August, 2016

 

SMPP – THE SIMPLEST POSSIBLE WAY TO REAL ELECTORAL REFORM

 

In this submission, the Citizens’ Democracy Forum (see note*) has assumed that the Electoral Reform Committee intends to recommend to Parliament the system:

    a) that best approaches the ideal – that is, that produces a Parliament that truly reflects the political preferences of the electorate, and

    b) that it does so with as little disruption as possible to Parliament itself or to the cost or complexity of the voting process.

By definition, the first objective (a) requires a Proportional Representation system (PR) as has been recognized by most developed countries.

To achieve proportionality many countries have chosen to use some form of Mixed Member Party Proportional (MMPP) system in which the elector is given two ballots:     the first being the usual vote for the local
MP (the Local Vote) and a second ballot for their preferred governing party (the National Vote).

In the MMPP system, additional MPs are appointed from each of the political parties to be seated in Parliament together with the locally-elected MPs in the numbers needed to approach the proportionality needed to reflect the National Vote. However, such a system can require significant changes in the number of seats in Parliament and/or in the electoral district boundaries. To avoid such a major disruption, other systems have been suggested,  (e.g., the Ranked Ballot or Single Transferable Vote systems), none of which can reliably produce proportionality.

We propose here a way to achieve true PR by using the current electoral system with no major changes, disruptions or compromises.

For the voter, the change need only be an additional ballot, the National Vote, as is used in the Mixed Member system. The new system retains the existing single elected member system. No party-appointed MPs are used.
Proportionality is achieved simply by assigning to each elected party caucus in Parliament a percentage weight  that reflects the support they received from the National Vote -a weight that is then divided among the caucus members.

This system requires no seating change in the House of Commons or in electoral boundaries.

As with MMPP, our proposal meets the principles set out by the Special Parliamentary Electoral Reform Committee (see Appendix A) and the guidelines set out by the Broadbent Institute (see Appendix B).

We call this electoral system

Single Member Party Proportional
or
SMPP
(see note**).
Under SMPP each elected MP will retain their vote in Parliament but the weight of that vote will reflect the percentage of the National Vote received by the MP’s party (see Appendix C).

For Parliamentary votes a simple computation system can be used to record each vote and to make the voting summations instantly for the Speaker.

This simple computation system is the heart of the SMPP system, and is the only change needed in the operation of Parliament.

As with other proportional voting systems, the use of a threshold (such as, for example, three or five percent of the National Vote and/or the election of at least one MP) will discourage the proliferation
of smaller parties. If a smaller party reaches the National Vote threshold but does not elect a MP their voting weight could be negotiated to another Parliamentary party. In the unlikely event that a small party elects one or more MPs without reaching the threshold, their voting weight in Parliament would reflect their party’s percentage of the National Vote.

This SMPP system will be accurately proportional and has all the advantages of other proportional voting systems, including the following:    –
No Further Need
for Strategic Voting

    – A More Cooperative Tone of Parliamentary Discourse
will be encouraged as the political parties will often find it necessary to form alliances or
governing coalitions.

 

    – Governmental Policies

will better reflect the wishes of the voters and the broad policy swings of the past will be less likely to occur (Knutsen, 2011, p. 86).

    – Ethnic and gender diversity

representation in parliament tends to increase with a PR voting system (Studlar, 1999, p.129).

    – Voter Turnout

will increase as voters realize that their vote will always count (Blais & Aarts, 2006, p.191).

IN CONCLUSION,

the Citizens Democracy Forum urges our Parliamentarians to consider this simple SMPP electoral system.

It will achieve true Proportional Representation with minimal cost or disruption of the current electoral system. and because
of this, it would be readily accepted 
by the electorate. SMPP could be implemented virtually overnight and it is a system that could be amended easily at any time.

 

**

A similar system proposed in the UK is called Direct Party and Representative Voting or DPR (see http://www.dprvoting.org). This website explains how special Parliamentary situations (e.g. Free Votes) can be handled.