Eduard Hiebert

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Ontario's 2007 Electoral Reform Initiative

In 2006 the Ontario Government established a Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform giving "citizens a direct voice in determining" a new electoral system.  The public was invited to make presentation at public forums and make submissions.  Submissions may be viewed here, including Eduard's as submitted.  The following is a more navigatable format of Eduard's submission and includes a "Conclusion" not available in the document submitted to the Assembly.

Table of Contents:

Opening Statement
Overview of Submission's Focus
Standards "Traditionally" Applied To Democratic Decisions
     "Majority Rule": Absolute Majority (More Than Half)
     "Plurality": Relative Majority (More Than Any Other)
A Systematic Analyses of Electoral Systems
     The Single Mark Ballot (First Past the Post)
          Vote Splitting: Cause and Effect
     The Two Round System
     The Multi Mark Ballot (Voting 1, 2, 3... and IRV Counting)
     Adding a Proportional Fix
     Fixing the First Past The Post System
     Rating Proportional Fixes
     Electoral Reform Initiatives Poisoned by Oversteps and Understeps

Opening Statement

Within the January 23, 2006 Kenora Assembly forum, I advanced the understanding that "You can not fix something if you do not know what is broken... you can not fix a bicycle tire if you do not know where the hole is.  We can not fix our election system with certainty, without knowing where the holes are that allow minorities to control the majorities."

This submission will identify the holes in our electoral system and give concrete doable suggestions on how not only to patch the holes, but through a relatively tiny step forward transform the electoral system into one that produces substantially improved democratic outcomes because of what I call the "democratic footprint of the revised system will be much bigger than the existing one.

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Overview of Submission's Focus

Genuine electoral reform enlarges the size of what I call our electoral system's "democratic footprint". The footprint then becomes a comparison measure of how much more one electoral system, compared to another, achieves the 9 electoral principles.  Achieving each principle is both essential and the ideal! 

The universally recognised minimum standard for democratic self-rule is nothing less than majority rule.  Its high time each elected candidate meet this minimum standard.  Absolute, not relative, majority rule is fully achievable, overnight AND within the present system, requiring little more change than citizens having the choice to fill out the existing ballot preferentially (vote 1, 2, 3...) and counting the ballots in a way that is both fair and compatible to our present manual counting methods.  I recommend adopting the Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) counting method, which the Citizens' Assembly refers to as the Alternative Vote. 

In rare cases the IRV count method may still produce less-than-ideal results and consideration for the Condorcet and Kemeny Young methods will be noted later.  However, comparing IRV with First Past The Post counting method, IRV is either equal to or superior, never inferior!  Specifically, the First Past The Post electoral system often fails to achieve an absolute majority by virtue of its vulnerability to vote splitting.  Electoral reform consisting of the two small physical steps identified, would with certainty, all but eliminate vote splitting and yield a dramatic increase in the democratic footprint, without risk of an undemocratic miss-step!  

The goals of a mixed proportional electoral system are laudable! However, building a fix on top of a member based system with known democratic deficiencies ought to be held off until those deficiencies are first corrected and from that more democratic view, develop a range of proportional fixes substantively more encompassing and more citizen friendly, than simply a party proportional fix.

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Standards "Traditionally" Applied To Democratic Decisions

"Majority Rule": Absolute Majority - More Than Half
"Plurality": Relative Majority - More Than Any Other

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"Majority Rule": Absolute Majority (More Than Half)

The near universal minimum standard for majority rule is anything more than half.  Anything less, is not acceptable! 

