The only fair vote is a run-off vote.

Nobody claims first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting is perfect. What it gives us is a means to get things done. It is fast, efficient and trusted. It is the solution to the tendency in many forms of voting of not being able to form a cohesive government.

As a long-time proponent of FPTP voting, it sometimes surprises people when I point out that, it is not the best system. It works just fine for a two-party system when your choice is between party A or party B. It creates complications and frustrations for situations when there are three or more parties in contention.

Simply put, in the FPTP system, you tend to have fewer political parties. This is because the parties will have made many of their compromises on policies before the election. You get what are called ‘big tent’ parties whose policies can span a broad segment of the political spectrum. These parties sometimes spend an inordinate amount of their time arguing about their public pronouncements.

In systems with a large number of parties, you find that the tendency is for the parties to be more tightly knit—devoted to a major cause or singular objective.

A good example of this is the situation with Canada’s Green Party. While nobody misses the ecological objective of the party, it can leave voters in the dark about its objectives in other areas such as foreign policy.

Having managed major campaigns, and played many different roles in Canadian elections, my only compromise on solving the problems of FPTP is to suggest that if you want a 50 per cent choice (or more) for your politicians, you have run-off elections. This enables the electorate to decide if they want a majority or minority government. It enables the politicians to clarify the issues they consider important. It makes for better decision making.

This is not preferential voting. Where people vote on choice one, two, three etc.—what some people call an instant run-off—is a cop-out. When dealing with a large number of candidates, preferential voting tends to come down to the least contentious candidate—not the most preferred.

In the age of the computer, Internet voting is becoming practical, safe and increasingly inexpensive. That will allow us to have fast, effective run-off voting.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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