A Beginner’s Guide to Electoral Reform
So many options: the Thunderdome, a staring contest, picking a name out of a hat.
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Electoral reform has been dominating headlines lately. From the recent vote in favour of proportional representation in PEI to the Trudeau government’s campaign promise to consider alternative voting methods, it’s all anyone is talking about.
It’s even come up here in Toronto. Just last week, a blow for democracy was struck when our executive committee decided against convening an independent panel on ranked ballots.
It’s all very exciting, but what exactly is electoral reform? And what does it mean for democracy?
The basic idea is simple: Reform the current voting system so that it better represents the views of Canadians and restores faith in the democratic process. Of course, it is a little more complicated than that. There still no consensus on the best way to achieve electoral reform. So far, most discussions have revolved around ranked ballots and proportional representation, but these are not the only options.
To help keep you informed, we have come up with a comprehensive list of the pros and cons of all the potential electoral systems. Which is the best one? Well, that’s for you—the Canadian voter—to decide.
First Past the Post
Pro: The current system simplifies elections by giving you a clear choice between the barely palatable establishment candidate and the “Are you fucking kidding me?” outsider candidate.
Con: Occasionally leads to the decline of Western liberal democracies.
Pro: By allotting seats in Parliament based on a party’s share of the popular vote, we would give a voice to smaller, underrepresented groups and establish a truly representative democracy.
Con: It would be a huge pain in the ass printing out all those new ballots.
Pro: This makes politics fun again by letting voters rank politicians in a “Hottest to Nottest” fashion.
Con: Fascism is pretty hot right now.
Pro: Nothing says modern, dynamic democracy like an institution designed by 18th-century agrarian, slave-owning elites to prevent the “mob” from exercising real power.
Con: In theory, a person could win the popular vote by two or three million ballots but still lose the election. In theory.
Pro: A Twitter poll is the perfect way to bring our elections online and engage with traditionally overlooked demographics like youth voters, bots, and Kremlin-financed trolls.
Con: There is absolutely no downside to outsourcing our elections to Twitter, which is the most beloved micro-blogging platform in the world and has no issues with harassment or bullying. #advertising #endorsement #sponsored #ad
Please don’t @ me.
Pro: The direct democracy of Golden Age Athens ensured all citizens had a say in the affairs of government.
Con: Most residents of ancient Athens were not technically citizens and actually had very few rights, including foreigners who were completely barred from participating in government. Or, as Kellie Leitch calls it, “An exciting message that needs to be delivered in Canada as well.”
Pro: Forcing politicians to face off in a silent staring contest would be cheap, quick and less painful to watch than traditional debates.
Con: All opposition would melt in the face of Justin Trudeau’s big, dreamy eyes.
Let a Super Computer Pick Our Leaders
Pro: Elect-O-Bot 3000 would do all the hard work by using a complicated algorithm to determine the most qualified candidate and then take all of the blame when we inevitably turn against said candidate.
Con: Probably the first step to us ending up in the Matrix, which actually doesn’t sound that bad at this stage.
Pro: This lets us maintain greedy and incestuous dynasties in power without having to go through the bother of re-electing them every few years.
Con: The Habsburg jaw might make a comeback.
Pro: We’re about two or three election cycles away from resorting to Thunderdome-style fights to choose our leaders anyways, so we might as well embrace it now.
Con: If he ever decides to run for office again, Doug Ford would be right at home in this bloodthirsty cage match to the death.
Picking a Name Out of a Hat
Pro: Considering recent democratic trends, pulling a random citizen’s name out a hat would be—relatively speaking—a return to sanity.
Con: In the age of austerity, no one can afford a big enough hat.