This is a widely accepted standard!  Every one of Canada's Parliaments and Legislatures use absolute majority (majority rule) as their minimum standard when deciding whether to pass a bill or not.  Canada's appeal courts use the majority rule when deciding a matter involving more than one judge.  Virtually all western world meetings among organisations of every kind, private, public and business, use absolute majority as their minimum standard when passing a resolution, in meetings conducted with and without Robert's Rules of Order.  Furthermore, in Canada, the Canadian Wheat Board director elections use this standard (called the preferential ballot), AS DO VIRTUALLY ALL CANADIAN POLITICAL PARTIES WHEN ELECTING THEIR LOCAL DISTRICT CANDIDATE OR PARTY LEADER!  Parties refer to this as run-off elections, repeated until one candidate has the support of 50% plus one.

The Ontario Assembly Guide states Australia, Fiji and as of 2007 New Guinea use absolute majority as their minimum standard in general elections.  Wikipedia adds to this list, including elections for President of Ireland, eight US jurisdictions, starting with San Francisco, as well as "during the 2006 United States general elections, Pierce County in Washington state, Minneapolis and Oakland"!  That is the list is relatively new and growing!!!

As more than just an idle curiosity, Wikipedia spells out that in Australia and Canada, an absolute majority system is called the Preferential Ballot; in the US, IRV; and in some other jurisdictions, the Alternative Vote.  "Alternative Vote" is also the Ontario Assembly Guide's terminology of choice.  Might the jumble of non standardised names be a further indication that the adoption of the absolute majority standard is not only recent, but arrived at by a diversity of people around the world coming to the same independent conclusion that in civic elections as in virtually all other official decision making processes, the absolute majority standard is more fair standard than a plurality one?

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"Plurality": Relative Majority (More Than Any Other)

The term "plurality" is similar in meaning to the term "relative majority".  As implied by the term "relative majority", there is no predetermined fixed minimum standard to decisions arbitrated by the plurality method.  The minimum plurality method varies as the field of choice varies.  For example, when the field of choice is two, then the minimum relative majority standard is 50% plus one.  When there are three choices the standard drops to 33.3% plus one and 25% plus one with four choices, etc.  The longer the list of choices, the lower the minimum standard.

Contrasting the two standards, relative majorities of 33% or 25% or for that matter 49% are not a majority!  They represent a minority and in a democracy, the minimum standard is "majority rule", not "minority rule".  Clearly anything less that 50% plus one fails to meet the electoral principle of democratic legitimacy and the plurality method fails to meet the near universally understood minimum of majority rule.

Using a plurality based system to elect government is a democratic hole.

With every major party in Canada, including in Ontario, using the absolute majority standard during elections inside to the party, why do so many Canadians and Ontario's citizens tolerate this political party double standard, when their party members elected in civic elections, need only meet the relative majority standard? 

Is this not a democratic hole within each one of our political parties?  And within our electoral system?

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A Systematic Analyses of Electoral Systems

One standard and straightforward method to seek out genuine electoral reform measures and find systems with larger democratic footprints than the current one, may be done by comparing one system with another.  Comparing the democratic footprint of the various electoral systems, is a task, which if done substantively and with merit, escalates quickly into the highly complex.

Rather than comparing one complex electoral system with another, thankfully another systematic approach exists which consists of identifying the various components within all electoral systems and then keep all variables fixed, except when examining all options within one component, one at a time.  This approach can lead to a very rigorous examination of the various systems and reduces the complexity of comparisons to one of being able to work very accurately and comprehensibly with the variables, one at a time.

Applying this approach, every electoral system, including Ontario's, has at least two distinct components, i) the ballot, and ii) the method used to count the ballot. iii) There exist as well "pure" proportional electoral systems which are a class quite unlike single member constituencies and will set aside their review for now.  Together with the first two parts already identified, "mixed" proportional electoral systems have a third component, which for present purposes, I will identify as the proportional fix component. 

I now turn to analysing all three components, beginning first with the ballot.  Exercising the ballot, is limited to essentially three options, the single mark ballot, the multiple mark ballot and the subsequent round (or rounds) ballot.

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The Single Mark Ballot (First Past the Post)

Ontario's ballot, is an example of a single mark ballot system.  Only a single mark is allowed, even when there are more than two choices.  However, there is no limit on how many candidates may vie for the single seat election.

