Municipal PR Discussion

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This topic contains 40 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Mark Henschel 6 days, 13 hours ago.

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  • #27850

    Steven Hurdle
    Participant

    Traditionally, many voters voted in “at large” multi-member districts in many jurisdictions in Canada, and some still do. As recently as the 1985 provincial election in BC, a *majority* of MLAs were elected in multi-member districts (about 55% of MLAs, if memory serves). There were federal multi-member districts in Canada as recently as… the 1970s in Atlantic Canada, I think? I’ll have to double check that one, but it was definitely the latter half of the 20th century. 🙂

    So maybe there’s some possibility of moving to Cumulative Voting at the municipal level, and then subsequently moving *back* to “at large” voting in those provincial and federal jurisdictions who used to have it (but this time in its modern Cumulative Voting form). Most “at large” voting in Canadian history has been (and continues to be) done under MNTV – Multiple Non-Transferable Vote (aka plurality-at large, AKA “block voting”).

    MNTV is terrible, as 51% of voters in a two-faction contest, or even less than 51% of voters in a contest with 3 or more factions, can win every seat. But Cumulative Voting is far more proportional, and gives interesting options to the voter such as the ability to weight their support for a candidate. Cumulative Voting isn’t perfect, but it’s important to remember our favoured systems like STV and MMP are also imperfect in the regionalized forms they’re likely to be implemented with in Canada.

    Cumulative Voting has the advantage that a CV ballot can also be used as a MNTV ballot by a voter that prefers to do so, since CV is an evolution of MNTV. So you’d be bringing “at large” voting back at the provincial or federal level exactly as it was before, except now with optional enhancements that give voters more choice, let voters weight their support for different candidates, and make the results more proportional.

    The problem with proposing a reform like STV is that the last time it was used in a Canadian general election, as far as I’m aware, was on the prairies in the 1930s. If you propose MMP it’s something that’s never been used in a Canadian election, nor is it used in that many countries internationally (usually 5-8 countries at any given point in time, I believe). These are irrelevant to the benefits of STV and MMP, and yet these arguments have successfully been used against us by opponents of reform, so we have to consider them in what systems we recommend. There are no voters alive who have voted in a Canadian general election under STV or MMP, which unfortunately makes them unfamiliar and intimidating to many voters. Whereas “at large” voting has been and continues to be used by millions of Canadians in municipal elections in Canada, so it’s a more familiar and less threatening basis for reform.

    Frankly, after three BC referendums, I’m tired of swinging for the fences and striking out, so I’m very interested in the potential for incremental reform. I agree with those who shun AV as an incremental change, as it’s a probable dead-end to reform. But improving “at large” voting at the municipal level to be more proportional, and then proposing we return to it at other levels of government, speaks to our electoral history and could bear more fruit.

    And there are distinct advantages to “at large” voting, including reducing re-districting pressure. For big cities like Vancouver, Victoria, Richmond, Surrey, etc., the number of people to be elected can be gradually increased over time rather than those cities being carved up into ever-smaller and more confusing/frustrating ridings with every new boundaries commission. Voters would probably prefer that over learning new ridings every couple of elections. And unlike STV where voters in Surrey were concerned that all the winning candidates might come from the most highly populated parts of the city (and I’m told that argument was used pretty successfully there, especially in the 2008 referendum), Cumulative Voting addresses it by letting voters add weight to the support they give some candidates over others. STV doesn’t do this as well as CV does, IMO. With CV you can focus all your votes on candidates who have a pan-city view, or you can focus on candidates who are focused on just your neighbourhood, or anywhere in between. With STV and your one single vote, you don’t have the option to weight your support for candidates.

    I’ve been a big STV fan since learning about it in 2004 or so after the BC Citizens’ Assembly. I still like it a lot, but I increasingly see Cumulative Voting as superior to STV and MMP mechanically in some ways, but distinctly superior to STV and MMP in our ability to rapidly achieve it at the municipal level, and in our ability to explain it and sell it to both voters and incumbent politicians. So CV is my current focus for reform.

    #27851

    Mark Henschel
    Participant

    I’m not sure I understand how ranking candidates in STV isn’t weighting your support. It’s the whole point of ranking them, no? What you don’t get with STV is the facility to weight bunches of candidates the same. I admit there is some utility in that.

