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MY VOTE Part 5: Dual Member Proportional a return to two MLAs per district


This is the fifrth in a six-part series looking at electoral reform in Prince Edward Island. The sixth and final article in the “My Vote” series will be published tomorrow.PART 1: Plebiscite full of many historical firsts for P.E.I.PART 2: First Past the Post, present, winner-takes-it-all systemPART 3: Mixed Member Proportional Representation promises a more diversified legislature   Part 4: First Past the Post, Plus Leaders described as 'tokenism'

When Anna Keenan first arrived in Prince Edward Island last year, she was shocked by how Islanders choose their politicians.

Keenan is from Australia, which uses preferential voting in its lower house and proportional representation in its upper house.

QUICK FACTS: Dual Member Proportional (DMP)

She also lived in the Netherlands for five years where they have a fully proportional voting system.

“When I arrived here and I saw both the provincial and federal elections conducted under first-past-the-post, I thought it was crazy,” she said.

“Parties that get 10 or 20 per cent of the vote don’t get any seats and so I just thought it was just really strange to see people excluded like that.”

She also had never encountered strategic voting – where voters in a riding vote for the candidate who is most likely able to defeat an incumbent, even if it is not their preferred candidate.

“That’s what really motivated me to get involved.”

At that time, a special committee of MLAs was touring the Island, looking for feedback on what kind of electoral change Islanders might be interested in.

Keenan – a strong supporter of proportional representation – did some research on different models and discovered a newly designed model called Dual Member Proportional.

MORE: Collection of stories on other choices facing Islanders on plebiscite ballot

Keenan pitched the idea to the committee and they liked it so much, they included it as an option on the ballot for the upcoming vote on electoral reform.

Dual Member Proportional (DMP) is an electoral system that blends principles of the present First-Past-the-Post voting system with proportionality to achieve an overall proportional representation of Island votes.             

Under this system, districts in P.E.I. would become larger and the number of districts would be reduced to 14. There would be two MLAs for each district, which would require the house to increase its seat count from 27 to 28.

Voters cast one ‘X’ on their ballot, as they do now, but there would be two candidates running for the same party on each ballot – a primary and a secondary candidate. Parties would choose which candidates are primary and secondary ahead of an election.

Once all the results are in, the votes are first tallied to determine the overall percentage of votes each party received. This will determine the number of seats each party will be allocated in the legislature.

The first half of the seats are assigned using current voting system – the primary candidate with the most votes wins a seat in their district. The second half of the seats are assigned based on popular vote results.

If a party doesn’t win its proportional allocation of seats in the first round, they are topped up with seats from the second round.

Before assigning seats in the second round, parties that were successful in the first round have their percentage of the vote divided in half in the districts where their primary candidates won seats through first-past-the-post. This is done because party’s vote tally has already gone towards electing their first candidate. This new percentage is assigned to the secondary candidate.

In the second round, seats are assigned to the best performing candidates. If a party deserves three additional seats based on the popular vote, their top three candidates who didn’t get elected in the first round will receive a seat in this round of seat allocation.  

This model would mainly see MLAs from two different parties winning seats in most of these new dual-member districts.

Essentially, the first and the second most popular candidates in each riding are usually elected.

This model was designed by Sean Graham with funding from the University of Alberta.

Graham, who has two Bachelor of Science degrees, says he never imagined a province might include his electoral model as an option on in a plebiscite so quickly.

He created this model just three years ago.

“I feel very honoured that the committee and the government in P.E.I. has seen enough merit in my ideas to include it in their upcoming plebiscite,” he said.

“I’m very excited and anxious to see what the result is going to, if the people of P.E.I. have faith in the idea.”

One major benefit to this model is that it would create more proportion in the legislature and thus allow everyone to feel their vote counts while still tying every MLA to an electoral district and constituency.

Keenan says she has heard many Islanders say they feel it is important their MLAs have a district of voters to hold them to account at election time.

“Whatever (voting) system a group of people chooses should fit their values, so if your values are about local representation and proportionality, then Dual Member Proportional might be the option you want.”

Teresa.wright@tc.tc

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

When Anna Keenan first arrived in Prince Edward Island last year, she was shocked by how Islanders choose their politicians.

Keenan is from Australia, which uses preferential voting in its lower house and proportional representation in its upper house.

QUICK FACTS: Dual Member Proportional (DMP)

She also lived in the Netherlands for five years where they have a fully proportional voting system.

