Simple plurality systems extort tactical voting for one of two main party rivals to form a government. Whereas Party lists allow smaller parties to extort concessions from the larger parties to form a government. Mixed or Parallel systems more or less combine both extortion rackets: two main parties are kept established by simple plurality thru the blackmail of a wasted vote. And government formation is blackmailed (as Israeli premier Sharon said) by small list parties particular demands.

In Germany, the Free Democrats, with their list seats, long got a free ride in government thru holding the balance of power. But their being squeezed out of the single member contests, kept them a stooge party, if a stooge that could hold to ransom which of the other two formed a government with them. MMP is a tail wagging the dog system. But fanatical small parties have been slow to realise that MMP has kept small parties at the tail end of the system, even if the voters would really like a change.
Thus, in the MMP system, large parties and small parties cheat each other. But most of all, partisan systems cheat the public of deciding their prefered partnership in government.

STV allows the voters to express a degree and kind of national unity, unmatched by any other system, for promoting popular unity of purpose and stable and effective government. This amounts to proportional representation across parties, as well as between parties. This PR across parties can be the proportional representation of government to opposition support.

The Northern Ireland Euro-elections is a classic case of STV giving PR across parties, so saving a seat for one of the two nationalist parties, by allowing the nationalists of both parties to transfer their votes. Whereas List PR would have split the nationalist vote between two nationalist party lists, and lost their entitlement to one of three Euro-seats, as one third of the Ulster electorate.

STV as unique solution to the primaries problem.

STV also gives PR within parties, as voters can prefer candidates of the same party, thus improving the quality of representatives and making for an effective parliament. Moreover, STV is unique in solving the primaries problem of how to allow all the voters to choose between more than one candidate from each party.

The United States failed to solve this primaries problem. When well-meaning party organisations allowed everyone to vote in their primaries, rival partisans voted for the worst candidates of the other party. American election lawyers argue futilely over closed versus open primaries, just as party-proportional reformers argue futilely over closed versus open lists.

The Mixed Member Proportional system, given open lists, is posed with a primaries problem. Usually, two main parties each need a small party partner, or more, to hope to form a coalition government. Larger party supporters vote for their nominated single members, with their first X-vote. Their second X-vote, for a party list, might go to their supporting party. Were the lists open, then they could vote for the worst candidate of their supporting party to keep the stooge parties ineffective and subservient to the main parties.

Politicians have led the criticism against STV precisely because it does effect a choice that is like holding primaries within the context of the general election. Some politicians dont like the idea that voters can prefer between candidates of the same party. They prefer to hide their personal unpopularity, behind partisan support for their monopolistic nominations to single (party) member constituencies, or, behind high position on a party list.

It is a safe-seat excuse that STV, effecting primaries, is divisive of parties. There is evidence that this STV effect is unitive of parties. When the Irish Labour party split into two parties, Irish voters kept transfering their votes between the candidates of both splinter parties. This minimised seat losses, and eventually they accepted the reality, of the voters perception of them, and rejoined.

The transferable vote has this unique power of unifying a people within parties as well as across parties. Whereas party list systems increase the number of parties, because every time there is a serious division of opinion, the only solution is to form a new party, for the voters to offer it support. Party list divisions encourage, and are a consequence of, pushing party dogmas thru parliament without adequate debate.

Party lists are for MPs as delegates, or opinion clones, not individuals with any integrity and power of independent thought. STV gives the voters the power precisely to prefer such people with initiative. Even the minimally proportional STV university constituencies, in the British House of Commons till 1950, produced distinguished Independents.

The transferable vote transcends brittle opinion blocs, by recognising gradations of opinion, thru prefered individual candidates within groups, or across sub-groups, and across group divisions. STV may unite a nation democraticly, instead of allowing party oligarchies to divide and rule, with their monopolistic constituencies and partisan lists.

STV is the only generally suitable voting system.

Following Germany, New Zealand and Britain took good care to keep their MMP system lists closed. In Scotland, the Arbuthnott report (reviewed on my web-page) vaguely held out the false pretense that open lists would allow workable individual freedom of representation. The report left the open list to officials to design, an abdication of their responsibility, to avoid making a proposal they knew would be criticised out of respectable existence.
Yet their somewhat misinformed report admitted that STV might have to be introduced eventually to the Scottish parliament, as is happening for their local elections, and recommended by them for their European elections.