    While I don’t disagree with the appreciation of STV as “swinging for the fences” I also see it as pretty much the only sufficient system. The rest — particularly the party-based party-functioned ones like MMP — quite simply take us in completely the wrong direction in certain key aspects. Giving more institutional privilege to parties is going to be hellish hard to take back. Not hat parties matter in most municipal elections. Most don’t have ’em.

    Municipal elections are in some ways tough nuts to crack but worthwhile. They are close to home. The problem is that our urban centres are creatures of the province. Here in Ontario the ranked ballot chappies (note their nomenclature is after the “ballot” and not “the system” — that was intentional) started in Toronto but the fact of the matter is that they had to approach the Province first to win the option to have a different ballot than the nominal one used for SMP elections. I helped win that battle.

    Now municipalities in Ontario can consider and effect change to a ranked ballot-using system… like STV. This is in municipalities where multi-member wards or “at large” elections exist or have been used. In at-large situations deploying ranked ballots would deliver the maximum inclusivity (otherwise proportionality”) possible. Right?

    As your reply notification came in I was writing to members of Toronto Council recommending that they move — not to IRV — but to STV as they contemplate governance changes in the wake of Ford’s halving of council. I couldn’t make that case as easily if ranked ballots weren’t already permissible. And I do find myself in opposition to my friends in RaBIT. What I don’t see is any evident support from Fair Vote — they are MIA in this effort.

    And while I am in agreement with you on “incrementalism” and “first steps”, I feel that if I’ve made the arguments clearly for STV now, a move to IRV (or, better, something like Condorcet) would take us materially closer to adopting a more productive inclusive system like STV in the future.

    Good luck with Cumulative Voting. But I don’t see a good argument for it… or a future.

    Cheers.

    #27852

    Steven Hurdle
    Participant

    STV allows you to say that you like this candidate first, this candidate second, this candidate third, etc. And I love that about STV.

    What CV allows a voter to say is: I like this one candidate 40%, these two candidates 20% each, and these two candidates 10% each. That’s a more explicit weighting than what STV allows.

    STV’s greatest strength is in transferring excess support (support above and beyond what a favoured candidate needs to be elected) to a second choice. STV’s greatest weakness is the fear-mongering the math generated by those transfers lets our opponents create.

    In BC, to the best of my knowledge no municipalities use the ward system at all (whether single member or multi-member wards) so CV is a drop-in system to any municipality that adds greater proportionality, and the ability for voters to weight candidates, while not forcing something new on the voter who prefers to keep voting the old way. You don’t see any future for that kind of a simple yet effective reform? I’m honestly surprised.

    I can see CV being less appealing in a place where you’d first have to switch to “at large” voting, and then subsequently to a proportional “at large” system. But in a place like BC where you already have province-wide at large voting municipally, it seems like CV is a far reaching and easily achievable reform. Moving casting multiple votes with simple counting to casting a single vote with more complex counting would be a valuable reform that I would approve of, but politically it’s a much, much, much harder sell.

    And BC’s legislation appears to already allow moving to CV. That’s my reading on it at any rate, pending it getting put to the test in court.

    So perhaps an effort that makes sense in BC wouldn’t make sense in other areas. But that doesn’t change that I believe it’s the most easily achievable and most significant reform we’re likely to achieve; I think it is, at least in BC.

    #27853

    Steven Hurdle
    Participant

    As for AV, time will tell. If you can get municipalities that currently have single-member wards to first adopt AV, and then amalgamate wards in a move to implementing STV then I’ll be pleasantly surprised and will tip my cap to you! My fear is that you’ll get AV, and that reform may stall at that point. I’d love to be proven wrong, though! 🙂

    Have many/any Ontario municipalities moved to either AV or STV municipally, aside from London Ontario? I don’t follow it nearly as closely as you, so I’d love to learn more.

    #27857

    Mark Henschel
    Participant

    I see STV’s surplus transfers as essential.

    For me, the ideal to which we should be aspiring (getting as close as we can) is for every voter to get a rep of their choosing and for every rep to represent an equal number of voters. Inclusivity and equality. Equal legislative power. STV’s design inherently delivers (more) equal mandates along with increasing inclusivity (and stronger mandates) with increasing district magnitudes.