If there are only two candidates, a single mark ballot presents no problems. The person elected will have been supported by the majority, except in the vary rare circumstances of a tie.  In other words, the citizens as a group facing any two candidates and exercising a single mark ballot will have absolute democratic control of the situation as the outcome will be one of majority rule.

Vote Splitting: Cause and Effect

Having only two candidates within one constituency in Ontario's provincial elections, is however, next to unheard of.  And any time there are more than two candidates on a single mark ballot, results in an imbalance between the number of marks possible and the number of choices to chose from. 

Functionally and with certainty, this will lead to a loss of control by the majority any time an elite minority intends to make use of the vulnerabilities of a single mark ballot.  Consider the following series of examples, involving the same three candidates and different clusters of citizens.

Let's identify the candidates as A, B and C and involving a cluster of 3 citizens of which two distinctly do not want A.  These two form a majority.  However, except with much coordination, they may split their vote between B and C.  This puts A in a stronger position than if there was only one other candidate.  Please remember, the citizens do not have control of how many candidates will stand, however an elite minority can easily and covertly encourage a third candidate to run.

Next, staying with the same 3 candidates and a cluster of 5 citizens of which 3 decidedly do not want A, they too may end up splitting their vote between B and C unless with considerable effort they take pains to find agreement and all three vote either for B or all three for C.  Any slip-up and they have lost their majority advantage.  Again this places a tremendous burden on the three voters to coordinate their efforts and provides A with unwarranted but very demonstrable advantage.

Adding these two clusters up, in an absolute majority situation A would lose with certainty.  Here however a clear majority of 5 among 8 voters could end up with a situation where A is tied with one of the others.  Clearly A is gaining unfair advantage!

Immaterial of whether we take another cluster of 3, 5 or even more citizens, one more cluster similar to the above already produces a situation where A could have a relative majority even though a very clear majority do not want A. 

Almost with 100% surety, an elite minority can take advantage of a single mark ballot situation, help split the vote between a majority favoured candidate and several others who position themselves as being somewhat like B, thereby increasing very substantively the possibility that A will be elected.

In conclusion, as a direct deduction from the above single mark ballot examples, the existence of a vulnerability to vote splitting schemes means that in elections involving a single mark ballot, there is a shift in the balance of power away from the citizens and towards an elite minority or minorities.

This identifies a democratic hole in the single mark ballot system.

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The Two Round System

The Two Round System (example, Frances presidential election) is but a minor variation of the First Past The Post system.  In this system any time there are more than three candidates on the first ballot, there is again an imbalance between the total number of marks available (a total of two single mark ballots) and the total number of choices.  Here too, it is very easy to construct a vote splitting scheme by which with almost certainty, a minority supported candidate can win.

Even though the run-off election produces a majority outcome from among the pool left standing after the first round, due to the possibility of vote splits from the fist round, this pool of candidates need not be representative of the majority of voters. 

Using the computer metaphor of garbage in, garbage out; if the pool of remaining candidates due to vote splitting is not representative of the majority, then despite such a candidate gaining an absolute majority after the run-off ballot, the outcome is not a democratic outcome but the illusion of democracy. 

This system has a slight democratic footprint increase, over the single mark ballot but really not worth looking at any further.

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The Multi Mark Ballot (Voting 1, 2, 3... and IRV Counting)

In Canada, The Canadian Wheat Board director elections are an example where the multi mark ballot is used.  Their balloting system is called a Preferential Ballot System.  The Assembly Guide refers to this system as the Alternative Vote (AL).

The purpose and function of the multi mark ballot is to deliver absolute majority electoral outcomes.  The multi mark ballot restores the balance between the number of choices on the ballot and the number of marks that may be made.  This balance between number of marks and choices also restores democratic control as to who will be elected back into the hands of the majority of citizens. 