“When I arrived here and I saw both the provincial and federal elections conducted under first-past-the-post, I thought it was crazy,” she said.

“Parties that get 10 or 20 per cent of the vote don’t get any seats and so I just thought it was just really strange to see people excluded like that.”

She also had never encountered strategic voting – where voters in a riding vote for the candidate who is most likely able to defeat an incumbent, even if it is not their preferred candidate.

“That’s what really motivated me to get involved.”

At that time, a special committee of MLAs was touring the Island, looking for feedback on what kind of electoral change Islanders might be interested in.

Keenan – a strong supporter of proportional representation – did some research on different models and discovered a newly designed model called Dual Member Proportional.

MORE: Collection of stories on other choices facing Islanders on plebiscite ballot

Keenan pitched the idea to the committee and they liked it so much, they included it as an option on the ballot for the upcoming vote on electoral reform.

Dual Member Proportional (DMP) is an electoral system that blends principles of the present First-Past-the-Post voting system with proportionality to achieve an overall proportional representation of Island votes.             

Under this system, districts in P.E.I. would become larger and the number of districts would be reduced to 14. There would be two MLAs for each district, which would require the house to increase its seat count from 27 to 28.

Voters cast one ‘X’ on their ballot, as they do now, but there would be two candidates running for the same party on each ballot – a primary and a secondary candidate. Parties would choose which candidates are primary and secondary ahead of an election.

Once all the results are in, the votes are first tallied to determine the overall percentage of votes each party received. This will determine the number of seats each party will be allocated in the legislature.

The first half of the seats are assigned using current voting system – the primary candidate with the most votes wins a seat in their district. The second half of the seats are assigned based on popular vote results.

If a party doesn’t win its proportional allocation of seats in the first round, they are topped up with seats from the second round.

Before assigning seats in the second round, parties that were successful in the first round have their percentage of the vote divided in half in the districts where their primary candidates won seats through first-past-the-post. This is done because party’s vote tally has already gone towards electing their first candidate. This new percentage is assigned to the secondary candidate.

In the second round, seats are assigned to the best performing candidates. If a party deserves three additional seats based on the popular vote, their top three candidates who didn’t get elected in the first round will receive a seat in this round of seat allocation.  

This model would mainly see MLAs from two different parties winning seats in most of these new dual-member districts.

Essentially, the first and the second most popular candidates in each riding are usually elected.

This model was designed by Sean Graham with funding from the University of Alberta.

Graham, who has two Bachelor of Science degrees, says he never imagined a province might include his electoral model as an option on in a plebiscite so quickly.

He created this model just three years ago.

“I feel very honoured that the committee and the government in P.E.I. has seen enough merit in my ideas to include it in their upcoming plebiscite,” he said.

“I’m very excited and anxious to see what the result is going to, if the people of P.E.I. have faith in the idea.”

One major benefit to this model is that it would create more proportion in the legislature and thus allow everyone to feel their vote counts while still tying every MLA to an electoral district and constituency.

Keenan says she has heard many Islanders say they feel it is important their MLAs have a district of voters to hold them to account at election time.

“Whatever (voting) system a group of people chooses should fit their values, so if your values are about local representation and proportionality, then Dual Member Proportional might be the option you want.”

Teresa.wright@tc.tc

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

Quick facts

Here’s how the Dual Member Proportional (DMP) voting system works:

Dual Member Proportional (DMP) is an electoral system that blends principles of the current way Islanders vote (first past the post) with proportionality to achieve proportional representation.

The province would be divided into 14 larger electoral ridings with 2 MLAs for each riding.

Voters would still cast one ‘X’ on the ballot, but this vote would be for the candidate and the party simultaneously. Two candidates would be listed for each party on each ballot – a primary and secondary candidate.

The first 14 of the seats in the legislature are assigned using current voting system – the primary candidate with the most votes wins.

The remaining 14 seats are assigned based on the popular vote results. If a party deserves three additional seats based on the popular vote, their top three candidates who didn’t get elected in the first round will receive a seat in this second round of seat allocation.  

Pros:

- Allows third parties a chance to get seats in the legislature.

- Achieves proportional representation based on popular vote

- Ensures every MLA is tied to a riding and constituency

Cons:

- Complex and difficult to explain.

- Newly designed system so not yet used in any other jurisdiction

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