    I see this as a Charter issue… as did Beverly McLaughlin in Saskatchewan 1991. I think we need to take this out of the political realm to get what we need. Playing politics with this is never going to be productive provincially or federally.

    I’m not as familiar with the landscape in BC as I am with that in Ontario. You might be right about BC. As I said, good luck.

    The likelihood of my succeeding in Toronto would be much greater if FV hadn’t abandoned the field. At the moment I am a lone advocate for a design that is more inclusive than IRV (unless one works to install parties in municipal politics). But I feel that if I can get on the record demonstrating the advantages of moving to multi-member districts then I can continue advocacy productively. I mean, otherwise, what other game is there? If you don’t play, you can’t win.

    In 2018 two other municipalities had referenda on ranked ballots and they look likely to adopt them. And in Toronto, a majority of the 25 new councillors promised to pursue them.

    We’ll see.

    #27860

    Steven Hurdle
    Participant

    I see STV’s surplus transfers as a double-edged sword. A desirable effect democratically, but a downside in explaining and selling the system. Is the “best” proportional system the one that’s most cleverly constructed, or is the “best” proportional system the one you’re likeliest to get implemented?

    In Ontario, the legislation already allows for STV so it makes sense to push for that in your case.

    As for Cumulative Voting, it’s used in nearly 60 cities, and many school districts, in U.S. municipalities. It’s also used for many boards of directors in North America, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes because activist shareholders successfully pushed for it, and sometimes because the corporation is based in a jurisdiction that legally requires it. Both Cumulative Voting and STV do a good job of supporting independent candidates. I’d love to see more use of STV as I’m a big fan of it, but there’s a lot more CV in use and that’s likely to remain the case.

    So when you said “But I don’t see a good argument for it… or a future,” for Cumulative Voting, I’d argue in undeniably has a future (7 U.S. States legally require it for electing boards of directors, and it’s the best reform being pushed for at the municipal level in the U.S. since the other options are IRV and the Limited Vote). In Canada, outside of Ontario that has specifically legislated that STV is allowed, I’d argue that moving to the Limited Vote for any municipal council election that is done “at large” is going to be an easier sell and a more likely reform to achieve. Outside of Ontario it’s more likely that existing legislation already allows CV than STV, and the fact that a voter can continue to vote the old way under CV is a huge selling point as you’re not forcing a change on voters.

    Again, I’m not looking at this from ideological purity, I’m looking at this from the practicality of actually selling a system to voters. And that’s where (outside of Ontario) I think CV has a huge edge over STV. For all of STV’s strengths, it forces existing voters to vote a new way, forces them to understand a new system, forces them to accept more complicated math. I’m all for more complicated math that gets a better end result. The question is, can we *sell* a system with more complicated math? So far, outside Ontario, the answer is sadly no. 🙁 But CV isn’t more complicated math, doesn’t force someone to vote a new way who doesn’t want to, and allows a voter a more nuanced expression of weighting candidates. Yes you’re losing a huge advantage of excess support being transferred, but some research suggests that rarely changes results, and if it makes the system harder to sell then it’s simply not enough of an advantage IMO. I’ll take a significant reform now than an even more significant reform maybe later (but more likely never).

    I wish I could be more positive about STV at the municipal level, outside Ontario, as I’m a huge fan of STV. But right now I’m feeling like a realist rather than an idealist.

    #27861

    Steven Hurdle
    Participant

    Aaargh… I said this:

    “In Canada, outside of Ontario that has specifically legislated that STV is allowed, I’d argue that moving to the Limited Vote for any municipal council election that is done “at large” is going to be an easier sell and a more likely reform to achieve.”

    But I should have said this:

    “In Canada, outside of Ontario (which has specifically legislated that STV is allowed) I’d argue that moving to Cumulative Voting for municipal council elections that are done “at large” is going to be an easier sell and a more likely reform to achieve. “

    #27864

    Mark Henschel
    Participant

    [sigh]

    When you say that voters can mark their CV ballots in the “same old way” you’re being a little economical with the truth. To get any useful benefit out of the system they have to do more than do what they’ve always done — make a single mark against a candidate. Right?