When it comes time to count the preferential ballots, several different methods exist.  The counting method that ranks highest against the simplicity practical principle is known by different names.  At the Canadian Wheat Board, the entire election is referred to as a Preferential Ballot.  The Ontario Assembly Guide calls this ballot and counting method the Alternative Vote.  In some areas its called the Instant Run-off Vote (IRV) counting method.  I will use the IRV name as I believe it is the most descriptive of how the ballots will be counted, though I like the Vote 1, 2, 3... name for the ballots when talking to voters as that name provides a clear and concise message to voters on how they may take full advantage of all the power that a preferential ballot has.  In this submission, when referring to both the ballot and count, the name IRV will be used.

In rare cases, the IRV may still produce less-than-ideal results and consideration for the Condorcet and Kemeny Young count methods ought to be considered, but at considerable cost on the simplicity scale. 

However, there is no doubt that democratically speaking, the IRV compared to First Past The Post, IRV is equal to or significantly superior in eliminating vote splitting and assuring an absolute majority outcome, never inferior! 

In a paper I wrote shortly after the 2006 federal election on the subject of electoral reform I provided examples that even where the IRV subsequent run-off results confirms the first relative majority result, the IRV process, without electing a different candidate, has still increased the legitimacy footprint, the fairness footprint, the voter choice footprint and accountability footprint!  In the article, the term Preferential Ballot is used instead of IRV. 

For details, please see the section "Comparing A Preferential System With A Proportional One

What would be involved in moving from an FPTP system to IRV?

Ontario's existing electoral system could be transformed overnight into a preferential ballot with an IRV counting method. 

The ballots need not be changed.  What is needed is that voters need to be allowed to vote 1, 2, 3... against each of the candidates on the ballot.

Changing the manual counting method from FPTP to IRV, need not be a big step.  A manual ballot redistribution method is still sufficient to complete the count with complete accuracy, though each redistribution count at the polls would have to be coordinated by the central office for each district.

Switching from a manual count to either a mechanical machine or computerised counting method introduces a new systemic component and variable which opens the door to both error and fraud as witnessed REPEATEDLY in other jurisdictions, such as in the US. Being able to count preferential ballots via the IRV counting method manually gives that system, in comparison to other majority rule systems (AND ALL PROPORTIONAL SYSTEMS) a very high footprint on the practical scale.   

While the IRV ranks much higher on the democratic legitimacy scale than FPTP, there is still room for improvement.  In the very few instances where the Condorcet or Kemeny - Young counting method might provide different results than IRV, a candidate's right to an automatic recount under specified conditions would be a very efficient, practical and cost efficient method towards getting the largest effective democratic footprint available in single member constituencies, while being open to correct the very few instances where the IRV counting method might be inferior to either of the other two counting methods.  However, as noted earlier, the IRV counting method is never inferior to the First Past The Post system ALWAYS EQUAL TO OR SUPERIOR!

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Adding a Proportional Fix

Based on many of the submissions made to the Assembly, the current First Past the Post system, is in serious need of replacement.

The question is not if it should be changed, but to what. 

In the above it was shown that changing the FTTP system to an IRV, would be a very small electoral systems change, but with a huge increase in the democratic footprint.

The question now before us, would a preferential fix contribute to a significant increase in the democratic footprint?

The 2004 report "Voting Counts: Electoral Reform for Canada LAW COMMISSION OF CANADA" helps put the need for change in perspective.  Please see: this link with actual download from this link.

At the conclusion of Law Commission's report, is a very powerful question that summarises well the focus of what electoral reform is required.

"How can we reduce the gap between governments and citizens?"    

Proportionality has a laudable goals.  Using the above question as a guide, alongside with the use of the democratic footprint measure let's see if a proportional fix would reduce the gap further.

There is little doubt that proportionality by party is important. However does party proportionality trump or beggar all other demands for proportionality?

