Monday, April 18, 2011

Vote Spliting: a Corruption of Democracy

The NDP are up in the polls so we're hearing about vote splitting. From
Despite Michael Ignatieff's efforts to paint a vote for the NDP as a vote for Stephen Harper — something pollster Darrell Bricker said has been a Liberal strategy since the 2004 — things are different this election.
When a politician says a vote for X is a vote for Y, what they are really saying is: our voting system is corrupted.  If you vote X it will be counted as Y.  If they said it was because we couldn't trust officials with Election Canada, it would be a clear case of corruption.  There would be calls for reform, not just advice not to vote for X.

Why then does our system get a free pass?   If our system doesn't count our votes they way we vote it's the system that is corrupt.   Our system is corrupt - that's the only way anyone could say that a "NDP vote is a vote for Stephen Harper".  When politicians warn of vote splitting, they should be asked how they would fix the system so people get the government they vote for.

Michael Ignatieff should be trying to fix corruption, not trying to benefit from it.

- Peace


PsySal said...

I think "unfair" or "unrepresentative" would be a better term for what you're describing, though. I agree that first-past-the-post is an issue, but remaking the basic rules of a democracy is hard business. Worse, the larger parties always benefit most, one way or another, from first-past-the-post.

Dave King said...

Swap the system for an official who counts an NDP vote as a vote for Stephen Harper, would you call that "unfair" or "unrepresentative"? We'd use stronger words than that.

- Peace

PsySal said...

It's different. In one case you have the rule of law being followed, which may be imperfect but nonetheless is philosophically and practically a pillar in creating fair societies.

In the second case you have criminal subversion of the rule of law (which itself is not necessarily corruption, per se, at least to my understanding.)

There are reasons in support first-past-the-post, as well.

Philosophically, you have an MP who is your representative, regardless of political party, because of where you live. For me, this is more democratic because there is the possibility for your representative to have a better understanding of regional issues, and perhaps it gives you someone to take your concerns to.

Proportional representation, no matter how it was set up, would strengthen the role of parties in the political system-- which are already strong.

Most people vote for parties, not candidates, which in some cases is very unfortunate. For instance, people may support the conservative party but find Rob Anders pretty repugnant. People should look past their ideology in these cases and send their own party a message, by voting for a candidate they can support on a personal level. In most proportional systems, this couldn't happen, as it would really be up to the party.

Side note: having been one, I would say that election officials are not particularly exposed to corruption. (corruption being defined as the abuse of power for personal gain.) More, it would be exceedingly hard for an election official to slant a vote count to his or her preference.

The actual mechanics of our voting system are impressively well thought-out (first hand experience, though anecdotal and a few years out of date.) People should volunteer, and see how it works, because it really is an exceedingly well-designed system.

Small-scale or individual fraud is likely possible, but collusion or larger-scale fraud would be very hard to imagine, which should be the point.