Sunday, February 7, 2016

Canadian Minister says Canadians Can Do Better than "First Past the Post"

Canadian Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef says that advanced Democracies like Canada can do better than the "First Past the Post" method of determining the winner. The system is used by the United States and Canada, but few other long-time democratic or Republican forms of government. This chart shows the nations that still use it, but even many of them have run-off elections should none of the candidates get a majority of votes on the first round. The U.S. is one of the few democratic republics in the world that has a "first past the post" method to determine the election winner without a run-off election (except, oddly, for the most local offices where we do have them).

Because Canada is so big, remote, and diverse, and because the Chief Executive is elected through a coalition in the legislative branch, Canada has more than two viable political parties. But Monsef said that was not enough, and that while first-past-the-post might be OK for fledgling democracies like Afghanistan, Canada can do better. A move by Canada to instant run-off or ranked-choice voting (advocated in Localism) would leave the United States even farther behind. Monsef said that, and other ideas, are on the table.

The first past the post method, most especially in the US, artificially restricts voters to two choices for fear of "splitting the vote" and electing their least-preferred alternative. Notice how the Presidential primary is being affected- people are calling for all but three candidates to drop out because they don't want the vote splitting among candidates in their faction to cost delegates. Ranked choice/instant runoff voting in delegate allocation would help that too- not that I care how private political clubs organize their nomination process. My concern is improving representative government by providing more choice- including the choice of a group of citizens outside of any formal party being able to seriously challenge a congressman by a true grassroots effort.

The parties don't even use "first past the post" to determine the winner for their other primary races. Nor do they do so for the selection of their own party officials. They use run offs. They use something like ranked-choice. If its good enough for them, why have they made the rules so that it is unavailable to the rest of us in general elections for all but the most local offices?

Not every problem in America today is a systemic problem. But even if the other factors were in place, our system is still a problem. It would not even require a constitutional amendment to change it. Election law is made largely at the state level.

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