    Relaxed rules under IRV and STV could allow voters to mark ballots like they’ve always done under SMP. They just wouldn’t get any of the benefits of the system that way.

    Depending on the rules of implementation either system could be used in an ineffective way. But to get the full benefit of both these systems voters would have to mark their ballots in a different, more complex way.

    To my way of thinking most people understand ordered lists and putting one in order. They may remember Letterman’s “Top 10” lists. They may have experience choosing sides for pickup hockey at recess.

    As I understand it there are various strategies of understanding and implementing cumulative vote ballots. Right? That would have to be explained and understood.

    Observations have shown that there can be a decrease in the rate of spoiled ballots with a change to preferential ballots. In truth, it cannot be that difficult a concept for voters to grasp and become comfortable with… and adept at using.

    With respect to selling STV… or really any productive electoral reform… the last decade or so have scorched the earth. Reformers have dug themselves and the change they want to effect into a deep hole and on the evidence, continuing the same old tactics, promise only to dig the hole deeper.

    On a “green field” unsullied audience I can sell STV — including the transfers — pretty easily. The basic concept is dead simple. The arguments and notions for fractional transfers, obvious. And while the calculations can become arcanely algorithmic (Meek’s etc) the BC-CA picked a really capable method — Weighted Gregory — that is used in municipalities in Scotland and can be done reliably and accurately by hand.

    so…

    I think that the equality of representation together with the inclusivity intrinsically afforded by STV is critical. Vital. I believe that its a Charter matter and I think that a Charter argument distills to an argument for the inclusivity and equality that STV embodies.

    In the municipal arena the narratives are local and here in Ontario — particularly in Toronto — that story was opened with an opportunity for using preferential ballots. I’m not about to change that channel.

    One last point. About salability.

    I was a close observer of the Ontario Citizens Assembly. The members made salability a determinative factor in choosing features. They did some slight of hand with the ratio of local seats to list seats and settled on closed lists. But these choices didn’t help sell their design. Indeed, if any lesson was learned from the results of the referendum it was that voters firmly rejected the combined notions of closed party lists and dual candidacy which they identified as “appointed” MPPs. Oops.

    History is littered with failed products that people thought would sell.

    You think you can sell CV. Go ahead. Have at it. And good luck to you. Seriously. Good luck with that.

    #27865

    George
    Keymaster

    Lots of good discussion here on CV vs STV. I appreciate some of the points being made here namely:

    1) We aren’t likely to have a fully proportional system because of the sub-regions necessary so instead it may be better to advocate for a system that compromises and supplies a mostly-proportional result.
    2) The benefits of CV stem from an introduction standpoint in that it is a more familiar system to what is used in many municipalities.
    3) The disadvantage of CV it is less proportional than STV (and votes can still be wasted if you select candidates who are not elected, and thus strategic voting is still somewhat of a thing)
    4) The benefits of STV stem from it’s independence from political parties providing high proportionality at a local level.
    5) The disadvantage of STV stems from the desire for the right to have referendums to defeat PR (and the public getting bees in their bonnet about how it’s counted), and left wanting systems like MMP to bolster party power (and thus not advocated for very well).

    From a Municipal perspective, my own preference is STV, mostly because I think that we can achieve that familiarity and comfort with STV if it is implemented at the local level (that same kind of comfort that is being talked about CV). I have not researched CV thoroughly but a concern I have is that it will elevate those who have concentrated support by a few and diminish those that have widespread support by many. This is in addition to my concern over wasted votes and strategic voting with CV.

    #27866

    Robert Jarman
    Participant

    In provincial law in Alberta, which quite precisely describes the form of the ballot, I think that there is one legal variation on cumulative voting. Say a ward has 4 members to be elected. If you put an X next to one candidate, they would get 4 votes. If you put an X next to 2 candidates, they each get two votes. If you put an X next to three candidates, they each get 1 1/3 votes. And if you put an X next to four candidates, they each get one vote. The four candidates with the most votes wins. You can’t do things like give one candidate three votes and a second candidate a single vote, but this should work acceptably without requiring the province, which I can’t imagine is going to be swayed to let municipalities do anything else, to do anything.