Despite themselves, the Arbuthnott commission tacitly admitted that STV is suitable for all levels of government. I guess if the British government and a new one-party executive in the Welsh Assembly hadnt blocked, without reason, the Richard Report and the Sunderland Report recommendations of STV for the Assembly and local elections in Wales, the Arbuthnott report might not have pussy-footed on the issue in Scotland.

STV is used at all government levels in the Republic of Ireland. STV is not used in Northern Ireland for general elections, which are part of UK first past the post general elections. The two main British parties have urged power-sharing on Ulster, but, to this day, wont lead by example. Tho, the 2005 Labour government rules, with a majority of some sixty seats, on 35% of the votes.

Contrary to what some Ontario submissions assume, the public does not find MMP easy to understand. This is vividly documented in both the Richard and the Arbuthnott Reports. The latter made the common assumption that voters would find STV hard to understand. They didnt take any notice of the Richard Report. One of the Richard commission visited an Ulster STV election and found that the people readily understood it and all the parties agreed it was fair. That is an incredible admission in a province, long divided by sectarian violence, where agreement remains a scarce commodity.

STV for democratic progress vs oligarchic dogmas.

A submission for the Netherlands party list system raises the question: Want to be an Independent? And answers: Start your own party.
I know that the Netherlands have exceptionly low thresholds for this. All the same, if I want to take a distinctive view on any issue, I dont want to have to found a new political party over it.

Yet the expectation is that candidates on the list toe their party lines. Otherwise, what point in the voters choosing them, if they arent going to do what they say?
This is the politics of manifesto promises, in which Parliament is reduced to a check-out point for pre-packaged policies. Parliament should not be the parties rubber stamp.

The purpose of the nations debating chamber should be for people representing different views, to come together and learn from each other, just as, say, scientists or engineers get together at conferences, to find out and co-ordinate progress in a research. Introducing party lists of opinion clones would only confirm the parties preventing of free thought and informed decisions, on which progress depends.

Doctrinal parties subjugate Parliament to an office of legislation for their particular interests. STV transcends party divisions. That is only part of the answer, but it is an essential condition of the individual freedom of thought that recognises truths beyond party dogmas and may seek common ground in the national or provincial parliament.

Parties are abused, to promote particular interests over the common good, thru dogmaticly partisan electoral systems. The vested interests problem goes deeper. A second chamber is needed to promote Equality Of Lobbying, with vocational or occupational constituencies, also elected with STV. Transferable voting on a first chamber political franchise and a second chamber economic franchise would make for a doubly effective parliament of genuine debate, respectively, by the gathered local community interests and gathered special interests.
I believe Assembly Citizens do have the power to put forward constitutional suggestions, so I recommend an STV-elected economic second chamber for Ontario. (This and the subject of Constitutional Economics in general is discussed on my web site.)

Recommendation conclusion.

Simple plurality systems give too much power to established parties. Party List systems give too much power to small parties. Parallel or Mixed systems, more or less, give too much entrenchment power to established parties and too much ransom power to small parties.

In general, non-transferable voting systems give too much power to parties and too little to the people. They are oligarchic rather than democratic voting methods, promoting political place-holding to keep it in the family.

The democratic power of STV, thru national unity in individual liberty, is its legitimacy and encouragement to stronger voter participation. STV expresses proportional partisanship, in so far as it is there. Unlike other proportional systems, STV does not impose partisanship on a nation, as if nothing else but divisions and doctrinaires matter. STV is a progressive electoral system of policy adaptation, in a changing world, which most involves the energy and genius of the whole community.

The official briefs paradox that no one right method is the one right method.

To top.

The British Columbia Citizens Assembly identified basic values for themselves. The main parties did not set up a Select Committee to direct the citizens assembly. Indeed, the Wikipedia entry on Citizens Assemblies (Ontario) censured the three main Ontario parties Select Committee report. Also, the Ontario CA has been lectured by representatives of the three main parties.
In BC, the politicians kept away. Tho, some, connected to the then Green leader in BC, incited lobbying the assembly.
In contrast, the Ontario Greens are to be commended for their restraint in deciding not to try to influence the Ontario CA.

