Last night, the Canadians held their national parliamentary elections. In a surprise, the Conservatives won an outright majority - as the New Democratic Party placed second for the first time, the Liberals plunged to a first-ever third-place finish, and the Greens won their first parliamentary seat. How bad was it for Liberals - long the establishment left party? Their candidate for prime minister, Michael Ignatieff, lost the race for his own seat.
For months, the ruling Conservatives had led in polls, but late polls showed a sudden surge for the NDP - big enough that the AP's election day story was headlined "Polls Say Canada's Voters Could Take Sharp Left Turn". And while the NDP surged, it wasn't enough - as they split the left-leaning vote with the Liberals.
So, why am I bringing this up on BlueOregon? After all, we barely cover Washington here - nevermind Canada.
Over the years, we've had a lot of conversations here about electoral reform. We've talked about fusion voting, proportional representation, open primaries, top-two primaries, instant-runoff voting, ranked-choice voting, and more.
Canada's election results yesterday are an object lesson in what can go wrong in a winner-take-all system (known there as "first past the post") that includes more than two major parties.
Here's how the national vote broke down:
30.6% New Democrats
6.1% Bloc Quebecois
You'll note that the NDP and Libs add up to 49.5% of the vote. Add in the Greens and it's 53.4%. But here's how the seats broke down - with 155 of 308 seats required for a majority:
102 New Democrats
4 Bloc Quebecois
Now, I'm obviously a committed and loyal Democrat. It is the Democratic Party that best represents my values. But I'm also a big fan of electoral reforms that open up the process to minor parties - and makes it possible for voters to provide greater input to our democratic system. The singular binary choice of D vs. R just doesn't reflect the richness of opinion in our democracy.
We often think of this as the "spoiler" problem, but as the Canadians teach us, sometimes the third party can overtake one of the traditional parties - putting the traditional party in the role of "spoiler". But it's not about stopping the "spoiling" of elections -- rather this outcome demonstrates why it's key that we support electoral reforms that help voters communicate their will - fusion voting, instant runoffs, ranked-choice voting, proportional representation and the like - rather than simply opening up access to minor parties.
Here's my question: If you could redesign Oregon's electoral system - for the Legislature or the statewide offices - what would you do? How would you change things?