In Canada we elect representatives to the House of Commons by first-past-the-post (FPTP) elections in each respective constituency.
FPTP works perfectly well when there are only two candidates for a given position, but when there are more – and in our provincial and federal elections there usually are more – it tends to skewed, unpersuasive victories to the candidate merely having first-preference support of the largest minority, NOT a definitive majority win.
Such minority victories detract from the legitimacy and credibility of the decision.
They also diminish the winners’ sense of accountability beyond their own narrow voter bases, and feed into voter cynicism, disillusionment, and over-all disengagement.
There then ensues a hue and cry for voting reform – to replace FPTP with, among other things, Proportional Representation (PR).
Many people, by default it seems, see proportional representation (in some unspecified form) as the only way to address the FPTP problem. While it’s not a bad choice, necessarily, it’s also not the only, nor necessarily the best, practical and fair solution.
There are other alternatives as well: some places, Australia, for instance, use a preferential-ballot evaluated using an approach called the Alternative Vote (AV), also known as Instant Runoff Voting (IRV).
IRV / AV is somewhat better than FPTP but nevertheless shares many of its worst flaws. (See Why not IRV?)
All is not lost, however, for there are still more ways of dealing with such decisions; much better ways, in my view, called Condorcet (“con-DOR-say”) methods.
Condorcet methods can be readily implemented with minor disruption, low cost, and major positive effect.
In (1) a single voting round, each voter casts (2) a single, simple, ballot, from which (3) a round-robin match-up of each candidate against each other candidate ensues — holisticallly considering all choices from all ballots.
In the absence of a voter-preference loop in the collective results, all Condorcet methods will determine a winner who most people would acknowledge as the legitimate, true, choice of the majority.
Condorcet methods are scrupulously unbiased, robust, and reliable.
In those (arguably rare) cases where a preference loop exists, so-called Condorcet “completion” methods break such loops to achieve a linear ranking of the candidates.
Of these, after due consideration, I propose an over-all approach called Condorcet/Ranked-Pairs.
Condorcet voting (1) is easy for voters to understand and to do and (2) can be implemented as a direct replacement for any FPTP or AV/IRV system to (3) dramatically improve democratic responsiveness. (See How it Works!).
In the end, the candidate who beats every other candidate, in one-on-one round-robin competitions, is the winner — and will be the candidate most-preferred by the majority.
The goal here, then, is to demonstrate and clarify these features to promote the adoption of Condorcet voting for Canadian elections.
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Next: The Problem at Hand