The Democratic Renewal Secretariat issued a backgrounder, of October 24, 2006, on The Electoral System Referendum Act, 2006. Not only does the referendum legislation reject any democratic majority decision for change, but it also tells the Assembly what Electoral Systems are:

Different electoral systems combine votes in different ways. All electoral systems have their strengths and weaknesses, and can have a significant impact on important features of our political landscape.

Another official press release by the Citizens Assembly Secretariat reported:

Every electoral system has its strengths and weaknesses. Citizens Assembly members heard this message from seven of the world's leading experts in electoral reform...

The message that resonated throughout the day is that theres no perfect or one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to electoral systems. Assembly members were told that they must listen to Ontarians, discover what matters most to them, and understand the specific needs of the province in order to make a meaningful recommendation.

To say, there is no perfect or no one-size-fits-all solution, is not to say equivalent things at all. Newton's theory of gravity is not a perfect system but it is very much a one-size-fits-all solution, as are any number of generally accepted scientific systems. The brief merely asserts that there is no generally suitable voting system. But to deny it, on grounds that perfection is impossible, is no argument at all.

The briefs commit a paradox, because they assume they know the one right method, when they assert there is no one right method.

A result of this paradoxical point of view is that the academic role of neutrality towards the citizens assembly is not really as neutral as it might seem. I am not saying the international experts views, as reported, were deliberately biased. I am not a mind reader and I was not there to hear all they said. But I am saying that neutrality is not a self-evident position. In fact, I would describe the reported experts alleged position, not as neutral towards voting systems, but as sceptical towards them.

It is proper for academics not to tell assembly members what system is the best to choose. It is another thing to tell them there is no best system, even if you must decline your opinion of what it is. Because, to say there is no best system is to rule out of consideration the possibility there has been scientific progress in an understanding of democratic electoral system. And that is not academicly neutral, but merely the sceptical point of view. There is also a progressive point of view, not represented in the briefing, it would seem. This is that people have been studying to improve election method ever since the French Enlightenment. The point of view, that elections are improvable over historical time, not merely re-designable to suit the moment, also deserves to be acknowledged and heard.

The assertion, no size-fits-all, meaning no generally applicable system, leads to nonsense. Different voting systems have different results that do matter. (There wouldnt be a mountainous double-60 referendum threshold against any new system, if the results didnt matter.) The implication, that there is no definitive electoral system which people can agree truly represents their choice, would mean that there is no definitively democratic voting system.

But this denial of electoral democracy leaves only various ways of manipulating the electoral rules to get the results you want. The claim, that there is no general system, is an oligarchic view of elections, as arbitrary rules, such that, however people vote, the result will always reflect that bias of the system, rather than the voters free choices.

The Ontario Citizens Assembly is not being asked to research democratic voting system, so much as to find out how Ontarians want their voting system rigged for them. The Assembly, unlike the BC one, are in effect being initiated into a system-manipulation exercise in party-deferential voting systems.

The official Simulation even looks at STV from the party-fixated point of view that more seats per constituency means more representation for smaller parties. But it also means more representation for any smaller groups whatsoever, on any conceivable factors that the voters may rank as of importance: gender, age, race, religion, occupation, culture, language etc, or personal qualities of honesty and integrity, fairness, initiative, commitment, etc. This wealth of preference opportunities to proportionly represent is unique to STV. Somewhat greater access, to that wealth, with larger constituencies, is the real message, that got lost in the merely partisan Simulation.

There is no perfect system, unfortunately, was also the false argument, for different voting systems for different institutions, that was used by the British Labour partys Plant report (1992). (It is reviewed on my web site.) Plants recommendation excluded STV, the only system that works at all levels of government, for four other systems, to work at just some levels. The Plant reports adoption by the Labour government resulted in electoral anarchy: Britain has half a dozen undemocratic voting methods where one democratic method would do.

Theres no perfect voting system is a sorry excuse for the world chaos of voting methods, where hardly a country uses voting method consistently or in a principled fashion. Even the unreformed simple plurality countries, such as Canada, could not keep out some local multi-member constituencies. And countries, with proportional systems or not, mostly have to resort to exhaustive ballots for electing their party leaders or presidents.

Horses for courses have not led to progress in voting method over the past two hundred years. When Borda contested the Alternative Vote, with his method, and Condorcet contested Bordas method, Laplace - only one of the half-dozen most respected mathematicians in human history - stepped in to try to prove, which one was right. (I discussed this, on my web page: Choice Voting America?) The important point here is that these scientists were all agreed that there is such a thing as right and wrong method.
Electoral reform should not be a fashion statement.