    This has somewhat limited proportionality with smaller district magnitudes but given that most municipalities in Alberta have their councils elected at large, most councillors will be affected by this. Edmonton and Calgary are the only exceptions I know of, but the councils are large enough that Edmonton can have two four member wards and one five member ward in the city centre, and Calgary can have three wards with five members each which should permit at least some reasonably proportional elections with cumulative voting.

    I can’t think of any way to allow mayors to be elected with preferential voting under this setup by provincial law. I don’t think that runoffs are legal, so I think the best option is to subtract the directly elected mayor, add one member to the council, and have the council elect their chairperson to be mayor, which given the limited legal powers of mayors, should work well. Provincial law makes this the default for rural municipalities and an option for all other municipalities at their discretion by bylaw.

    Byelections can’t occur with a proportional system and without preferential balloting or a two round system, or any option legal under provincial law, there is no way to assure a majority vote behind the candidate. But they should be not too significant hopefully.

    #27887

    Steven Hurdle
    Participant

    @Mark,

    “When you say that voters can mark their CV ballots in the “same old way” you’re being a little economical with the truth. To get any useful benefit out of the system they have to do more than do what they’ve always done — make a single mark against a candidate. Right?”

    I’m not being economical with the truth at all. I’m making that statement in the same way that statement can be made about Local PR, a variant of STV that lets people treat an STV ballot as if it were an FPTP ballot if that’s their choice. This would likely not be a permanent condition, but a temporary one as voters adapt to the new system. It would be for those few who stubbornly hold on to the old way even in the face of something new and better. It’s about re-assuring voters that have the option to try something new. Voters may be more open to consider something new if they know they have the option not to use it if they find it confusing. When they try it and don’t find it confusing at all, then you have a win-win situation.

    Obviously with both CV and Local PR, the hope is the majority of voters will treat the ballot in the new way. In both cases it’s a notable part of the system only in helping sell the system and in letting voters adapt.

    To my way of thinking most people understand ordered lists and putting one in order. They may remember Letterman’s “Top 10” lists. They may have experience choosing sides for pickup hockey at recess.

    It’s not that people cannot understand STV, they can. I’ve supported three province-wide referendums, two just on STV and a third that included STV as an option. I’m no stranger to explaining STV! Some get it, some don’t. You don’t always have a lot of time to explain it, sometimes you’re handing out flyers and have 30 second to talk to someone! Yes you can say “You get one vote, but multiple people are elected which makes it proportional, and all you have to do as a voter is list the candidates in the order that you like them.” Some people will leave it at that, and others will want to understand more about it. Even though they don’t put FPTP under the same level of systems scrutiny.

    As I understand it there are various strategies of understanding and implementing cumulative vote ballots. Right? That would have to be explained and understood.

    Are there? Not that I’m aware of. You get as many votes as there are people to be elected, and you can assign multiple votes to a single candidate if you wish which makes it proportional. I’m not sure of any “design options” in implementing CV at all. I’m sure we could come up with some if we tried hard, but I believe CV is commonly implemented just as I’ve described above. The Wikipedia entry for CV doesn’t list any variations or design options. Certainly there are far, far, far fewer ways CV might be implemented and counted than STV.

    Observations have shown that there can be a decrease in the rate of spoiled ballots with a change to preferential ballots. In truth, it cannot be that difficult a concept for voters to grasp and become comfortable with… and adept at using.

    Voting by STV is easy. Well, relatively easy as you do have a longer list of candidates to consider, so a voter that wants to be educated on the personality and policies of each candidate may have their work cut out for them, especially with a high district magnitude. But yes, taking a look at a list of candidates and putting them in the order that you like them is easy. What’s harder when selling the system is explaining the math behind it, which some voters invariably are going to want to understand. Our opponents in the BC 2009 STV referendum really pushed on this point, and especially the fact that the math behind the vote transfers can be complicated, and especially the fact that your one vote gets broken up into fractions. I see the math behind STV as a positive for it, but it proved to be a negative in explaining and selling the system to many voters.

    With respect to selling STV… or really any productive electoral reform… the last decade or so have scorched the earth. Reformers have dug themselves and the change they want to effect into a deep hole and on the evidence, continuing the same old tactics, promise only to dig the hole deeper.

