Time to rethink our voting rules

Time to rethink our voting rules Why do Whitehorse elections limit the number of candidates each of us can vote for to six? Where in the world did it come to be a principle that people shouldn't vote for more candidates than there are seats to fill? Vot

Why do Whitehorse elections limit the number of candidates each of us can vote for to six? Where in the world did it come to be a principle that people shouldn’t vote for more candidates than there are seats to fill?

Voters are already permitted to vote for less than six candidates, so why not more? There is absolutely no justification for this rule.

This completely arbitrary upper limit on the number of votes has a perverse outcome. The more candidates you can convince to run in the municipal elections to represent your interests, the less likely your interests will be represented.

Imagine a city that is divided between people representing two sides of a very important issue, important enough that everyone is deciding who to vote for based on that issue. Call one side the Ups and the other the Downs.

There are 2,000 voters aligned with the Ups and 4,000 voters aligned with the Downs. In a fair election, we would expect the Downs to be in the majority, and the Ups to be in the minority on city council, reflecting the divisions in the electorate.

Now imagine that the Ups are a listless, politically disengaged faction that cannot muster more than six candidates to represent their interests. The Downs are fired up about the elections, and when campaign season starts, there are 18 Down candidates clamouring to be on the city council.

If every Up voter votes for all six Up candidates and no one else, then every Up candidate will get 2,000 votes. If every Down voter votes for six Down candidates, however, it is unlikely that a single Down candidate will get more votes than any Up candidate.

The reason for this is that there are a maximum of 24,000 votes that the Down voters must divide between 18 candidates, making an average of 1,333 votes per Down candidate. If the Down candidates are of more or less even attractiveness, then the Up faction will likely end up with a 6-0 majority despite being outnumbered 2-1 in the electorate.

Not only is this obviously undemocratic, but basically with this system the more candidates a faction presents, the less likely that faction will be represented on council. Talk about backwards incentives!

Candidates should be able to receive a vote from every single voter who wants them on city council. The six candidates that the most voters want on city council will be the candidates who sit on city council. Duh.

The fact that the Municipal Act states that “an elector is entitled to vote for as many candidates for any offices that there are members to be elected to that office, but only once for each candidate,” is not a justification for this bizarre system, but rather evidence of thoughtlessness on the part of legislators.

Sebastien Markley


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