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Now suppose instead the parties' share of the seats more nearly resembled their share of the popular vote: Whether by "topping up" the number of seats won at the riding level, as in mixedmember proportional systems, or by sharing the representation in each riding, proportionately, among several members.
but must vote for a party they detest, for fear of handing victory to a party they despise. For that, too, is built in to first past the post: Since only the candidate with the most votes is elected, a vote for any candidate but the winner is in effect "wasted."
This is the real case for electoral reform. Far too much of the argument has been focused on the arbitrary and unfair results the present system produces on election day. Depending on how the vote is distributed, a party cannot only win a majority with fewer than half the votes, but sometimes with fewer votes than the second place party. At the other extreme, a party like the Greens can win as much as 10 per cent of the vote, but zero seats.
The leader of the Progressive Conservative party, meanwhile, claims to be above negative campaigning unlike certain other leaders he could name. "I'm not going to ask you to vote against another party," he says, "like Kathleen Wynne does every day." Mind you, Hudak is content to have Wynne and Horwath vilify him, if it motivates his supporters to come out to vote. It doesn't matter to him if 60 per cent or more of Ontarians are appalled by him or his platform, so long Converse Modern
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It is hardly unusual to see parties lecturing voters not to "split the vote," as if it belonged to them, and not the voters. It comes up in every election. In every election, the people Converse Chuck Taylor Black Monochrome
For her part, the leader of the New Democratic Party is telling voters they can vote for whichever party they prefer. Or rather, they can vote against either of the other two parties. They do not have to choose, Horwath says, between "corrupt and crazy," by which she presumably means the Liberals and the Conservatives. Nevertheless, she does not rule out entering into a coalition with either party, the criminals or the insane.
Suppose, that is, the three parties in Ontario who have already indicated they would support such a reform, with regard to municipal elections, were to apply the same logic to themselves. When Canada found itself in the fight against .
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In other words, pretty much business as usual. There's been a lot of moaning and groaning about this election, as if the same did not occur in every election as if it were simply a matter of finding better leaders, or another set of parties as if their behaviour were not entirely familiar, predictable and consistent with the incentives embedded in our electoral system.
But then, that's true of all the leaders. It isn't the province at large to which any of them are speaking. It isn't even their base. It's a still narrower slice of voters, in a few swing ridings. Everyone else might as well be dead as far as the parties are concerned. No surprise, then, that more than half the electorate is expected to take the hint, and give the whole thing a pass.
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But the more important effect of first past the post is not on election day, but every day in between. Long exposure to this system has conditioned the parties to think and behave in the ways I've described. Like children raised in a casino, they have absorbed the gambler's outlook. Why go to all the trouble of building a following over time, when you can bet the farm on the swing vote, and hope the splits go your way? Why share power, when with a little luck you can own it?
as the other 40 per cent are even more appalled by the alternatives.
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Images: Bovington Tank Museum commemorates the First World War centenaryThe Tank Museum in Bovington, Dorset marked the 100th anniversary of Great Britain declaration.
Then every vote would count equally. There would be no gain in focusing the entire campaign on a few ridings: Parties would campaign everywhere there were votes. There would be no worry about splitting the vote: You could vote for the party you actually supported. There would be no exaggerated payoff to a small increase in the popular vote.
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We should not be surprised to see parties demonizing each other. We should expect it. For where a candidate is declared the victor in a riding, not for having won a majority of the vote, but only more votes than the others hence the name "first past the post" there is no incentive to transcend partisan divisions, but only to sharpen them.
From left: Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, left, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, and Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak, right, take part in the live leaders debate June 3. "A vote for Andrea Horwath is a vote for Tim Hudak," she says. She professes to be "afraid of " Hudak, while attacking Horwath for her supposed "Rob Ford style" populism.
Or suppose we did no more than to insist a candidate must win a majority of the vote in a Converse Blue Green riding to be elected. Suppose we allowed voters to rank candidates in order of preference, rather than limiting them to a single crude X, with second and third choices redistributed until a winner was declared. Then parties would have an incentive to broaden their appeal, and to treat each other more civilly.
That explains, too, why parties do not campaign across the province, but only in "key" ridings. It's all a matter of incentives. Because only the votes of a few count, and those votes count for many times their number in the result. When a swing of two per cent or three per cent in the popular vote overall can mean the difference between having none of the power or all of it, what you have is less an election than a game of craps: Winner take all.
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