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 […]


Reflections on the 2015 UK General Election

First of all, I must say I am deeply disappointed with the results. Not because the Conservatives managed to win a majority of the seats, but because any party was able to do that! I was truly looking forward to a very messy hung parliament; days, if not weeks, of talks and negotiations between the various parties; and a chance to see the provisions of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act come into play. Alas, that is not to be. I — like most viewers I would imagine — was incredibly surprised by the exit poll results announced as soon as the polls closed. Not so much by the forecast that the Tories would be the largest party — that I had […]

First, the people don't choose who governs in a Westminster parliamentary system. We do not vote for governments -- we vote for our Member of Parliament, and we elect a Parliament. It is the make-up of that Parliament which determines what party -- or parties -- will form the government.

On dumping first-past-the-post for all the wrong reasons

In an earlier post, I explained how Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson was wrongly pinning the blame for most of the problems facing Canada’s parliament on the country’s voting system, first-past-the-post (FPTP). Today a similar article has appeared in the UK media, Hung parliaments are on the up across the world – it’s time to dump first-past-the-post. This opinion piece is far worse than Simpson’s. The author, Richard McGinley, demonstrates a notable misunderstanding of how the Westminster system of parliamentary government works. He also calls for a change of voting systems, because FPTP (occasionally) leads to hung parliaments, but fails to acknowledge that PR systems almost always result in hung parliaments. It’s all very confusing. McGinley begins saying: THE […]

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 […]

Other reforms of Parliament are more urgently needed than electoral reform

A reader left the following comment on my post about the Reform Act’s proposals for party leader selection: While there is much to be said for the concept of MPs having more weight than the average party member in selecting a leader, this assumes that the MPs are properly representative of the party’s voters. Because of our skewed winner-take-all vopting system, this is far from the case. As Stephane Dion never tires of pointing out, our voting system “makes our major parties appear less national and our regions more politically opposed than they really are.” It “artificially amplifies the regional concentration of political party support at the federal level. This regional amplification effect benefits parties with regionally concentrated support and, […]