A message to the Fair Vote folks

Well, it is time to write something further about the carwash blues geniuses who are attracted to the concept of voting reform. We do not seem to be getting any more from this guy with his paired such and such super brilliant system. People were asking him to explain it better because it was not clear exactly what he was proposing.

My view of these people is that they should be strongly discouraged. If you really want good people to participate in something, you do not intelligence and waste their time with such nonsense. The "we have to hear everybody's point of view" idea abuses everybody with anything useful to contribute.

If somebody wants to say something about voting reform or voting systems, they have to bother to know something about it first. That means, do some research. Learn what has already been described, done, proposed. But the biggest mistake these kinds of people make, as well as most of the people responding to them, is that their ideas are not connected to any problem.

This is the test of something that is real. Any kind of new idea starts with a problem. Otherwise, it is just moon shining. What is the problem this guy is trying to solve when he comes up with his voting system? Flakes will be totally baffled by this question and unable to answer.

What are the real problems with the voting system we have now? How have other people dealt with the same problem we now have? Is there a need to invent anything new or are there ready made solutions? You do not reinvent the wheel in mechanics or with voting systems.

Further to cutting down the nonsense about voting reform, it would be a good idea to list exactly what the problems are with our present system and that is what I will do. All these problems have tried and tested solutions. This means that it is not about inventing something new, it is about examining why we cannot get existing knowledge applied to solve real problems which are harming the country, holding it back.

The gerrymander problem

The best way to rig elections is to rig the boundaries of voting districts. This can be done by varying the size of districts so that areas with more supporters of whatever the gerrymanderers want to suppress are bigger, and therefore have fewer representatives per capita. But it is more cunning to draw the boundaries so that areas of strong support for the undesirable political tendency are split among several districts.

Multimember districts work against this, and the bigger the districts the stronger they work against gerrymandering. District boundaries can reflect geographic reality more closely and the number of representatives from the district corresponds to the population of the district.

The ward heeler problem

There is always a tendency for some clique to try to gain control of an area by the use of patronage. Single member constituencies work strongly in favor of patronage, because everything must go to one representative for approval. If you do not vote right you cannot get services or permissions from government. The more members from a district, the more they are likely to be members of different parties or factions, and the less effective ward heeling is. If the local boss for party A will not play ball with you, you can go to the local go-to person for party B.

The subsidiarity problem

As a general rule, you need decisions and powers to be at the lowest possible level. This is the principle of subsidiarity and it is opposite to the centralization principle, that higher levels of government tend to concentrate authority in themselves, even when they have so much to manage they can not handle it.

One of the ways by which subsidiarity is insured is by making sure that a local level of government speaks for an area, not delegates to a higher level. Area representatives to a higher legislative body should deal with problems at that level and not be bringing local problems there, undermining the authority of subsidiary levels of government.

The more that elected delegates are considered to "represent" an area, the more they undermine local government. Especially in single member constituencies, one person cannot represent an entire area and should not pretend to.

The proportionality problem

This problem is what voting reform people obsess most about. The seats won by a particular party usually do not reflect the actual number of votes for it. However, exact proportionality is not possible or desirable. The elected representatives cannot and will not follow exactly the will of their supporters. The voters vote for a particular philosophy of government and expect these representatives to apply it.

The point of proportionality is to insure that a government really does have the support of a majority; that a narow minded minority cannot impose its ideology on a divided majority. This is the single biggest problem we have now in Canada.

The malign influence problem

The "occupy Wall Street" movement is much concerned with this problem. demanding that "money be taken out of politics. The biggest reason why money has too much influence in politics is that elections are too big; it costs too much money to run for office and the voters cannot really know anything about those they are voting for.

Smaller elections, and elections only to councils and legislatures, not to fill executive positions, would solve this. Elections should be about policies, not personalities. And again, power should be at the lowest possible level. This is a hard thing for people to grasp, who have our top down system so hard wired into their brains; that power could come from the bottom up.

The hardest thing for wealth and power to corrupt is a neighborhood council, because everyone knows everyone else, and knows who is really part of the community and has its interest in mind. If a local council elects the delegates to a higher council, such a council quickly learns who the other members are, what they are about, and who to appoint to an executive or to a higher council.

Such a system is very hard for malign influences to crack. When people have the chance to really form their own governing system, that is what they tend to instinctively come up with. I tends to work very well when given the slightest chance. Such systems are being given a slight chance to work in many places it the world now, and are being much talked about by theorists of public government.

The anticollegial problem

It is well and often said about our present voting system that it is an adversarial system, a winner take all system. People generally wish politicians would work together for the public good instead of fighting for power and when they get it, acting like they can do anything they want.

Generally, you get the best government when there is a "minority" situation. Even with miscreants like Harper in office under a minority, they were more restricted than otherwise. So, why would you not want a voting system that can actually lead to minority governments, parliaments that reflect the voting intentions of the public, and therefore policies that are supported by the majority?


A system of proportionality by multimember districts best reduces or eliminates these problems. It is important to say that it can not solve the problem of a public that has been alienated from the political process by the usual malign influences, as we have seen in many European countries recently. The solution for that is to move to participatory democracy, as described above.

That gets to be all that needs to be said about voting reform. It is a shame that backwards Canada is still grappling with this when most other developed countries have got proportionality figured out long ago and are working toward the next stage in the evolution of democracy, that of moving from representative to participatory democracy.

It is also a shame that we have to keep going over things that were settled long ago, because people won't learn what has already been though of, examined, tried out, rejected, or put into practice. It is like they think the world began with them.

There is nothing new about voting systems. It is actually a studied to death subject. The only thing to debate about is exactly how to apply what is known to the Canadian situation. That and how to force voting reform. Lets move on.

Tim Rourke

P.S. Hope everybody enjoys the Jim Croce song. I suspect strongly that this is what most of these people I have been railing about really are.