This fall, we’ll be voting on whether to move to a more proportional voting system, where election results will closely reflect how BC voters actually vote.
Multiple surveys of Canadian and international political scientists found they believe that pro rep voting would be significantly better than our current voting system by a three to one margin. As Professor Shaun Bowler, University of California Riverside, wrote: ‘‘[it] is hard to think of another subfield of political science that shows this level of consensus.”
These expert opinions aren’t based on woolly-headed fantasies, but on well-founded evidence that refutes the myths and prejudices armchair observers assert as self-evident truths.
The American Political Science Association’s 2013 Task Force on Political Science, Electoral Rules, and Democratic Governance also found political scientists most strongly valued voting systems that maximize accountability and political stability, as well as systems that improve minority representation and accurately reflect voter intention.
Precisely because the evidence shows that Pro Rep systems deliver on these values, professionals significantly prefer pro rep to our current system.
Another myth is that our current system is better at “kicking the rascals out”. As the argument goes, when a government has outlasted its welcome and is no longer sufficiently responsive or suitably humble, the voters can act decisively and punt them from office.
Sounds plausible, but it ain’t so. Because there are so many safe seats in our current system, most of those won’t change hands, even if many of the voters in these ridings are frustrated with the sitting MLA. It’s possible that the government will change due to small shifts in the few swing seats, but the “rascals” in the safe seats are just that—safe.
In our current system, a party can become progressively less popular over time yet see its electoral fortunes go the other way. Over four elections, from 1983 to 1996, the NDP steadily lost support, going from 45% to 43% to 41% and finally to 39% of the vote. What happened? They lost the first two elections, and won majorities in the last two.
In an international study a few years ago, the ability for a voting system to make it easier to “kick the rascals out” was one of the strongest predictors that political scientists would favour Pro Rep systems—the experts know that Pro Rep voting makes for more responsive elections.
So this fall, as you cast your ballot, consider that expert opinion is firmly in support of proportional voting for precisely the same reasons most British Columbians are: because they’re looking for the most accountable, stable, representative and responsive way of voting.