The voodoo math of proportional representation

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
November 27, 2017 - 8:29am Updated: November 27, 2017 - 1:46pm

KAMLOOPS — I took a few minutes Sunday to fill in the survey on B.C. electoral reform.

The survey results will, no doubt, provide the NDP and Greens with what they want — ammunition for a stacked-deck referendum ballot in which the current First Past the Post system doesn’t have a chance.

For example, one question asks us to select the election values that are most important to us. The choices lean heavily to proportional representation.

The first one offered is “a Legislative Assembly in which the share of seats each party holds is fairly similar to the share of the votes it receives across the province.”

Another is “A voting system that allows a voter to rank a political party’s candidates,” and another, almost identical to the first: “A Legislative Assembly in which the share of seats each party holds closely matches the share of the votes it receives across the province.”

I found only two of the 12 “values” that match my own: “Single-party majority governments where it is clear who is accountable for decisions.” And “a voting system that is easy to understand.”

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, advocates for change continue to scratch out voodoo mathematics on their political chalk boards, demanding to know why, as they love to put it, “a party with 30 per cent of the vote gets 100 per cent of the power.”

What they ignore is that FPTP puts power into the hands of local communities. The supposed inequity of the current system is actually the opposite — each riding picks the candidate it likes best, not what somebody else thinks is fair.

The survey does accomplish one thing, though — it tries to outline the differences between various versions of PR, and leaves the reader with glazed eyes and a boggled mind, convinced that proportional representation is just too damn confusing.

By the time you finish trying to sort out STV from MMP, List PR and MMM, and all their assorted iterations and mumbo jumbo, you want to forget the whole thing.

Which is exactly what we should do.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

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