Friday, August 16, 2013

FDA Talking Points Series--Value of Votes

This map from the 2013 FDA Process Review of the Bingham Crossing Development Application shows the value of weighted votes used in political decision-making. See the 2013 FDA Process Review of the Bingham Crossing Development Application for more details.
The Foundation for Democratic Advancement (FDA) holds the view that during elections, one person equals one vote. This equality standard helps ensure that every eligible citizen has equal say at the ballot box and in deciding who forms government. As part of it electoral fairness audits, the FDA evaluates electoral processes to determine whether or not this standard is upheld. The evaluation of electoral systems includes determining
  1. if there is a constitutional or legislative basis for one person one vote;
  2. if there is reasonable justification to deny certain persons, such as persons imprisoned or mentally debilitated, from voting.
The FDA disagrees with the idea that some persons due to their intelligence, experience, character, position in society etc., should have higher weighted votes in general elections than other persons. The FDA believes that general elections are about capturing the collective voice of the people, and there is no methodology that proves absolutely that someone's opinion about political candidates and parties is more valid than someone else.

However, the FDA believes that the votes of elected representatives, whether in a parliament or assembly, should be weighted based on their percentage of electoral support, and their relevancy to regional and local issues which are being voted on. For example, a representative with 80 percent electoral support of his or her electoral district in the most recent election should have 300 percent more say than a representative with 20 percent support of his or her electoral district in the most recent election. In addition, for example, a representative from Quebec should have more say on a vote pertaining to a rural issue in Quebec than a representative from British Colombia who does not know or understand the issue of the vote and/or the issue has relevancy to him or her.

The purpose of these weighted votes is to more accurately capture the voice of the people than simply give every representative equal say. Moreover, the purpose of weighted votes on regional and local issues is to give representatives more directly impacted by the outcome of a vote more say than representatives with almost no impact from the outcome of the vote, and who have very minimal understanding of the regional or local issues.

In the 2013 FDA Process Review of the Bingham Crossing Development Application, the FDA identifies further grounds for weighted votes, whereby councillors more directly impacted by development decisions should have more say. In the case of the Bingham Crossing development application, the nine councillors of Rocky View County were given equal say, despite only one councillor and the people of her electoral division being directly impacted by the decision, and several other councillors were more impacted by the development decision than the rest of the councillors. In this report, the FDA argues that weighted voting is warranted because of the unusual geography of Rocky View County, Alberta, and the fact that only one councillor was directly impacted by the development decision. To allow councillors to have equal say in this context makes the councillors least impacted susceptible to the influence of special interest, and weakens the say of the councillor(s) most impacted.

 2013 FDA Process Review of the Bingham Crossing Development Application


Country Comparison

CANADA

The Canadian federal electoral system allows only one person one vote. However, there are no provisions in the Canadian Parliament to allow for weighted votes on bills. Further, due to the first-past-the-post system, a minority party can form a minority or majority of the Canadian Parliament, and only the votes of the winning candidates from the electoral divisions count.

Legislative Research

According to the Canada’s Elections Act, the electoral system in Canada is referred as "single member plurality" also known as "first-past-the-post" framework. The aforementioned means that the candidate with the most votes in a given electoral district (geographically the Canadian territory is divided in electoral districts, also known as ridings) will be elected as a member of the Parliament (MP). There is no need to have a 50 percent of the vote to access to the House of Commons, namely, a candidate that has one more vote than his main opponent wins (The Electoral System of Canada, 2012).

Noteworthy, that in accordance to the principle "first-past-the post" there is not a proportional system in Canada. The fact that a proportional system does not exist in the Canadian electoral system implies that representation either by close or open list does not apply in this electoral system.

An elector who has voted in an election may not request a second ballot (Elections Act, Article 7).


UNITED STATES

The American federal electoral system at the congressional level allows only one person one vote. However, there are no provisions in the Senate or Congress to allow for weighted votes on bills. Further, due to the first-past-the-post system, a minority party can form a majority of the Senate and Congress, and only the votes of the winning candidates from electoral divisions count. At the executive level, the American electorate does not have a direct say as to who is the U.S. President. However, many states require the Electoral College officials to vote according to the popular vote.

Legislative Research

The U.S. President and Vice-President are not selected directly by vote of the people. They are selected by appointed electors from each state as per directions of each legislator: the number of electors from each state corresponds to the whole number of Senators and Representatives, which each State is entitled to in Congress. No federal Senators and Representatives may appoint electors. The electors vote by ballot for two presidential candidates and one of them must not be an inhabitant of the same State as themselves. The person having the greater number of votes will be the President, if such a number is a majority; if there are two majorities with equal number of votes, then the House of Representatives will choose by ballot the President; if no person has a majority, then from the five highest candidates on the list, the House of Representatives will choose the President with the representation from the States having one vote; quorum is two thirds of the States. After determining the President, the person having the greatest number of votes shall be the Vice-President. If two or more candidates have equal votes, then the Senate shall choose by ballot the Vice-President (U.S. Constitution, 2012, Article II, Section 1).