Fifty years ago, certain American political scientists took over social choice theory, from economics, to prove the limitations of all such single member systems with preference voting, first examined by the great French Philosophs. On the strength of their proofs or theorems, they then made claims about the limitations of any democratic system. This may be where the horses-for-courses attitude to elections comes from, amongst the academics who spoke to the Ontario Citizens Assembly.

Social choice theory grew up in the United States where single member elections are still the norm. But electoral method moved on after the Philosophs. In the mid-nineteenth century, Proportional Representation was invented, also called Personal Representation by John Stuart Mill: Hares system combined preference voting with proportional counting - the origin of STV. Mill thought it could be the saving of representative democracy. Some of us still think so.

Ninety years ago, H G Wells reviewed fifty years work since the days of Hare and Mill and stated that it had been shown beyond doubt that PR by STV is the one right way among any number of wrong ways to hold an election. The world-renowned voting specialists J F S Ross and Enid Lakeman continued this approach thru the subsequent years of the twentieth century.

One can make logical critiques against STV. Indeed some have. (And one of the virtues of transferable voting is that it is open to improvement, as Ive found.) But electoral sceptics are really hoist with their own petard or caught in their own trap. The dilemma of the sceptics is that they have to establish a definitive voting system before they can then prove its deficiencies and therefore the deficiencies of electoral democracy.

Instead, the social choice theorists tried to have their cake and eat it. They took a half-baked kind of voting system, preference voting with over-all majority counting, and then made sweeping claims, against the rationality of democracy, which cannot be sustained on the basis of a system that is not rational or proportional, anyway.

You have to know the difference between right and wrong voting method before you can establish the current limitations of voting method. Rules always have limitations in practise. There is no doubt about that. But failure, to establish what the best rules of method are, results in failure to establish the limitations of the method.

Submission by Nick Loenen.

Submission 1094 from the pioneer Canadian reformer, Nick Loenen gets in many important points for his recommendation of STV. I expect that he was as conscious, as I was, of having to leave out things, including points already in his other writings. His submission scrupulously follows the guidelines. He tries to give an objective assessment of the relative merits of the contending systems, according to the criteria of the Select Committee on electoral reform.
But I think that his very attempt at rigor shows the weakness of a methodology based on eight principles, most of which are so sweeping that they have no obvious definition to agree on, as a basis for debate.

Hence, the decisions are inevitably subjective. And they depend on the generosity of the assessor, towards the respective voting methods, so that taking an average of such assessments would not produce a fair result.
It might encourage the kind of bias observed by Gary Duncan, in submission 1072.

The brief, A Preliminary Weighing of Principles, page 8, admits:

The former Select Committee on Electoral Reform (which recommended the eight principles that appear in the Citizens Assembly regulation) said this about effective government:

Effective government is difficult to define, but most agree it includes being able to take decisive action when such is required...measuring the effectiveness of governments is already a...difficult and value-laden exercise, without taking the further step of connecting it with electoral models.

That's about right, therefore, taking that further step looks about as useful as tying tin cans to the departing wedding car of the citizens assembly.

More basicly, the methodology of eight principles is like an obstacle course for electoral systems, which, in the name of fairness, places all the systems on an equal footing, as contestants in a race. But some of us are not so innocent of the relative merits of the different systems, which there are more objective ways to assess.

For example, there are four standard scales in measurement theory. Only one electoral system possesses all four scales of measurement, in its unique combination of preference vote and proportional count. That is STV. No other electoral system, in use, has more than two measurement scales. (This and the philosophy of science applied to voting methods is the subject of my two web pages on Scientific Method of Elections.)

The need to keep to tried and tested voting method.

Hand-counted STV is accurate enough but retains the Ontario Citizens Assembly desire for a relatively simple and transparent system. This would seem to rule out computer-counted STV (Meek's method), recently introduced into some New Zealand local elections and for health boards. I have no objection to it, but I can see the wisdom of progressing to a hands-on count of STV for Ontario, should that system be the choice of the Assembly.

Meek's method is used in Britain by the London Mathematical Society, the Computer Society and the Statistical Society. So, STV, being capable of increased levels of rigor, does find acceptance in organisations with exacting scientific standards.

