14 May 2009

Is It Still Legitimate to Leave System Fixing to Voters?

While the logic in this article in the Times-Colonist is flawed, the conclusion is not.
The message from voters was clear. They prefer the current electoral system to the single transferable vote method proposed by the citizens' assembly.

About 61 per cent of those who voted cast ballots in favour of maintaining the status quo.

Since only 48 percent of eligible voters (50 percent of registered voters) cast ballots in the referendum, no more than 29 percent of them could be said to have favoured FPTP.

A good chunk of that 29 percent can be attributed to the party faithful of the NDP and Liberals, the people more likely to vote in the interests of their parties rather than in the interests of all British Columbians. (Some may even think these interests coincide).

That number would also include people like CKNW's Bill Good and some of his listeners whose expressions of concern on his radio program centred on dislike for having Greens elected.* In their lights, the ten percent or so of Green supporters don't merit representation.

Fortunately, not everyone thinks that way.
This should not end the examination of our electoral system. Poor voter turnout signals a continuing problem. So does the fact that some 125,000 people who backed the Greens are again without an elected representative....

Given the support for the current system, it is difficult to imagine a form of more proportional representation that would not face objections from some voters.

Perhaps the point we should take away from this is that a referendum (or an election) in which a voting system (or a party to lead the government) is chosen lacks legitimacy when less than half of eligible voters participate in it.

* Visit CKNW's audio vault and check out the episode for May 11, 2009, 11 a.m. The program begins after the news, about seven minutes in. The relevant conversation begins around the 19:00 mark.

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