    This is my point. I think CV may be the best system to sell to undecided voters in this scorched earth scenario we now find ourselves in. That’s what I’ve been getting at this whole time.

    On a “green field” unsullied audience I can sell STV — including the transfers — pretty easily. The basic concept is dead simple. The arguments and notions for fractional transfers, obvious. And while the calculations can become arcanely algorithmic (Meek’s etc) the BC-CA picked a really capable method — Weighted Gregory — that is used in municipalities in Scotland and can be done reliably and accurately by hand.

    I’m concerned when you say things like “obvious” and “dead simple”. What’s obvious and dead simple to one person, may not be to another. We have to meet people where they’re at, and they’re all in different places. And after a bunch of citizens’ assemblies and referendums across Canada, there aren’t as many green field audiences as there used to be. Again, that’s my point: CV may be nearly as desirable, yet far more sellable, in the current reality we find ourselves in, not the one we were in 15 years ago.

    I think that the equality of representation together with the inclusivity intrinsically afforded by STV is critical. Vital. I believe that its a Charter matter and I think that a Charter argument distills to an argument for the inclusivity and equality that STV embodies.

    I agree with you. I put money towards Tony Hodgson’s charter challenge on voting reform, that’s how strongly I agree with you. I would argue STV isn’t the only system that can meet the conditions of the charter, though.

    In the municipal arena the narratives are local and here in Ontario — particularly in Toronto — that story was opened with an opportunity for using preferential ballots. I’m not about to change that channel.

    I not only didn’t disagree with this, I specifically took time to agree with you about this. If any of us live in a jurisdiction where there’s explicit support for a specific form of PR on the books, let’s advocate for that system. Far easier to move a system forward that’s already on the books, than it is to fight to get a system on the books before advocating for it. The current rules in BC appear to be sufficient to support CV, but perhaps not STV. The very reason I recommend you support STV in Ontario is an argument for supporting CV in BC, I believe. Though admittedly in BC’s case, it’s an interpretation rather than something explicit in legislation.

    I was a close observer of the Ontario Citizens Assembly. The members made salability a determinative factor in choosing features. They did some slight of hand with the ratio of local seats to list seats and settled on closed lists. But these choices didn’t help sell their design. Indeed, if any lesson was learned from the results of the referendum it was that voters firmly rejected the combined notions of closed party lists and dual candidacy which they identified as “appointed” MPPs. Oops.

    That’s one example, and it sounds like they made some mistakes, from what you say. But you also noted that the BC Citizens’ Assembly went with a good/easy to explain form of STV, and we ended up down this rabbit hole of having to explain it to curious voters in 30 second bits when staffing a table at an event, and we couldn’t do it in most cases despite trying really hard three times in 13 years. We can point to mistakes in selling all kinds of systems.

    Can we at least agree that explaining the math for CV is undeniably easier, especially if you’re doing so in 30 seconds, than STV? No overhang, no fractional votes. I’ve had to do both, and people get CV faster than STV. Every time.

    You think you can sell CV. Go ahead. Have at it. And good luck to you. Seriously. Good luck with that.

    I intend to. My concern is that this thread isn’t entitled “Toronto Municipal PR Advocacy”, it’s entitled “Municipal PR Discussion”, and I think you’re talking down important advantages that CV has outside Ontario. I think you’ve sloughed off some important points, and made some statements that I believe to be incorrect, and ended messages with statements like the one above suggesting a lack of interest or perhaps even willingness to discuss CV. Which is your right of course. But I would have genuinely liked to have had a discussion with you and got some useful thoughts from you that might help me (and other reformers) who might be in a jurisdiction where CV is an easier sell legally (actually being able to move to the system), may be an easier sell to incumbent politicians (who have to choose to implement the system), and an easier sell to voters (who have to embrace the use of the system).

    #27888

    Steven Hurdle
    Participant

    @george, I’m not sure STV with a low district magnitude is more proportional than CV.  And CV and STV both work well with or without political parties, which is probably why they’re both getting mentioned extensively in the same breath.

