Easy as ABC? Is The Alternative Borda Count the Answer to Canada’s Desire for Electoral Reform?

In the current discussion of electoral reform in Canada, is the Alternative Borda Count the best alternative?

If you have been following politics recently you may know that there is a debate waging over what type of electoral system Canada should use for the next election. This article covers two different electoral systems that could be implemented in Canada.

Option 1: Alternative Vote (AV)

The first is called Alternative Vote. Under this system, voters continue to vote for their local candidates. However, instead of selecting a single candidate with an X, voters order each of the candidates 1-2-3 etc., from their most preferred selection to their least. When first place selections are counted, a candidate with more than 50% of the popular vote wins.

If however no candidate receives more than 50%, than the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated. The ballots that selected the last place candidate are redistributed using the second selections. This process continues until one candidate receives more than 50% support.

Flaws in the AV System?

Although this system maintains regional representation as it exists under our current system, and allows voters to cast a more accurate ballot, this system has problems. It is a system recognized by many academics as one that favours the Liberal party, as voters on each side of the ideological spectrum have a tendency to select Liberals as their second choice. This will often lead to more consistent victories for Liberals in tight ridings.

Furthermore the method for counting is complex. It would either require days to count by hand or require electronic counting systems. Either method ensures a high probability for error and would be expensive.

Finally, this system would be detrimental for independent candidates and smaller parties. Currently, it is difficult for these candidates and parties to win seats. However, introducing this system would make their advancement even more difficult. This seems unfair when considering that there can be strong independent candidates and viable small parties.

Option 2: Alternative Borda Count (ABC)

So what is the alternative? I believe it’s as easy as ABC (Alternative Borda Count). In this system, voters are able to make up to 3 selections:  a first, second, and third choice. If voters wish, they can choose to select only a first and second choice, or only a first choice.

Each first choice selection is worth 4 points, each second choice selection worth 2 points, and each third choice selection worth 1 point. After the ballots are counted, the local candidate that receives the most points wins.

Although this system does not guarantee perfect representation of votes to seats in the legislature, it does represent an obvious improvement from Alternative Vote.

The first advantage is that this system is simple when compared to Alternative Vote. The calculation method and ballot can easily be explained to voters. Additionally, counting can be done relatively efficiently by hand and results could be posted on election night without the use of electronic counting.

Furthermore, this system maintains our country’s current regional representation.  All ridings would remain as they are. However, in order to win ridings, candidates would require support from approximately 70 to 80% of the riding’s population. This is much higher than Alternative Vote which would often produce winners with just over 50% of support.

As for independent candidates and smaller parties, this system encourages their advancement. If a candidate or party receives few first place selections, but many 2nd and 3rd place selections they still have some opportunity to win. This will not mean the advancement of many, but it might mean that some independents and small party candidates will win a small number of seats.

Finally, this is a system that has the capability to be popular amongst Canadians. A preliminary study has shown very high support for the system amongst the voting public. Not only does it attract those who support reform, it also attracts many who don’t, because it is simple and offers them the ability to vote as they do under the current system (by choosing to make only a first selection).

ABC is a system that meets many different needs and has the potential to bring about positive change to Canada’s political system when compared to Alternative Vote. To learn more about the ABC system or sign the petition you can go to: abcvote.ca.

Article by Jay Fallis

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