FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION
- General Questions about PR
- Detailed Questions: Differences between DMP & MMP
- Detailed Questions: MMP
- Detailed Questions: DMP
- Ranked Ballots
Q: What is a plebiscite? What is the plebiscite on democratic renewal?
A: A plebiscite is a vote that gives direct advice to government from the people (the voters).
The plebiscite on democratic renewal is our chance to vote about how we vote in provincial elections and how to make that vote count.
Q: When is the plebiscite?
A: In late October and early November 2016. Elections PEI has all the details! There will be a period of voting for electronic and telephone voting, and there will be two days of in-person voting.
Q: Who can vote?
A: Any citizen and resident 16 or older.
Q: How many choices do we have?
A: There will be five choices, for you to rank from your most preferred to your least preferred. (One if the five choices is the current system.) We want Islanders to support a change to Proportional Representation. There are two proportional representation options on the ballot.
Look for the word “proportional” and mark your #1 and #2 beside them!
Q: What do you mean, “Vote 1 & 2 for PR”?
A: The plebiscite ballot will have 5 choices, and voters will rank them from 1 to 5, from their most preferred (#1) to their least preferred (#5). We want voters to make the Proportional Representation options their #1 and #2 choices!
Q: What is “PR”?
A: Proportional Representation (PR) is an electoral system where every vote counts because the distribution of seats in the Legislature matches the popular vote. If 40% of Islanders vote for the Dog Party, the Dog Party receives 40% of the seats.
Q: How will I know which two choices are Proportional Representation options?
A: Look for the word “PROPORTIONAL” on your ballot. Only the two proportional representation options will include that word.
Q: What’s the difference between DMP and MMP?
A: MMP is a mixed system, used in countries such as Scotland and New Zealand. You get two votes to have a local candidate and province-wide party. DMP is a new system, not used elsewhere. You vote once and get two local representatives.
Q: How will any choice get majority support with all the proposals on the ballot?
A: The ranked ballot (preferential voting) tool that Elections PEI will use in the plebiscite results in a majority by using people’s ranked preferences. A plebiscite is advice to government, and government will decide on next steps. We want them to see voters’ strong support for change to a Proportional Representation system. Voting 1 & 2 for PR will achieve that goal.
Q: Doesn’t Proportional Representation “rig the system” in favour of smaller parties?
A: No matter who you vote for, Proportional Representation benefits everyone by delivering fair results: it’s fair and square — the party with the most votes gets the most seats!
Actually, the current system rigs the system in favour of the parties that have always governed. Both the Liberals and the PCs have benefitted from disproportionate rewards and suffered disproportionate defeats in the past. The flip-flops from one extreme to the other that we have seen in the past are very unstable.
Q: Will Proportional Representation really make any difference?
A: Proportional Representation will almost certainly result in more voices in the Legislature, and having third parties represented in the Legislature is something Islanders have enjoyed, even if it has happened very infrequently.
Q: Didn’t the Premier say he’s against Proportional Representation? Why should I bother voting if it’s already decided?
A: He might have made a comment, but he certainly isn’t blocking the plebiscite. He’s the one that brought it forward and government is putting this vote to the public, and you your vote and all of us together can make a difference.
Q: Do all candidates face the voters in proportional systems?
A: Yes. In both the MMP and DMP models, all candidates face the voters. The ballot may look different, but no one can become an MLA without their name appearing on a ballot.
Q: Would MMP or DMP require increasing the number of seats in the Legislature and the number of MLAs?
A: Neither DMP nor MMP would require an increase to the number of MLAs to function.
Our Legislature currently has 27 MLAs. MMP can be implemented with 27 seats. Of course, electoral boundaries will need to change to establish 18 district seats. 9 seats will be for MLAs elected province-wide.
Since DMP is based on two-member ridings, it requires an even number of MLAs. That would require changing from the current 27 member Legislature to 26 or 28 or another even number decided on by government. Electoral boundaries will need to change to establish 13 or 14 dual-member ridings.
Electoral boundaries are going to be reviewed and possibly changed before the next election no matter what the plebiscite results will be.
Q: Aren’t there more minority governments and more elections with a proportional representation system?
A: In fact, with our current FPTP system, Canada has more elections than almost any country with Proportional Representation! Canada has had more elections than Italy since WWII. Under a proportional system, coalitions come together and stay together until the next election. There is no incentive to pull the plug on a coalition for the possible prize of a majority government. Our current system dangles that prize in front every minority government.