    Is strategic voting worse with CV than with STV?  I’m not sure it is.  With STV you have the strategic voting consideration of a candidate not getting enough first preference votes to stay on the ballot.  If you as a candidate think that you might get knocked out in the first count, you might feel pressure to do things that build bigger first preference support, even if that might compromise your ability to get secondary preference support.  As a voter, you have the same considerations in the order you vote for candidates.  Again, I’m not sure CV is any much worse than that.  Perhaps some analysis of CV vs. STV in municipal elections would give us a better sense of that. My guess is that, in real world terms, they’re going to perform extremely similarly. My suspicion is that as you tweak the district magnitudes that you might find some situations where one slightly outperformed the other, and that it would cut both ways. But I’m open to be proven wrong if there’s research that shows one consistently performing better than the other.

    I think STV and CV lend themselves less to strategic voting, though, and more to strategic nomination.  In both cases, if a faction nominates too many candidates then they get vote dilution.  In STV, oo many candidates for a faction means candidates who might have survived the first round might instead get knocked out (meaning earning secondary preference support is now of no value).  Similarly, too many candidates for a faction under CV and supporters may distribute votes too thinly amongst them all and candidates who might have otherwise won might lose.  I’m a long-time fan of STV who has recently discovered that CV has many of the same advantages and disadvantages of STV due to a lot of similar characteristics (different implementation, but similar characteristics). I think there is a tendency in this discussion to take on faith that STV is better when I’m not sure that’s true.  Especially when you guys are talking about STV in small multi-member wards, and STV does not perform well at all in low district magnitudes.  I think with a very high district magnitude STV might perform slightly better, and with a low district magnitude CV would perform slightly better, but that the level of proportionality and voter choice is pretty similar across the board.  STV’s overhang transfers are appealing, but CV’s more granular ability to weight support for candidates is equally appealing to me yet is much easier to explain to voters who want to understand what goes on underneath the hood (which many do, even if they don’t put FPTP under the same level of “systems scrutiny”). So at present I’d be equally happy with either CV or STV, and would encourage reformers to advocate for whichever system they think is likelier to actually get implemented in their area.

    Hi @Robert Jarman, by-elections could happen under a proportional system if you mandate that a by-election doesn’t occur until there are two or more open seats, I suppose. In an at large system especially, this isn’t an unreasonable proposition, because there’s no one neighbourhood that’s unrepresented with a single open at large seat.

    Interesting to hear about the legal option for Cumulative Voting in Alberta.  Do any municipalities use it, that you know of?

    #27889

    Mark Henschel
    Participant

    OK. I’m sorry. I clearly owe you an apology. I’ve evidently done to you what’s been done to me as an outlier over the last decade. There’s no excuse for the abused to become the abuser.

    That said…

    We each can only speak to our experience and knowledge and our municipalities are our most personal and local. I talk about Toronto and Ontario and Toronto because that’s what I’m familiar with and where I’ve been working hardest at reform. It was wrong of me to be dismissive about experiences elsewhere — where I certainly know too too little. And maybe ignorance is why I’m not sure that I can help yo. I’ve described some of what I’ve done but I don’t know much about your practical experience.

    The title of this thread isn’t BC Municipal either, eh 😉

    We may agree that the earth is scorched but I think we have very different perspectives on the nature of the incendiaries. I think the problem with PR advocacy is PR. For me it’s the wrong paradigm and that is why it fails so reliably. That and the focusing on the Law Commission poster child as a veritable synonym for PR effectively dismissing a whole range of aspects of electoral processes that are patently important to people. (Just like I did to you)

    Since 2009 — when I attended a FVC AGM — I’ve been convinced that the only reasonable way forward on electoral reform is via the Charter. I met with the proponents of the Quebec challengers and even though they insisted on making the wrong arguments (and failed) the advantages of going the Charter route in the Courts were evident. I’m not sure that Tony is making better arguments. They seem similar to this of Brian and Patrick a decade ago.

    But the BC-CA experience and the experience of the political sideshows that were the subsequent referenda make it clear that large-scale involvement of the public coupled to a referendum question are always gonna be another was of saying “no”. The most important lesson from the BC-CA was that you cannot be a truly informed “referendum voter” without doing an awful lot of learing and thinking and discussing. That cannot happen in a campaign-like forum or in the general public or in the media.

    More disclosure here — before I was a close monitor of the Ontario Assembly my brother was a member of the BC edition. I didn’t pay much attention to what he had to say about electoral reform before the OCA got started but I consulted him as I watched and learned. For most every issue I had with what I saw in Ontario he had a good story to tell about how the BCCA was different and got it right.

