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Preferential Ballot System

In so doing, it increases the electoral influence of supporters of smaller and newer parties, as those preferences are most likely to be counted first in working toward the 50% plus one.

The debates and reform proposals of the recent past have tended to a choice between some form of proportional representation or the status quo. The ballot system this White paper puts forward is a preferential form. Voters would receive a two-part ballot on Election Day. On one half, the voter would indicate his or her preferences, in order, for the candidates in the local district, with “1” being the preferred candidate, “2” the second choice, and so on. It would be the voter’s choice as to whether to indicate only one preference, or two or more, from among the candidates offering.

On the second part of the ballot, the voter could express his or her preferences with regard to the candidates for each of the parties offering in the large district aligned with the federal riding. Again, the voter could rank as many candidates as wished.

The votes would be counted and any candidate receiving over 50% of the total vote in the first round would be declared elected. For those candidates receiving less than half the vote, the lowest ranked candidate would be dropped from the list, and the second choices of that candidate’s supporters would be counted. This process would continue until a candidate won a majority of votes.

This approach, which has long been used within political parties to select leaders and candidates for office, has several positive implications:

  • It gives voters a greater voice and reduces the number of “wasted votes.”
  • In so doing, it increases the electoral influence of supporters of smaller and newer parties, as those preferences are most likely to be counted first in working toward the 50% plus one.
  • It ensures that all winning candidates enter office with the support of a majority of their constituents.
  • More subtly, it promotes a collaborative approach to running for and holding office. It is widely considered that the first-past-the-post system encourages candidates to foster polarization and conflict, in order to define what they stand for and galvanize their supporters into voting. In a preferential system, however, candidates must appeal to a broader range of views in order to win the support of second and third round voters, encouraging a more constructive and positive approach.

On the other hand, the system does not directly translate vote share into seat share, and hence may not succeed in making election outcomes results more proportional. This does reduce the possibility, or to some the risk, of frequent minority or coalition governments. While the measures suggested here do go part-way toward proportionality, some voters may still be under-represented or unrepresented in the Legislature, and smaller or newer parties may still experience greater challenges in winning seats. The questions for Islanders are the balance they wish to strike between tradition and innovation, and on the pace of change and renewal.It ensures that all winning candidates enter office with the support of a majority of their constituents.

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