Voting method and electoral map, the problem lies in the rules of the electoral game

Since the submission of the project to revise the electoral map last fall, there have been multiple reactions, and for good reason. The project submitted by the Electoral Representation Commission (which has the mandate to establish the electoral map) aims to “correct inequalities of representation”. However, the reshuffle would cut two ridings (Gaspé and Anjou–Louis-Riel), which will be merged with others, and would create two new ones. Dissatisfaction is not long in coming: the political weight of these regions where voters feel pushed aside and pushed aside is diluted.

On Thursday, the Minister responsible for Democratic Institutions, Jean-François Roberge, agreed to reopen the Electoral Act in order to postpone the next realignment of constituencies until 2030. The Commission’s redistricting decisions are not the problem, however, because no matter how we go about it, inequalities will persist under the current rules of the game. Wanting to improve equality of representation in these conditions corresponds to stubbornly wanting to divide a pie in different ways in the hope of finding the one where voters will be more satisfied with their share. No, the problem is in the rules of the game.

The problem is in our voting method, which de facto causes inequalities in the representation of voters. The new division, whatever it may be, is condemned to a portion of the population not being represented in the National Assembly. And what a portion! We are talking about more than 50% of votes (around 2 million per election) which are lost from one election to another since the votes allocated to candidates who do not win a seat do not influence the representation of elected officials at all.

How can we talk about equality of representation when the value of more than half of the votes is purely symbolic? We can easily understand the cynicism and political disinterest, even discouragement, of voters whose party has no chance in a constituency. In the last elections, 80 of the 125 elected officials were elected with less than 50% of the votes, thus overturning the popular will of these constituencies.

In addition, 13 of the 17 administrative regions saw 80% to 100% of their seats occupied by a single party, despite a diverse vote. These situations of monopoly of power mean that voters who did not vote for the elected MP have no or very few votes to represent their ideas and opinions in their administrative region.

Wanting to correct inequalities of representation by delimiting constituencies in the current voting system is pursuing an impossible mission. It is not possible for the Commission, with the current voting method alone, to delimit constituencies “in such a way as to ensure respect for the principle of effective representation of voters” while “taking into account the equality of the vote of voters” (article 14 of the Electoral Act). Let us recall the aberrant results of the last general elections in October 2022. How can we talk about equality between voters when, with a very close percentage of votes, the Parti Québécois (14.6%) only collected 3 seats, Québec Solidaire (15.43%) collected 11, the Liberal Party (14.37%) won 21, while the Conservative Party of Quebec (12.91%) had none? Not to mention the CAQ, which was able to collect 90 seats with 40.98% of the votes.

The Commission would instead benefit from concluding that the principles and criteria of representation are inapplicable in the first-past-the-post voting system that currently governs our democracy. Following the latest electoral results, in particular from October 3, 2022, the Commission should recommend to the National Assembly to revise the current voting method in order to introduce one capable of respecting the effective representation of voters and equality of voting exercised by every citizen of Quebec. A bill has already been submitted to this effect in the National Assembly to adopt a compensatory mixed proportional voting system with regional lists.

To be exclusively concerned with the division of the electoral map when huge segments of the electorate are deprived of an effective and meaningful vote is to miss the target of offering real equality of representation of voters.

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