Equal Voices submission (Number 1505), a multi-partisan group, focused on reducing the huge gender gap advances a report strongly endorsing proportional systems as the means to increase the proportion of women elected.  In their own submitted details,  party proportionality will be achieved, but as to their number one issue, that of gender parity, almost all the success stories cited, deliver only very modest progress on reducing the gender gap.

Thus, Equal Voices submission sheds light on the reality that political party based electoral reform initiatives may raise laudable goals, but the details show that in reality, even that groups requested outcomes based on their own data is in reality a demand for party based proportionality which trumps their publicly claimed number one issue, that of gender parity!

This submission advances that additional criteria for proportionality might include a list like ethnic diversity with emphasis on minorities, diversity of sociological and economic diversity, etc, etc and ought to be debated publicly before a system is introduced.  In other words, party proportionality is not the only requirement for proportional fixes, yet virtually all supporters of proportional system fixes advocate a party based proportional fix!  Even the Ontario Assembly Guide echoes this singular predisposition towards party based proportionality.  This raises questions that further review of the goals of proportionality and how to achieve them must better be studied before a proportional system is implemented.

The earlier cited Law Commission raises very specific concerns regarding serious deficiencies in known proportional systems.

Concerning party list proportionality, "Numerous critics of this procedure have pointed out that it gives an enormous advantage to party elites, who can place themselves at the top of the lists.  At the same time, however, closed lists can allow party officials to place members of under-represented groups, such as women and ethnic or religious minorities, at the top of the lists."

Except Equal Voices own submission shows that on their unequivocally stated number one issue of above all else, existing models of proportionality only make a dent in reducing the gender gap.

Then beyond any doubt as well regarding "open list proportionality", the commission adds several further sobering realities.  Even if the system is one of open lists, "changing the party-determined order of list candidates requires considerable coordination among voters and individual candidates." That is, this is laudable goal but in detail an unlikely uphill activity.

Furthermore open lists "encourage factionalism and intraparty competition...  (O)pen lists are not as effective in promoting the candidacy and successful election of women, unless quotas are established guaranteeing women a certain percentage of winnable positions."

A further significant issue surrounding proportionality hardly ever is discussed is that in a mixed proportional system, district size must be increased in order to not increase dramatically the total number of elected representatives. 

However, with 100% certainty, larger districts decrease proportionality among the remaining pool of elected single district members elected.

To verify this, the math is easy. Please consider the two extremes.  If only one member is elected across the entire province, proportionality is out the window!  

At the other extreme, if every citizen is a representative, proportionality is at 100%. In between, lower proportionality as the total number of single district members is decreased.  Hence increasing the proportional fix, which is questionable at best, decreases with certainty the existing proportionality of the smaller remaining pool of single member districts.

Furthermore, replacing the FPTP system with an IRV also increase proportionality.  This can be verified by recognising that under IRV, many winning candidates have the support of a wider proportion of voter support base than do FPTP candidates.  This translates into IRV elected candidates increasing proportionality outcomes.

On the matter of gender proportionality, with women being in a clear majority and IRV disposed to electing those candidates with majority support, this ought to translate into more women being elected under IRV than FPTP.  This too is an increase in proportionality.  

On the other hand, if say the German model of mixed member proportionality were adopted, this would not produce only positive results.  The following are but some of the steps backwards.

1    Regarding proportionality, Ontario would likely lose half of the single member district MPPs to make room for the proportional fix members. This move decreases the existing proportional footprint on the constituency pool of elected MPPs. 

2    Under the German model, FPTP continues to be used as the means to elect the single district members.  In this context, reviewing the results from the 2006 federal election, we get the following.  Sixty per cent of all MP's declared elected had pluralities less than the democratic standard of majority rule.  That is, at the local constituency level, 60% of all elected candidates only had the support of a minority of voters, but were declared elected by the relative majority system. By contrast a mere 40% were elected with the support of a majority.