Having studied the matter, I believe that bigger improvements than Meek's method are possible, but these would further increase the amount of computation, and are well outside the scope of this inquiry. I mention the fact, only because there are innumerable submissions to the Ontario Citizens Assembly that seem to assume we dont know that even the best of established methods has perceptible short-comings. They then propose innovations, to every conceivable voting method, that dont have any track record, expecting the Ontario legislature to submit itself to an electoral experiment.

Also, the official Simulations of different voting methods, for the citizens assembly, may foster the impression that voting methods are like Fashion House models that you can design and redesign and turn out, at will, according to taste.

This was partly the reason why Britains Independent Inquiry on Voting Systems, the Jenkins report failed. They proposed an untried system, Alternative Vote Top-up, a Mixed Member Proportional system with the Alternative Vote, or 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc choices in the single member constituencies, and an X-vote for small open lists. Consequently, experts (and myself) identified failings, both new and old, with it. (This is discussed on my web page: Against the Jenkins report.)

Backed by Britains Electoral Reform Society and Australias Proportional Representation Society, traditional STV has over a hundred years of practise behind it, under-going continual revisions in its rule-books to take account of every contingency that experience has shown can crop up in the course of a transferable voting count.

As the assemblys advisors say, no system is perfect. But that doesnt prevent transferable voting from being incomparably better than all the non-transferable voting systems. Traditional STV remains the state of the art in practical politics. It best balances, or trades-off, justice with simplicity.

The fallacy of pre-emptive voting methods.

To top.

The fallacy of pre-emptive or presumptive voting methods is that they confuse the act of voting choice with choice of a voting method. The culprits are all the voting systems that presume a vote is for a party, in the proportional count. This means that whether voters are partisan or not, they are presumed to be, so that the election has essentially been decided as partisan before it has even been held.

The presumption of the party vote, for the purposes of an exclusively partisan proportional count, introduces an artificial restriction of choice on the voters before they have even made their choice in the polling booth. Nor does this partisan bias, in the name of proportion, end there. The official briefing, Mixed Systems Simulated Election Results, is an exercise in all the subsequent biases that have to be arbitrarily decided once the initial arbitrary decision to pre-empt an election for partisanship has been made.

The Simulation boils down to the different ways that any given election can be biased one way or the other towards bigger or smaller parties, namely by whether the list places compensate the smaller parties for fewer single seat wins; or whether there are more single members than list members; or how proportional the count formula is; or the level of the threshold percentage of the votes, a party must win, before being given a proportional share of the seats.

So, having elected or chosen an electoral system that is partisan, despite the democratic right to be other than partisan if one wishes, a whole series of further arbitrary decisions must be made that will affect the fortunes of big versus small parties. It is the arbitrariness or subjectiveness of these decisions that gives them away as not properly belonging to logicly justifiable electoral system, but to the kinds of subjective choices that voters must make in an actual election, and for which subjective purposes, of individual judgment, elections are held.

Electoral rules, affecting the balance between big versus small parties, are an echo of the false distinction between majority counting and proportional counting. As explained, above, there is no essential difference of principle between the two: STV shows a proportional count to be a multi-majority count. Thus, favoring the larger parties, in the name of majority, and favoring the smaller parties, in the name of proportion, is a false dichotomy.

There is no real issue, only a fictitious issue, between systematic favoring of big or small parties. It is like Gullivers Travels and the war of the big-enders versus the little-enders, over how they opened their eggs. Electoral systems, that are more or less big-end systems or little-end systems, trap the participants in a futile dispute.

Jonathan Swift says that eventually some genius came up with the idea of toleration for which-ever way of opening ones egg one pleased. In electoral terms, that depends on an electoral system that is removed from all the Mixed system considerations of big or little party bias. And indeed which doesnt make an issue out of this, any more than any number of other ways, that voters might choose to differentiate the candidates.

STV can show that voters are not nearly as inflexibly partisan as partisan counting makes them out to be. We do know from STV that voters are usually partisan, because this system does not presume what one is setting out to prove in the electoral test. This rule of non-presumptive proof, by the way, is one of the first principles one learns in the philosophy of science.