Governments tend to be more stable because people have to work together: you’r likely still going to have a mixture of parties after another election. In Proportional Representation countries, parties learn to work together.
Valued social programs such as the public healthcare system and the pension system came about when we had minority governments.
Q: As a citizen with a local problem, what MLA do I go to for help under a DMP or MMP system?
A: Both systems give citizens more choices to address issues or problems and there is more chance that whatever party you support will have an MLA in the Legislature. Under DMP, a citizen can approach either of the two of their district representatives. Under MMP, a citizen can approach their district representative or any of the provincial representatives they relate to most strongly.
Q: Doesn’t Proportional Representation create two levels of MLAs?
A: DMP has only district MLAs, and that means two MLAs you can talk to about local problems. Under MMP you can choose an MLA who represents you locally, and if your vote doesn’t someone locally, can choose someone from your preferred party on the province-wide list.
Leaders and cabinet ministers are also always province-wide
Q: But would rural areas be well-represented in a Proportional Representation system?
A: I agree that rural representation is important. Proportional representation models maintain rural seats. You will still have local representation. DMP keeps all representatives local, and MMP keeps 2/3 of MLAs local — and good luck to any PEI party the puts forward a city-heavy list of candidates!.
Q: What about independent candidates?
A: Both DMP and MMP have ways for independent candidates to run for election.
The DMP system may actually have advantages for electing independent candidates, since in a dual-member district, an independent candidate has an equal shot at either one of the two seats in the district.
Under an MMP system, independent candidates would run in the district seats.
Q: With proportional representation, what comes first with voters? Is the popularity of the local candidates primary? Or are personal/party values most important?
A: If a high motivator for you as a voter is eliminating the conflict between MLA/party – MMP may be your preference. If you balance between strong local candidates and personal/party values, under DMP you will still have to think as you do now about that balance.
Q: How would nomination processes change under DMP and MMP?
A: Nomination processes would still be determined by political parties. It is in the interest of every party to nominate candidates in a fair and transparent way, in a clear process that engages the party members.
DMP would see locally nominated candidates, nominated exactly as they are now, except parties would have the choice to put two names on the ballot, ranked by the party: their first choice, and a runner-up in case the party wins enough support to have both district MLAs from the same party. In most cases, only the top-ranked candidate in a district would be expected to win. Because there are two members per district, there would be half the number of nomination processes there are currently. There would still be disincentive to have parachute candidates (because of the DMP focus on the local).
MMP would see locally nominated candidates for district seats, and a province-wide process to select list candidates, similar to processes parties use to choose party leaders at present. Parties would face internal pressure and public pressure to put forward diverse lists. (This is called the “contagion effect.”)
Q: I don’t like party lists — too much room for back-room party control. Does Proportional Representation make that worse?
A: Proportional representation is great for voters who are concerned about too much party control! Proportional systems give parties the number of seats they earn and deserve based on voters’ support — not more or fewer.
All parties put forward lists. We have lists under the current system: you can’t vote for anyone you want or write a name in on a ballot. Under the current system, the list is created district by district in nomination processes. DMP maintains that same district-by-district process for list-building. MMP follows the same process for district seats and adds a province-wide process for province-wide seats.
Q: I understand that proportional representation means that the distribution of seats matches the popular vote. MMP has a two-part ballot. If I mark two Xs on a ballot, which vote determines the make-up of the Legislature?
A: The first vote — your vote for a district MLA — may help elect your preferred local candidate. The second vote — your vote for your preferred party and your choice of candidate from that party’s list — will determine the make-up of the Legislature. You can vote for the same party or a different party. If 40% of Islanders vote for Dog Party candidates on the second part of the ballot, the Dog Party will get 40% of the seats in the Legislature. The party-ballot results will be used to top up the district results to make them proportional. The candidates with the most support from each party will fill the top-up seats.
Q: In the MMP system, will list candidates need more or less support than district candidates to get elected?
A: Because they are elected from province-wide ballots, most list candidates who are elected will receive more votes than district candidates. Because the list tops up the district results, the best-performing list candidates will only become MLAs if their party is under-represented at the district level. The first-past-the-post system creates distorted results, rewarding the top-performing party with more seats. So the party that gets more of this benefit in the district seats gets less of the benefit of the top-up province-wide seats.