Furthermore, should all 308 MP's vote in unison on any one bill, a remarkably uncommon event, those 308 MPs only have the representative confidence of 48.5% of Canadians who voted for them.

Please note, Ontario's electoral system uses the same standard!  And when virtually all submissions to the Assembly want change from the current system, it seems contradictory to implement a proportional system that would continue bury the negative impacts of FPTP within a new proportional system.  As the IRV system could be implemented, but if the FPTP system is maintained, this too amounts to a step backwards.

3    Another point worth noting, is that regardless of whether mixed or pure proportional, multi member districts have a smaller democratic footprint across all 9 principles than if that large district is divided into the same number of discrete MPPs as the intended proportional one.  Say the large multi-member district is made up of 5 members, true proportionality would be increased if that district was divided into 5 single member districts. Sophisticated vote splitting schemes are much easier to implement in multi-member districts, than in single member districts.  And as said before true proportionality increases as district size decrease and number of MPPs increase.

4    As well, if anyone has ever done any campaigning, one is quick to realise that the larger the size of the district, whether geographically and/or by population, the greater the shift in the balance of power away from true indigenous local candidates in favour of the central campaigns which have mass marketing advantage.  Increased district size means a reduction in the democratic legitimacy footprint!

5    Switching to a proportional system would also come at a very high cost regarding the simplicity and practicality footprint.  As mentioned earlier, the switch to IRV would only exact a very modest cost in simplicity and practicality footprint. 

Putting these negatives into perspective, adopting a proportional fix is far from being all positive but based on the above amount to at least 5 steps backwards.  This means with certainty that a proportional fix would have to compensate for each of the above step backwards just to break even.

Furthermore, I find it interesting that among those that advance the benefits of a proportional system, I have yet to find one of them raise awareness of this multi-step backwards in order to achieve a step forward.

The stated goal of the proportional fix is to reduce the democratic shortcomings arising out of the use of the FPTP system.  The simplicity and practicality principle would urge rather passionately that fixing the FPTP with a IRV, at the very least, ought to be a higher priority than layering a proportional fix component on top of a known deficient electoral system.

If Ontario were to switch to IRV, while no one is making the outlandish promises that advocates of proportional systems are making, yet in reality IRV would reduces the gaps across 8 principles.  That is, the footprint across 8 principles is increased under an absolute majority system without any democratic down sides. Clearly that statement can not be made with regards to current known proportional systems!

In short, adopting an absolute majority system is but a small step to make for every voter individually but would afford huge steps forward in reducing the gaps (or increasing the democratic footprints), with virtually no risk of a democratic miss-step. On the other hand,

In closing two end notes.  My earlier paper on electoral reform provides greater focus on who the winners and losers are in each of the electoral systems, which provides another means of doing your own math and detect for yourself where the democratic holes are in the current system.  For details please see the paper and spreadsheet available at /ereform.htm

The submission I made at the Kenora forum on January 23, which provides realistic grounds why the quality and nature of elected representatives in an absolute majority system will, along all 9 principles attain a bigger democratic footprint than the current electoral system, will also be posted at the just referenced site.

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Fixing the First Past The Post System

On the question of authentic electoral reform and separating the wheat from the chaff, "we can not fix what we do not know is broken,  we can not fix a bicycle tire if we do not know where the hole is."

The hole within the current relative majority, First Past The Post, electoral system arises when the citizens marking their ballots are only allowed to make one mark (one "x", once choice) when there are more than two candidates and no candidate achieves an absolute majority, only a relative majority.  In such a situation, due to the imbalance between the number of marks allowed and the number of choices possible, it is unmistakably possible, through vote splitting schemes to split the voice of the majority and give the illusion that an "elite" powerful minority is in the majority.

Single mark ballots are vulnerable to shifting the balance of power from the
majority to the advantage of a minority.  That is, the inherent weakness and very nature of the relative majority First Past The Post electoral system is that it allows the adulteration of "majority rule".  "Majority rule" is adulterated whenever a candidate, with only minority support, is elevated to elected status and this minority supported candidate, then gets to trump and trash the will of the majority with impunity.

