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2019 Federal Results Show the Need For Preferential Voting

Preliminary results of the federal election show us that 123 ridings (surely that number is a sign) were won with more than 50% of the votes. That means that for 215 other ridings, we do not know whether the elected MP is the one that the voters actually prefer.

In a lot of cases, the vote is split several ways. Nineteen MPs won with less than 35% of the vote, one with only 28.5%. 67 of them won with less than 40%. We don’t know whether that means that a large majority of voters didn’t want them to be elected, the electoral system doesn’t ask the question. A disproportionate 34% of the 50 results where the winner had the lowest percentage of votes were in Quebec, possibly because they had more major party candidates per riding.

Strategic voting is important in Canada, with surveys showing that about half of Canadians vote strategically for their second choice to prevent someone from being elected when they have the opportunity. Strategic voting is a great way of correcting the flaws of a system that doesn’t ask what your second choice is, and therefore risks electing someone who most voters don’t want. Unfortunately, it can easily backfire. Without enough information about the level of support for each candidates in individual riding polls, even if half the voters are voting strategically for their second choice, they could easily get the result that they were most trying to avoid if they do not all agree which other candidate to support in order for the strategy to work.

Preferential or two-round voting would improve the legitimacy of those 215 MPs. In the case that an MP doesn’t have the clear support of 50% of the voters, voters would be asked for their second choice, to ensure that the MP they elect is actually their choice, not a numerical accident based on poor information about local voting intentions.

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