Q: Under MMP, who are province-wide candidates accountable to?
A: Provincial MLAs are accountable to voters from across the Province, much like party leaders and Cabinet ministers are now, under the current system.
Q: Could a candidate run on a district ballot AND on a party list ballot under MMP?
A: The rules about whether candidates could run on a district ballot and the party list ballot would be determined by government (legislation). There is no decision or indication about this from the Special Committee on Democratic Renewal or from Elections PEI on this. There are several options for legislation on this. For example, government could a) allow candidates to run on both parts of the ballot, b) disallow candidates from running on both parts of the ballot, or c) allow only party leaders to run in both place.
Q: Would the names on the MMP party list be ordered in any way?
A: In an open list MMP system, the candidates would not be ranked, because the voters would rank them. Parties would put the list forward, but the voters would determine which candidates gain seats.
Q: What would a DMP ballot look like?
A: A sample ballot would look a lot like the current ballot, and you would still mark one X for the party of your choice or an independent — but parties can put forward two candidates if they wish, with the candidates ranked by the party (first and runner-up).
If your party wins only one of the two district seats, only the #1 ranked candidate wins.
The proportionality is determined by that one vote. If 40% of Islanders vote for Dog Party candidates on their ballot, the Dog Party will get 40% of the seats in the Legislature.
Q: Under DMP, why would you put two candidates from one party on the ballot?
A: A party would put two candidates on the ballot if they think there’s a chance of winning both seats in one district — or as a show of strength.
Q: Under DMP, how do you figure out who gets which seats?
A: DMP delivers direct proportional results. First, DMP allocates the first seats per district to the candidate with the most support (like the FPTP system now — like MMP, DMP incorporates an element of current system).
Deserved/earned seats then have to be allocated with the aim of awarding second seats to the parties that earned them in the seats where they had their strongest performances. The second seats cannot be determined until all the results are in across the province.
Q: Under DMP, does the second-ranked party in a district always win?
A: Usually, but not always. Sometimes the third-ranked party in a district may win in order to deliver overall proportional results across the province. There can be challenges when the strongest candidate from one party competes against another strongest party’s candidate.
Q: In the DMP system, who determines where the party has the strongest performance?
A: The voters determine where the party has the strongest performance, by voting for the candidate they support. Then the calculation is based on percentage of the popular vote. The party doesn’t have a say on where they think they are “strongest.”
Q: Under DMP, what if a party doesn’t run enough candidates to have MLAs the number of seats they earn?
A: If you don’t run enough candidates to fill all the seats your party earns, your party will lose that seat, and it will be reallocated.
Q: How does preferential voting (ranked ballot) work?
A: It’s important to understand how preferential voting works not only because it is one of the electoral tools or systems to be voted on, but because Elections PEI will also use preferential voting for the plebiscite itself! Preferential voting is also called ranked ballot, alternative vote, or instant run-off voting.
The first step is to count voters’ #1 choices. If there is an option that gains a majority of votes, that option wins.
If there is not a majority after counting the first votes, the last-place option is eliminated. But the ballots that ranked the eliminated option as #1 are not wasted! The #2 options on each of those ballots are distributed (added on to) the total for their second-choice option.
If one option has a majority of votes after that distribution, that option wins.
If there is still not a majority, the last-place options is again eliminated and the votes for the eliminated option are distributed (added on)… and so on until there is an option with majority support.
A ballot with only one or two options ranked may be exhausted if the options the voter chose are eliminated. There’s nowhere to move their support if they have not ranked all the options. (Flow-chart credit: wikipedia)
Q: Why are you not supporting preferential voting as an option in the plebiscite? That seems like a good change to really know what voters think.
A: Preferential voting by itself is not proportional representation. The electoral system should not really be about the MLA having the majority — it should be about you as a voter having your voice heard.
A preferential ballot is great in a plebiscite or a leadership vote or nomination contest — in fact, it’s a great tool for these one-clear-winner processes! But preferential voting in a FPTP system doesn’t make a enough positive difference in FPTP system. There can occasionally be surprise winners in district contests, but preferential voting doesn’t change the outcome overall. Someone has the majority support with a preferential ballot — but the popular vote is important too, not just reinforcing the power of the powerful. Preferential voting alone doesn’t do anything to make sure the popular vote is reflected in seat distribution.
There are still high numbers of wasted votes.