The U.S. President and Vice-President are selected by the state electors based on first-past-the-post. The presidential candidate with the most Electoral College votes wins the presidency. The number of state electors each state has is proportional to the number of representatives each state has in the U.S. congress (U.S. Constitution, 2012, Article II, Section 1).

The presidential and vice-presidential candidates having the most votes shall be President and Vice-President, as long as the number of votes for each candidate is a majority of the whole number of electors appointed. If no majority exists for the presidential candidates, then the candidates with highest number of votes (not exceeding three) shall choose the President via ballot and based on votes taken by states with each state having one vote. This vote requires a quorum of two-thirds of the states and a majority of the states. If there is no vice-presidential candidate with a majority of the vote, then from the two candidates with highest number of votes, the Senate shall choose. This vote requires a quorum of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators and a majority of the Senate (U.S. Constitution, 2012, 14th Amendment).

Congressional election winners are based on a single member plurality system (first-past-the-post), except in the case of Georgia, Louisiana, California, and Washington where run-off is held if no candidate receives an absolute majority (United States of American House of Representatives, 2012; Two-Round system, 2012).

The election of congressional representatives is based on a single member plurality system (single-member districts) (U.S. Code, Title 2, Chapter 1, 2c).

The Electoral College elects the U.S. President. Eligible voters have no vote for who is the U.S. President (U.S. Constitution, 2012, Article II, Section 1).

An elector/voter has only one vote (The Voting Rights Act of 1965, 2012).


VENEZUELA

The Venezuelan federal electoral system allows only one person one vote. However, there are no provisions in the National Assembly for weighted votes on bills. Also, due to the first-past-the-post system in 70 percent of the electoral districts, a minority party can form a majority of the Assembly, and only the votes of the winning candidates from electoral divisions count. Yet, Venezuela has a number of participatory mechanisms which allow the Venezuelan public to have direct say on political affairs. For examples, CITIZEN POWER, a citizen-based committee, has say on a number of governmental decisions such as appointments to the Supreme Court (FDA Talking Points Series--Judicial Independence, 2013). In addition, there are a number of public forums and organizations which have substantive say on local political issues. Furthermore, Venezuelans are empowered politically through citizen-initiated recall of any elected official, and citizen-initiated referendum on constitutional, legislative, and constituent issues.

Legislative Research 

The Venezuelan Constitution guarantees the principles of personalization of suffrage and proportional representation (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Constitution, Article 63).

30 percent of the seats in the National Assembly are determined by proportional representation, and the rest are determined by first-past-the-post (Wilpert, 2010).

Venezuelan people have the power to submit referendum bills to the National Assembly if the people in favor of the bill represent at least twenty-five percent of the electors registered. Treaties, conventions or agreements that could compromise national sovereignty or transfer power to supranational bodies, may be submitted to a referendum on the initiative of the President of the Republic in Council of Ministers, by the vote of two-thirds or the members of the Assembly, or fifteen percent of the voters registered and entered in the civil and voter registration (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Constitution, Article 73).

Venezuelan people have to power to submit referendum bills to wholly or partially repeal existing laws if the people in favor of the referendum have support from at least 10 percent of the registered electors (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Constitution, Article 74).

Venezuelan people have to power to submit referendum bills to abrogate laws issued by the President of the Republic under Article 236 if those in favor of the referendum have the support of at least 5 percent of the registered electors. The validity of referendum requires at least 40 percent support from registered electors (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Constitution, Article 74).

Electors have the right to one vote per election (Election Law, Article 125).


References

Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Constitution. (2012). National Electoral Council. Retrieved from http://www.cne.gov.ve/web/normativa_electoral/constitucion/indice.php

Election Law. (2012). National Electoral Council. 2012. Retrieved from http://www.cne.gov.ve/web/normativa_electoral/ley_organica_procesos_electorales/indice.php

Elections Act. (2000, May 31). Elections Canada. Retrieved from http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=loi/fel/cea&document=part00&lang=e

FDA Process Review of the Bingham Crossing Development Application. (2013). Foundation for Democratic Advancement. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/FDAdvancement/2012-rocky-view

FDA Talking Points Series--Judicial Independence. (2013). Foundation for Democratic Advancement. Retrieved from http://foundationfordemocraticadvancement.blogspot.ca/2013/08/fda-talking-points-series-judiciary.html

The Electoral System of Canada. (2012). July 19, 2012. Elections Canada. Retrieved from http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=ces&document=part1&lang=e

The Voting Rights Act of 1965. (2012). U.S. Department of Justice Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/vot/overview.php#vra

Two-round System. (2012). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Retrieved August 15, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-round_system

U.S. Code. (2012). Cornell University Law School. Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text

U.S. Constitution. (2012). Cornell University Law School. Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/

United States House of Representatives. (2012). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved August 18, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_House_of_Representatives

Wilpert, G. (2010). A New Opportunity for Venezuela’s Socialists. Venezuelanalysis.com. October 1st 2010. Retrieve from http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/5683







Mr. Stephen Garvey Executive Director Foundation for Democratic Advancement






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