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View from the Cordillera

A Commentary on Achieving Excellence in Local Government
Read by Municipal Leaders on 4 Continents
Published by the Cordillera Institute
Choosing Our Elected Officials
Will It Be Voter Convenience or Voting Security? (Vol. 3, Issue 36)
Wherever we can have both, I'm all for it.  But, too many recent voting 'reforms' have come at the expense of voting security.  For example, it's great for honest voters to be able to enjoy the convenience of voting at home – but not if it means sacrificing voting security.  Yet, under the guise of promoting greater voter convenience, the voting process is being made increasingly vulnerable to fraud.  To determine the success or failure of any given reform, we need to assess its results – not the alleged intentions of its promoters.  In this issue, we do just that by considering a number of questions.  Are we really improving the voting process?  Where is the voting process vulnerable?  How extensive is voter-registration fraud?  Are these just random incidents or is there a common element?  How secure is voter identification?  Could Mickey Mouse have voted?  Are there still other security vulnerabilities?  And, most importantly, what should local government be doing?  This commentary concludes with 3 key recommendations for reforming the voting process.
Will a New Voting System Fix What Ails Democracy? (part 1) (Vol. 2, Issue 37)
In most democracies in the world – but not in Canada or the U.S., some form of PV (proportional voting) system is used to choose who will sit in their legislatures.  In the U.S. and Canada, an FPTP (first-past-the-post) voting system is used.  In 2007, Ontario voters went to the polls to decide whether to keep FPTP or switch to a type of PV system.  Before dismissing this as a problem unique to Ontario or of little importance to local government, consider these points.  Firstly, Ontario is not the only jurisdiction in North America where this has been tried.  Similar proposals were rejected by voters in the Provinces of British Columbia and Prince Edward Island in 2005.  Even if Ontario voters reject it again, you can expect its proponents to try it in your state or province.  Those who are promoting it have so much to gain if they succeed that they will keep pushing it.  Secondly, since local governments depend so heavily on senior government – for a bearable burden of responsibilities, for funding, even for survival, the type of senior government you must deal with is critical to the well-being of your municipality.  And, since the 2 systems – FPTP and PV – produce very different governments, an awareness of those differences will assist you to prepare for a vote on this question in your jurisdiction.
Will a New Voting System Fix What Ails Democracy? (part 2) (Vol. 2, Issue 38)
Have your senior governments dealt fairly with your municipality?  Have they treated the other municipalities under their jurisdiction fairly?  If not, what's responsible for those problems?  Those who want to change the voting system claim to have the answer.  In their view, our current FPTP (first-past-the-post) voting system is unfair.  So, they contend, we should not be surprised if an unfair voting system produces unfair governments.  The solution they propose is to change the voting system to a form of PV (proportional voting).  They claim that this PV system will be fairer because it will result in fewer wasted votes, produce votes of more equal value, and end – or at least reduce – vote splitting.  They also claim 2 other benefits if PV is chosen – a greater local voice for voters and a greater voice for rural voters.  In this 2nd of our 4-part series on changing the voting system, we test the validity of those claims.  You can expect those who have the most to gain from a switch to PV to bring their campaign to your state or province.  This series is intended to separate its facts from its fictions.
Will a New Voting System Fix What Ails Democracy? (part 3) (Vol. 2, Issue 39)
Senior government tends to be most responsible to the public when its power is divided among the 3 branches – executive, legislative, and judicial.  Ideally, the power of each branch is checked and balanced by the power of the other branches.  Improving this balance of power is claimed as an objective by those who would change our current FPTP (first-past-the-post) voting system to a type of PV (proportional voting) system.  They correctly note that, in most current parliamentary democracies, political power is not in balance.  Instead, it is concentrated in the executive branch.  They contend that switching to a PV system will check the power of the executive, increase the power of the legislative branch, reduce party discipline, and offer a greater legislative role to individual legislators.  Another essential aspect of responsible government is accountability.  Does PV measure up?  Proponents claim that it will make the executive branch more accountable to the legislature, reduce the power of parties, make legislators more accountable to the voters, and increase financial accountability.  In this 3rd of our 4-part series on changing the voting system, we see if PV lives up to its advance billings.
Will a New Voting System Fix What Ails Democracy? (part 4) (Vol. 2, Issue 40)
Should voters change to a PV (proportional voting) system or stick with the existing FPTP (first-past-the-post) system?  That question was put to Ontario voters in the province's 1st referendum since 1921.  Don't be surprised if the voters in your jurisdiction are asked to answer a similar question.  Some of our readers have taken us to task – not just for examining this question but for taking 4 issues to do it.  If this question were unique to Ontario or if it had little to do with local government, I would agree.  But, that's not the case.  So, our examination of PV systems continues with a review of the remaining list of claims made by the proponents.  These include better governance by taking a longer-term perspective on issues, by reducing wild swings in public policy, and by creating a less adversarial political culture.  They also contend that a switch to PV will bring more stability to government – through more coalition governments and longer-serving administrations.  And, finally, they assure us that changing to a PV system will encourage more voter participation.  In this last of our 4-part series on changing the voting system, we see if these claims hold water.  And, for those who haven't heard, we report the results of the Ontario vote as well as some ideas of what to expect down the road.
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