The solution is not to mask and keep the defective First Past The Post system buried within a much more complex electoral system by layering a proportional system on top of the defective First Past The Post system; but to actually fix the anti-democratic hole within the First Past The Post system!

Democratically speaking, the minimum gold standard is majority rule (for details see Standards "Traditionally" Applied To Democratic Decisions)! And the anti-democratic hole in the First Past The Post system can easily be fixed with pin-point accuracy by requiring that each candidate, in order to be elected, must at a minimum achieve an absolute majority.

Almost all vote splitting may be eliminated through two small procedural changes to the existing system.  i) ALLOW citizens to mark their existing ballots preferentially, (vote 1, 2, 3...) and ii) by continuing to count ballots manually as is presently done, except if no candidate achieves an absolute majority, then the weakest candidate is dropped off and those ballots according to their second choice, redistributed among the remaining candidates.  This is repeated until one candidate has an absolute majority.

In Canada and Canadian Wheat Board elections, this method is called a Preferential Ballot; in other jurisdictions like the US, Instant Run-off Voting (IRV); while still others the Alternative Vote.

Democratically, the vote 1, 2, 3... and count IRV method is ALWAYS superior to or equal to the First Past The Post system, NEVER inferior.  This absolute majority system also increases true proportionality as every candidate elected has the confidence of the majority instead of some minority.

In the few theoretically rare circumstances where vote splitting may still occur, a blend of the Condorcet and Kemeny - Young method should be examined as a possible further refinement, however this would come at a cost of increased electoral system complexity.

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Rating Proportional Fixes

The step required to move from the current system to a vote 123... and count IRV absolute majority system is a relatively small step procedurally but with significant positive democratic outcomes.  Furthermore, such a step is but a very tiny fraction of the step (actual changes and their complexity) required in order to move from the current system to any one of the possible proportional systems, be they "pure" or "mixed"!

While moving to the absolute majority system is a small procedural step forward, without risk of a misstep, the step forward in adopting any of the known proportional fixes, also involves several steps backwards.  An abbreviated list of backward steps identified earlier and buried with certainty within proportional systems includes the following four:

  1. Quite seriously and quite unnecessarily so, all of the current problems identified with and associated with the current First Past The Post system would continue to plague and be buried within the remaining pool of constituency based MPPs (Members of Provincial Parliament) within a mixed proportional system.  This is irrefutably true as the pool of elected MPPs elected in the German model of fixed districts would continue to be elected via the First Past the Post system.  This raises the obvious question once understood.  How good is the proportional fix to correct the problems with First Past the Post, when a First Past the Post or a similar vote splitting method is used to elect the members from fixed constituencies.
    Furthermore, the problem with inadequate or under representation would be worse in the new proportional system than at levels currently!  For example:
  2. In order to offset the increase in proportional fix MPPs, the number of district MPPs would most likely be decreased by increasing the size of the districts.  (One deceitful way is to suggest and increase in MPPs at greater cost now, but then later downsize parliament as it is too expensive.)  Not only do larger districts provide advantage to central party campaigns, and this to the disadvantage of the smaller locally known candidates, the true* proportionality of the resulting smaller pool of district, that is the accuracy of the representational capacity of MPPs would be much less than the existing pool and must be offset by the claimed proportional system gains, just to break even.
    *    Most proportional systems will increase "party" proportionality, but true proportionality, includes the overall qualitative representative capacity including matters like gender proportionality, socio-economic and ethnic diversity proportionality etc. etc.
  3. Not only do multi-member districts, both pure and mixed-proportional achieve lower true representational capacity compared to smaller single member districts, multi-member districts also multiply the risk of complex vote splitting schemes made possible in multi-member constituencies.  A well heeled minority can more easily manipulate outcomes in a large multi-member district than in smaller single member districts.
  4. The complexities involved in marking the ballots, counting the ballots and understanding the relationship between how every citizen voted and who all got elected is much more complex in any proportional system than in a single member absolute majority system.  Take for example the counting of the ballots and determining who is elected.  Under the preferential ballot (vote 123..) and IRV count method, the count can still be done manually without inviting the risks of computer associated problems, both accidental and intended in computerised voting systems.  In any of the proportional fixes, manual counting and apportioning the proportional fixes is no longer possible and invites error and manipulation.

