Electoral Reform should focus on Principles not Systems

I’ve been asked to be an expert witness at  the ERRE (The House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform) on July 28 where I will be elaborating on my thoughts in this column on the importance of focussing on principles in the debate on electoral reform.  I will also be discussing what citizens’ assemblies might teach us about how to reason and deliberate about the complexities of this subject.


Here are my speaking notes for the ERRE committee.  I may or may not follow them so they are only a close approximation to what I might say.  Since I discuss principles, it’s worth noting how  this government and others have framed the debate around electoral principles.  My summary of what principles have been used and by which study is here.



2 Responses to “Electoral Reform should focus on Principles not Systems”

  1. I want true Representative Democracy. I do not like FPTP or AV as they do not provide Representative Democracy locally regionally or Nationally.
    We need a proportional type of system to achieve true Representative Democracy in the House of Commons. A study publish by the London School of economics indicates Low Magnitude PR systems, the Sweet Spot, produce the best results economically, Socially and provide good proportional representation. The question is which one.
    MMP uses FPTP for 50% to 70% of the seats. This means locally for voters nothing has changed. Agreed it does in Regions, Provinces and Nationally. I reject MMP because most MPs are still elected in an undemocratic manner. Why have MPs elected with two sets of rules. It is good for incumbent MPs but still leaves the voters out.
    We need a voting system that favours voters. Both STV and Open List Proportional use Multi Member Districts and achieve proportionality. STV gives the voter choice of ranking ballots. Open List Proportional only allows the voter one choice and no ranking. STV leaves the most power in the hands of the voter so is my preferred system.
    STV Represents most voters locally and is proportional locally and nationally. In a 5 member District 85% of voters likely get their first choice of Party in an MP. STV represents voters better than any other system and empowers voters, gets rid of safe seats and adds to diversity.

  2. By way of introduction I am a retired Engineer. One of the reasons I voted Liberal in the last election was their promise to replace the First Past the Post system used in federal elections. I’m by no means an expert in electoral systems but at least think I understand the mechanics and headline pros & cons of at least the systems being considered at this time.

    A question I have that perhaps you can answer is why do all systems in consideration make at least one assumption, one MP one vote. This is true for the present federal Electoral Reform Committee, was true for the Ontario Citizens Assembly (as I remember) and also the BC Citizens Assembly I believe. I do recollect a few years ago when the UK was considering electoral reform such a system was at least mentioned on at least one occasion. I don’t recollect what the system was called and I don’t see it listed on the Electoral Reform Society web site! http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/voting-systems .

    It is true that there are quite a number of systems to get ones head around and your point is well made “Electoral Reform should focus on Principles not Systems”. Never the less I wonder why no form of proxy system, that is to say a system where all MP’s votes do not have equal weight in parliament but reflect proportionally the popular vote, is at least on the various lists of alterative systems to consider?

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