    But since 2009 we’ve both felt that the Charter is the way to go.

    But we’re talking municipally.

    Actually, my approach on electoral reform is the same regardless of the level.

    I don’t talk about proportionality because it’s inherently about party and therefore party-centricity and party-functioned system and about Gallagher. At its core our electoral dysfunction isn’t about any of those things. It’s about representation — having a voice in the discussions that matter and about your vote getting you a meaningful seat in the room. It’s about getting a rep of your choice, not somebody elses. It’s about systemic exclusion. It’s about the profound lack of productivity of our electoral institutions. The root symptom of the problem is that typically less than half of voters get a rep of their choosing. That, and not any “popular vote” comparison is at the core of what ails us and the definition of “the problem”. (Note that if you solve this PR comes along for the ride incidentally).

    Second, when we’re dealing with DM=1 (single-member ridings or wards) there is always a broad mandate distortion that gives the lie to the notion that if we just make every riding (more) the same size then representation will be fairly distributed.

    Third, I talk about articulate ballots, ballots that better facilitate a finer expression of a voter’s intent and electoral formulae that translate that more articulate expression into representation. I have a Vote Compass-based argument for that. It should be evident that for a more faithful finely-grained expression of voter intent — including “local” representation — the electoral system must work at the candidate level and afford the voter with truly meaningful choice between candidates.

    I think I’ll stop there. I imagine we could have a productive discussion. Maybe this is a start?

    One thing. STV doesn’t have “overhangs” — that’s a “feature” — potentially — of MMP where the realities of voter behaviour have taxed the assumptions of the design implementation.

    I believe you’re talking about surpluses.

    #27890

    Steven Hurdle
    Participant

    Hi Mark, thanks for the excellent and thoughtful reply. And yes, I meant to say “surplus” when I said “overhang”, d’oh!

    Yes, we all know best what we know. That’s where coming together and learning from each other is so excellent. I was an advocate for STV at the municipal level here in BC and actively working at building a movement in that direction, but when we proposed it to Victoria the city staff shot it down as being (in their interpretation) not allowed under current provincial rules. While the rules in BC don’t say a lot about how things are counted (which potentially gives us some wiggle room in adopting a better “at large” system than MNTV), they do talk about votes in a whole vote sense so fractional votes are problematic under the current rules.

    But the wording definitely opens things up to the Limited Vote, and SNTV. But those options are…. shall we say, less exciting. 🙂

    So of the options that are on the more exciting side of the equation, are voting “at large”, and deal entirely with whole votes, that leaves us with Cumulative Voting (unless someone out there can think of something exotic but relevant to this discussion).

    Does anyone have a comprehensive list of “at large” systems?

    #27895

    George
    Keymaster

    I’m not sure STV with a low district magnitude is more proportional than CV.

    I don’t think anyone here would advocate for small multimember wards with STV. If STV were implemented, it would likely be without wards. For instance the District of North Vancouver has 6 councilors and it would be a single ward. Most city councils are more than 6. Even rural districts usually have at least 4 councilors. The City of Vancouver has 10 councilors and so it would probably stay as one big ward (no changes to how it is already right now).

    With STV you have the strategic voting consideration of a candidate not getting enough first preference votes to stay on the ballot. If you as a candidate think that you might get knocked out in the first count, you might feel pressure to do things that build bigger first preference support, even if that might compromise your ability to get secondary preference support.

    First preferences are important in STV. My own research has shown that STV tends to elects those with the highest score where the score is determined by the sum of the products of the number of votes in a ranking by the inverse of the rank. For example, someone with 9 first votes and 4 third votes would have a score of 10.33 whereas someone with 2 first votes, 9 second votes and 3 third votes would have a score of 7.5.

    However, I don’t think this plays into people feeling like they must strategically vote because they are not just electing one person. My research showed that 97% of voters in a 5 seat race with STV would have 1 person elected from their top 5 and 70% would have 2 people elected from their top 5.

    You are mention a lot of strategic things from the party side of this and I think it is important to distinguish that campaign strategy and nomination strategy is different than a voter having to strategically cast their ballot.

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