HOWEVER, if greater accuracy in representational capacity is still considered to be a necessary fix by the citizens, they could more properly examine the merits of what further proportional fixes like gender, visible minorities etc ought to be addressed, and this likely with greater urgency and value than merely political party proportionality and in the near future add a proportional system on top of a majority system which has already eliminated the serious deficiencies in the First Past The Post system.

Political Party proportionality, on the other hand, with near certainty, tends to increase advantage to minority elites within the various parties.

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Electoral Reform Initiatives Poisoned by Oversteps and Understeps

The Assembly Electoral Reform process is like using a high wire act as an exit strategy, to move from a tall burning building to solid democratic electoral ground.

If the Assembly's recommended step is too small, Ontarians get burned by the current defective relative majority system.  If the recommended step is too large and turned down by the Ontario electorate, this becomes another way by which detractors can engineer the continuation of the Status Quo to the disadvantage of the majority.  On the other hand, recommending a step that introduces new anti-democratic holes is also a misstep at the expense of the majority.

On the 'complexity' principle scale, the step forward PROCEDURALLY from a relative majority, First Past the Post system to an absolute majority system is but a tiny, almost insignificant step compared to implementing any and all proportional systems, while implementing any proportional system is like major surgery!

On the scale of the other 8 DEMOCRATIC principles, changing to an absolute majority system delivers with certainty a huge democratic step forward by eliminating vote splitting (minority rule) in favour of majority rule and actually increases the proportional representative capacity of every MPP, which under a relative majority would have been elected by a minority.  On the other hand, can anyone point to any possible missteps identified or to be identified by the Assembly?

However changing to any of the proportional systems under consideration, while they will improve political party proportionality and possibly a modicum of success on the gender equality, this submission has identified several serious steps backwards on the scales of true representative capacity at the local constituency level including the revisioning of the local constituency sizes across the entire province.  This not only invites new and very significant opportunities for gerrymandering, this also requires that virtually no community in Ontario will remain untouched from having to relate to their local MPP, who on average, with 100% certainty, across the entire province will be more distant and represent many more people and communities than currently.  These are significant reductions on the 9 democratic principles, that can not and will not be offset by the gain of political party proportionality!

Furthermore, the mixed and pure proportional systems studied so far do not address nor eliminate the anti-democratic problem of vote splitting, but in several instances actually compound it!

By taking a two step approach to electoral reform, first absolute majority and then proportional, this then provides the necessary room to develop a proportional system that delivers more than simply political party proportionality but delivers with certainty a full compliment of the representative benefits often implied but not defined when discussing proportional systems, from gender equality, to correcting minority under representation etc. etc.  AND very importantly, a democratic misstep is like taking poison and ought to be avoided, no questions asked!

Adopting a majority rule system in each and every constituency is a pure democratic step forward and does not involve any identifiable anti-democratic missteps against any one of the principles.  However all known so-called proportional systems introduce with certainty regressive steps that have been identified in this and several other submissions, but apparently not addressed anywhere by the Assembly process.  These regressive steps must be compensated by the proportional system just to break even, which under the current proposals, will not happen.

IN SHORT, adopting an absolute majority system is a small procedural step but delivers a huge democratic step forward without risk of misstep or involving undue complexity.   And from this more democratic environment a truly democratic representational proportional system could be added as a further step forward without risking missteps!

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