Another first principle, in the philosophy of science, is that of an unambiguous test. This rule is failed by the single member system, which is ambiguous as to whether a vote for the single representative was for him as an individual or merely as a party nomination. STV passes the rule of an unambiguous test, because voters can prefer candidates of the same party, so that one knows whether the individual is favored or just his party.
Indeed STV can test for candidates of a standing that goes beyond their party, if they belong one, when voters of all political colors extend their higher preferences to a candidate of national standing, a veritable leader of her country.

Submission by Graham Kelly.

Just as it took a submission (to the BC CA) of a German, to make a sober assessment of the German MMP system, it takes a New Zealander to make a sober assessment of the New Zealand version. Graham Kelly, former MP returned before and after the reform to the MMP system, is now the NZ High Commissioner to Canada.

He does not pretend to be enthusiastic about MMP and, I dare say, would not weep if New Zealanders reverted to the old system. But I do think that he tries to be objective and factual about the reform. There is no point in repeating his evidence here, beyond a few points.

New Zealanders were so eager to get rid of first past the post, that they resorted to voting tacticly for MMP, to avoid splitting the reform vote amongst four different options, in a simple plurality referendum. The expose is on page six of his submission.

Pages 6 to 7 belie the claim, made by some submissions, that voters would find MMP easy to understand. These findings of confusion and ignorance are even more marked in the Richard Commission for Welsh elections and the Arbuthnott commission for Scottish elections. (These reports are reviewed together on one of my web pages: Authority lets down the Arbuthnott report...)

The most telling fact may be that, since the referendum, passing MMP against first past the post, support for MMP remains only slightly greater than for FPTP, suggesting it is a case of FPTP being more disliked than of MMP being liked.

The CA learning brief, Values and the electoral system change in New Zealand, admitted some traditional democratic values were down-played, including (on page 14):

Government formation more difficult and in the hands of the parliamentary parties rather than the voters. More difficult to throw the rascals out.

The brief also admits: Some disapproval of list MPs and dual candidacy.
Dual candidacy is the (already discussed) MMP double safety net for incumbents, who reserve a place on a party list in case they lose their seats.

David Farrell, in the learning brief, Electoral Reform in Established Democracies, pointed out that electoral reform was generally run by the political elite (top down). This is like sporting contestants being their own referees. He mentioned the emphasis on party for voting reform in New Zealand.

Actually, I believe criterion 9 in the terms of reference to the New Zealand Royal Commission on Electoral Systems is unconstitutional:

Effective parties (voting systems should recognise role played by parties in the policy and representative process);

Political parties were not recognised in the British constitution from which New Zealand's political institutions arise. Only with the introduction of list systems did you get official parties. Criterion 9 seems to have been a device to handicap STV, whose proportional count is not exclusively partisan. Yet political parties were not recognised in Britains and New Zealands then voting system of Simple Plurality. A precept, that effectively rules out the historical system, before it has been decided to change it, cannot be legitimate.

Taking this consideration of unconstitutional prejudice, together with the simple plurality referendum, that Graham Kelly likened to a migration of lemmings, I think there is a strong case for impugning the validity of the New Zealand electoral reform consultation.

More on credulity towards experts.

I'm not accusing Eileen Wennekers (1124) of credulity. Indeed, I commend her submission, but she was the one who noted that a standing international survey of elections stated that STV and party lists are the only two pure kinds of proportional elections.

Well, this is an improvement on likening voting methods to makes of cars (Citizens Talking to Citizens, page 3) as if voting methods are all politicly road-worthy to some professor Pangloss of voting methods. (One of the briefings even has a full color page of different autos.) But the source, she cites, is still wrong.
As H G Wells said, voting method is not a matter of opinion but a matter of demonstration. And it is easy to show that party lists are inconsistent and deficient as proportional elections.

Party Lists are supposed to remove the disproportionate results of first past the post, but they only revive these disproportionate results on each party list. For, Open Lists elect several candidates, by simple plurality, on the list, according to how many seats the party-proportional count allocates them. Free Lists actually give only minimal ranking power with a measure of cumulative voting. And Closed Lists simply abolish individual representation and accountability. You dont solve problems by getting rid of them.

STV is the only consistently or truly proportional system, because not confined to party divisions but transcending them. It has been explained, above, that STV consistently gives PR, not only between parties, but also within parties and across parties. And STV gives PR without parties, in non-political elections. In other words, STV alone is proportional representation thru and thru.

