Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Where is the majority/minority option on the ballot?

Andrew Cohen is not the only journalist to speak of the Canadian electorate as if it were one person, able to choose between a minority or majority government. He's just the one I'm going to pick on today, after reading his "Don't go sleepwalking to the polls" column in the Ottawa Citizen.

How would one possibly go about choosing a minority or majority government, given the fact that each person has only one vote? All anyone can do is look at the platforms of the parties of candidates running in their riding, pick the one that they think is best, and vote appropriately.

In order for a single person to be influenced by other people's votes, that person would have to know what the other voters were going to do, then change their own vote. But even then, we're still just talking about a single vote. So, to have a group think as one, votes could not be secret, and could not be cast simultaneously.

That situation does exist, for example, in the Liberal party nominations, where all the delegates can look across the floor and see which candidate other delegates are supporting. Once aggregated together, they tend to stay together, so as candidates are dropped off the successive ballots, mobs grow greater in size, and pick people like Stephane Dion as leader. (In contrast, the Conservative leadership contest was by secret, simultaneous ballot, and chose Stephen Harper.)

In five weeks, when the 2008 Canadian election is complete, and Canadians have chosen a government by secret, simultaneous ballot, then the Liberal party might want to move away from mob rule at their next leadership convention, which probably won't be too far off.

No comments: