Political Literacy Campaign: Democracy and Why Voting Matters
Types of electoral systems:
- Constituency: a group of voters in a specific area who elect a person to a seat in the house of commons, and Parliament. Canada is divided into 338 constituencies.
- First past the post system: this is a constituency system, the country holds elections and the candidate with the most votes wins. One or more seats are given to a number of districts in the country. There is a single representative who is elected to the legislative body. This is the system used in Canada
- Mixed member proportional: A system where voters cast two votes; one is for a local representative, and the other is from a national party list. Therefore some members are elected locally and some are from a list. In the local elections, the candidate with the most votes wins, the remainder of the seats are taken from the list and given to the underrepresented constituencies so that it is reflective of what parliament looks like. New Zealand has used this system since 1993
- Pure proportional representation: The idea of PPR is to treat the whole country as one big constituency (see post for definition of this). The number of votes is rounded off to a number of seats. So if a party wins 35 percent, they will have 35 percent of the seats. There is an open list in which voters choose the individual candidates but they are pooled together with other members of the party and whoever has the most votes within that is elected. There is also a closed list that the party chooses the order of. Finland uses this system.
Why is it important to know about electoral systems?
When you vote, it is important to know how your vote is being used and where it actually goes. Looking at different systems and comparing them helps us to see what systems are good and therefore what Canada could work on. Furthermore, your vote directly impacts who represents you, who will take your voice and issues important to you and bring them to the government. This is the individual we can go to, they are our only tie to what happens in parliament. Electoral systems are the base of every country, and in order to make your voice heard, background knowledge is needed.
Criticisms of our System: Now that you know how our electoral system works in Canada. We can look at what might be wrong with it.
- Problem #1: Wasted votes
- What does this mean: This refers to the concept that the winning candidate does not represent the views of the people who did not vote for them. It is a ballot that is cast that does not go towards anyone.This concept occurs in systems with two main parties, and as we know from before, In Canada, our two main parties are the Liberals and The Conservatives. As an example: If you voted for an MP in Hamilton who won with 45 percent of votes- majority of the people did not vote for that MP and they won anyways. This means majority of those votes were wasted. Countries using the first past the post system tend to have lower voter turnout as most people do not feel their vote is even going towards what they want. It also shoves away minor and minority parties as the people who support them know that they will not win, and therefore choose to not vote.
- Problem #2: Produced over and underrepresentation
- What does this mean: This refers to the concept in which the number of representatives might represent a large portion nationwide, but they did not have many votes won in the majority nationwide. For example: if a third party wins some seats in a certain district and one or two plurality votes, the party wins lots of votes but not many seats. Another situation is where a large number of candidates from one party win by a very small margin in their districts, that party’s voice in parliament is more inflated than the others.
How to vote:
Why is voting important: Voting is an incredibly important thing as it is your connection to Parliament and the people who govern us. If you don’t vote, you are willingly abstaining from a right you have to make the things that you want happen. In all aspects of government, voting is important as changes and different opinions can come at any time, and knowing what you want and what you want to see is important. For example, changes to community ideas, changes to the education system, federal policies, where your taxes may go. All these things are different with each party in Canada, and only voting can help you choose what you want.
The steps to voting:
- If you have never voted before, first ensure that you are registered to vote. Most citizens are, but if you are not, then you can register online by providing your driver’s license number, or using the online voter registration service to upload some documents
- Next, find out where you want to vote. Most people vote at their local polling, however some choose to vote in advance poll if they are out of the country.
- Do your research about the parties in Canada, and what policies resonate with you to form your opinion about who you will vote for
- On the voting day, go to your polling with identification and when your turn arrives, simply choose the candidate you want.