Party lists only give a proportional count to particular groups. Party lists give proportional partisanship. This proportional particularism favors fairness alone to one set of groups in society, the parties, at the expense of everyone else. The voters are put in a role of deference to the parties, with party votes - not voters votes.

A weakness of an official characterisation of elections is that the tension between rulers and ruled are played down. The Select Committee on electoral reform directed for effective parties, effective parliament and effective government, but it didnt direct for effective voters. And it is remedying the ineffectiveness of the voting system which this exercise is supposed to be all about.
Ontario has a Minister and Secretariat for Democratic Renewal but Democratic Renewal of the electoral system, as a more democratic system, rather than a new fashion statement, is not conspicuous in the reference terms or directives to the Citizens Assembly on electoral systems.

Frankly, it was refreshing to hear, from one submission (1157), an infant terrible, crying out that the emperor has no clothes. I could relate his allegations of Ontario Party Politics to top-down British government.
Others, less out-spoken, about party hegemony, included submissions (1019) (1066) (1086) (1167) no doubt amongst more.


To top.

Various party controls of voting systems make for ineffective and frustrated voters. It is the power behind the whipping system that stifles informed public debate in parliament. And it allows governments to become wooden-headed puppets determined lobbyists fortunes prevail at all costs to the public welfare.

In trying to prove to you that STV is a necessary, tho not sufficient, remedy, I'm sorry, dear Ontario Citizens Assembly, referendum voters, international experts, secretariat, parliament and government, if I have treated you all like Babes in the Wood, but the only advantage of being an old timer on electoral reform is in what one has seen before.

The choice is yours, whether, in all official elections, the voting system is for the voters or the parties.

Appendix 1: on some mistakes in the brief

To top.

Most of these mistakes may be just careless but you cannot afford to be careless in reaching the right decision on voting method.

Appendix 2: on a further unconstitutional veto effected by the double-60 referendum threshold.

To top.

I realise that the referendum threshold is not in the Citizens Assembly terms of reference. But it will not go away after the sessions have ended and some members may still be involved in its consequences. So, it is convenient to refer to it here.

I dont want to repeat here the legal case made fully by Patrick Boyer QC arguing that referendums in British Columbia and Canada in general have generally been decided by an over-all majority. And that social convention, which law follows, deems that the threshold is not compatible with Canada as a free and democratic society.

As British Columbian, Brian White said, the double-60 threshold is a veto on the democratic decision. It is undemocratic in giving disproportionate weight to votes against change: it breaks the basic rule, one person one vote.

I might mention the claim that the double-60 threshold means as few as fourteen per cent of the electorate could block a vote for electoral change.

But the point I want to make is that the Ontario government and legislature may further be charged with unconstitutional procedure, if it is seen to be discriminatory in the way it receives the assembly's choice of system. If the government and legislature stood by the threshold against STVs democratic voting system, that would confirm its prejudice.

But suppose the Citizens Assembly were to choose a party-centred system, and the parties in the legislature decided to waive the full threshold. Then that would look like Ontario parties were working the threshold as a further unconstitutional veto on what voting method Ontarians are allowed to have. And all under the guise of a popular decision.


To top.

Hyperlink to my original submission for Ontario Citizens Assembly and Referendum Voters:
Citizens Assemblies of Canada choose a voting system.

My submission to the first Citizens Assembly, British Columbia chooses a voting system, is also on site. I tried not to repeat too much of the material in the longer Ontario submission.

My Democracy Science web-site has many other detailed studies of voting methods. Some reviews of British reports have already been mentioned.

Two pages, on Scientific Method of Elections, are relevant and only slightly technical.

A recent examination, of the nonsensical tangles that the MMP system gets itself into, is included in my web review: Authority lets down the Arbuthnott report...

The Ontario CA has been lectured on values-driven electoral reform. With the tight schedule set the Ontario Citizens Assembly, and as it is only back-ground, I do not urge you read my philosophic answer to this topic on the page:
The Moral Sciences as the Ethics of Scientific Method.

My electoral research pages, such as on weighted Condorcet pairing, are definitely not recommended reading for the practical purpose of a Citizens Assembly.

Finally, if members of the Ontario Citizens Assembly have any doubts about the rights and wrongs of electoral system, as here or elsewhere presented, I would be glad to respond to your questions, hopefully to your satisfaction.

Richard Lung.
November to December 2006.

To top.

To home page.