April 2012 Newsletter – Vote-Splitting, Dion on PR, E-volving Democracy, Homeland Security, Campaign Financing and More

Dealing With Vote-Splitting:  Merger, Coalition or Something Else?
Fair Voting BC can’t often comment on merger or coalition proposals because we’re a non-partisan organization, but two recent events – the federal NDP leadership contest and the two provincial by-elections last week – allow us to discuss both right- and left-leaning examples.  As electoral reform supporters know, our Single Member Plurality voting system severely punishes any diversity of political expression.  Federally, the Conservatives have benefitted from the split on the left, while provincially the NDP stands to benefit from the emerging split on the right.  Such splits produce calls to “unite the left” or “unite the right”, which only drives us back towards oppositional two-party politics and denies voters real choice;  eveb so, most parties are lukewarm at best towards merger proposals.
NDP MP Nathan Cullen recently proposed a third option – joint nominations by cooperating parties (e.g., running “NDP-Liberal” or “NDP-Liberal-Green” candidates in selected swing ridings), leading to electoral reform so that this tactic becomes no longer necessary.  In BC, the Liberals and Conservatives might consider using the same tactic in order to give their “free enterprise coalition” an increased chance of winning next year’s election.  The big question is whether or not a Liberal-Conservative coalition would commit themselves to electoral reform if they won.  Alternatively, perhaps the Liberals might even consider changing the voting system in time for next year’s election.  We are curious if voting reform supporters would endorse such a proposal – please let us know what you think by visiting our online poll.
Stephane Dion Proposes a New Form of Proportional Representation
Last Sunday, former Liberal Party Leader Stephane Dion presented his ideas for federal electoral reform in a column published in the National Post.  We are delighted to see a sitting MP from a major party explaining why our Single Member Plurality voting system no longer serves Canadians well and proposing that we should adopt a form of proportional representation.  We encourage electoral reform supporters to consider his proposal (a kind of cross between the Single Transferable Vote and List PR) carefully and to encourage any politicians you support to endorse this kind of proposal. [full proposal – PDF]
Save the Date:  E-volving Democracy Dialogue Series Kicks Off in May
If you’re in the Vancouver area, please save May 26th on your calendar as Fair Voting BC, in partnership with Party X, kicks off our ‘E-volving Democracy’ dialogue series on the topic of “Online Voting:  How Will We Know It’s Trustworthy (If It Ever Gets There)?”  Join us and our distinguished set of panelists – Prof. Steve Wolfman (UBC Computer Science), Andrew Macleod (The Tyee) and Fathima Cader (UBC Legal Education Outreach) – in developing a set of guidelines for our elected representatives so that they’ll know what evidence citizens will demand before online voting can be implemented.  This dialogue will take place in downtown Vancouver from 2-5 pm, with follow-on discussions at local pubs and restaurants afterwards.  Admission is free (suggested donation to help with costs:  $10-20), but space will be limited.  Keep an eye out for a registration announcement shortly (once the site booking is confirmed).
US Homeland Security Expert: “Premature” to Use Online Voting for Public Elections
Speaking about online voting:  “Warnings about the dangers of Internet voting have been growing as the 2012 election nears, and an especially noteworthy one came Thursday from a top cybersecurity official at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  Bruce McConnell told a group of election officials, academics and advocacy groups meeting in Santa Fe, N.M., that he believes “it’s premature to deploy Internet voting in real elections at this time.”  McConnell said voting systems are vulnerable and, “when you connect them to the Internet, that vulnerability increases.” He called security around Internet voting “immature and underresourced.””
New Initiative to Reform Local Government Campaign Financing Rules
Last month, we told you about Minister Ida Chong’s suggestion that civic parties adopt voluntary rules to prevent corporate or union donations and to just “say phooey” on parties that don’t abide by these rules.  A new group from the Next Up program has started a campaign called Big Money Out aimed at making civic elections fair.  They’re just getting going, so please consider signing their petition or, if you’re interested in helping them out, join them.  Recent related stories in the Vancouver Courier:  [Story 1Story 2]
Local Gatherings
We’d also like to remind you about a couple of regular get-togethers of democratic reform supporters on the third Tuesday each month in Burnaby and Victoria.  The April meetings will be on the 17th.  The Burnaby meeting begins at 7:30 PM at the Bread Garden Urban Cafe near Metrotown (SkyTrain accessible): 4575 Central Blvd.  The Victoria meeting is held at Swan’s Pub in downtown Victoria, near the Blue Bridge (Pandora and Store Street), starting at 5 PM (look for us in the alcove near the Store Street entrance).  For more details or to get in touch with the organizers, please send a note to info@fairvotingbc.com.
Book a Speaker from Fair Voting BC
Fair Voting BC president Antony Hodgson recently spoke at the Okanagan Shuswap Green Party AGM in Enderby.  If your organization would be interested in hosting an electoral reform discussion event, FVBC would be happy to provide a speaker – just drop us a note to get things rolling.
Yours for a stronger democracy,
Antony Hodgson
President, Fair Voting BC