Setting the record straight on preferential voting – again

Evan Solomon’s recent article in Macleans looking at the electoral reform promised by Canada federal Liberal Party contains a number of rather bombastic statements that demonstrates, yet again, the general misunderstanding surrounding preferential voting. For example, Solomon asserts that: in this system, Liberals could solidify power and still fulfill their democratic reform promise. For a party with no natural allies, like the Conservatives, it could be a fatal blow. Regular readers must be tiring of my repeated attempts to clarify how preferential voting works in the real world, but please bear with me as we go through the facts one more time (and I doubt it will be the last time). Let’s start at the very beginning, where Solomon writes: […]


Ranked ballots won’t elect “grey” candidates

I have written a large number of posts about preferential voting (aka ranked ballots or the Alternative Vote) over the course of this blog’s existence. During the UK campaign leading up to the referendum on AV back in 2011, I tried my best to clarify some of the misconceptions surrounding AV. One of the most common objections to AV (other than the fact that it’s not a proportional system) is that it results in the election of bland, middle-of-the-road, “grey” candidates. The argument is that first preference votes will be split between two more polarizing candidates, for example, a right-wing candidate and left-wing candidate, and so voters’ second and third preferences would go to more moderate (i.e. bland) candidates since […]

Report of the Electoral Matters Committee

The Parliament of the Australian state of Victoria’s Electoral Matters Committee released the report of its Inquiry into the future of Victoria’s electoral administration. It’s a lengthy (144 pages) report, and much of it deals with the nitty-gritty of voting in the State of Victoria. Chapter 3, however, might be of more general interest to Canadians who advocate for the adoption of the preferential ballot (aka the ranked ballot, or the Alternative Vote). There are two different voting systems used in the State of Victoria. Full preferential voting is used to elect Members to the Legislative Assembly, while single transferable vote (STV) is used to elect the upper chamber, the Legislative Council. Full preferential means that for a ballot to […]

On misunderstanding ranked ballots

Recently, the Government of the Province of Ontario, Canada, announced that it would consider legislation that would allow municipalities in the province to use ranked ballots (aka the alternative vote, preferential voting, etc.) to elect mayors and/or councillors. Currently, these elections are conducted using single-member plurality (aka First-Past-the-Post). Regular readers of this blog know that I have written extensively about this voting system, primarily during the 2011 referendum on AV held in the United Kingdom. This link will take you to the list of posts that have the “Alternative Vote” tag attached to them. Many of those posts were written to address what could only be described as absolutely ludicrous criticism of AV that was routinely raised by those who […]

The preferential ballot favours the party with the most first preference votes

I have written several posts looking at the growing popularity of the preferential ballot/the alternative vote (AV) here in Canada – see this recent one, for example. I even attempted a redo of the 2011 Canadian federal election using the preferential ballot rather than our current FPTP. As I explained in that post, and in others, the big problem in attempting to forecast how the election would have played out using AV was the absence of data concerning voters’ preferences. Some polling firms would (and still do) regularly ask people which party was their second choice, but no one ever looked at voters’ potential 3rd, 4th, etc. choices. However, a new poll by Abacus Data has done just that. According […]

Preferential voting isn’t the solution some think it might be

There have been a growing number of columns and articles in various Canadian media over the past few months bemoaning the state of our parliamentary democracy and proposing various changes which might improve the situation. More often than not, electoral reform is mentioned – either in the column itself, or by a reader commenting on the piece. There does seem to be a growing recognition or acceptance that the First-Past-the-Post voting system doesn’t quite work the way people would like. I won’t say it doesn’t work the way it should because it works exactly as it should. It simply isn’t the ideal system for multi-party democracies. Inevitably, in these discussions, someone proposes some form of proportional representation, usually Mixed-Member-Proportional, where […]