In preparation for our AGM on October 27th, 2012, please find attached below copies of the minutes from the 2011 AGM and the 2012 Treasurer’s Report.
Hearings Process: The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission recently held hearings around BC. The primary purpose of these hearings is to receive feedback on the EBC’s proposed riding boundaries, but Fair Voting BC appeared in order to make the case that the primary difficulties with the boundary-setting process arise from the way our voting system works.
Voter Equality Requires Proportional Representation: The EBC is supposed to be respecting the principle of voter equality, but they focus on a very limited definition of equality – ensuring that each electoral district is roughly equivalent in population. They do not pay any attention to the fact that fewer than half the voters end up with an MP they have voted for, which means that over half of voters are denied any representation of their choosing in the House of Commons. Any of a number of forms of proportional representation could easily boost this to well over 90% of voters.
True ‘Rep by Pop’ Would Simplify Boundary-Setting: We also discussed the idea that the EBC is also constrained by the assumption that ‘One MP = One Vote’ and suggested that if we take seriously the idea that ‘One Voter = One Vote’ in the House of Commons, then we could be much more tolerant of variations in riding populations where it makes sense to allow them to vary. For example, if population in a region has risen by 10% since the last boundary-setting process, we could keep the boundaries in place and simply give the MP 10% more voting weight in the House of Commons. We refer to this as true ‘rep by pop’ (representation by population).
Nova Scotia EBC Made Voting System Recommendations: We were encouraged to see that the Nova Scotia provincial EBC very recently incorporated very similar recommendations in their report to government (click to download PDF). You can also click here to download our submission to the EBC.
Fair Voting BC appeared in September as intervenors in the BC Court of Appeal reference case regarding the so-called ‘Gag Law’, in which the provincial government sought a ruling that their extension of third party advertising limits into a ‘pre-campaign’ period was constitutional.
In the original case, which was brought by the BC Teachers’ Federation, the primary concern was whether or not the government had the right to impose restrictions prior to the official campaign period. A number of organizations, most notably the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, in co-operation with the BC Civil Liberties Association, (see their Election Chill Effect report) argued that the law requiring anyone (even an individual) to register as an election advertising sponsor before communicating with the public about anything political made it impossible for many organizations to engage in public political debate during (and before) an election. The government lost the BCTF challenge in 2008 and a subsequent appeal in 2011, and then introduced slightly modified legislation in 2012, but referred the updated legislation to the Court of Appeal (Reference Case) for a ruling on its constitutionality prior to enacting it.
Fair Voting BC applied for and received permission to appear as an intervenor in the Reference Case and we sought to represent the concerns of small entities: individuals, charities, and issue-focused non-profit, non-partisan organizations. We argued that, though the legislation is ostensibly aimed at curbing the influence of the wealthy, the provisions have not been tailored so as to exempt or exclude ordinary citizens and legitimate small third parties whose Charter rights to freedom of political expression ought not to be infringed according to the aim of the legislation. In particular, we argued that the definition of election advertising is so overbroad that it captures even individuals wishing to post a handwritten sign in their own window (an example provided by the BC Chief Elections Officer), that it imposes onerous registration and labeling requirements on small entities and that it fails to exempt charities and voluntary contributions of labour, neither of which are targetted by or intended to be captured by this legislation.
We proposed that the legislation could be readily altered to address these unjustifiable infringements on the Charter rights of small entities by redefining election advertising to exempt pure issue advocacy, exempting charities, defining the concept of a non-wealthy (small) entity and exempting them from the registration and labeling requirements, and explicitly exempting volunteer labour. You can view our entire submission here.
Unfortunately, the Court ruled last week primarily on the constitutionality of the government’s requested extension of the limits into the pre-campaign period (which they did find to be unconstitutional) and did not substantially engage with our (and others’) arguments that the existing provisions are unconstitutional (see story by Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughan Palmer), so the chill provisions will remain in force during the upcoming 2013 election campaign. We will be considering how to respond to this continuing threat to our free speech rights in the coming year.
- very few people thought that the absence of online voting was a major cause of decreasing voter turnout (one person asked, “what is the question for which online voting is the answer?”),
- virtually everyone thought that any new election process should retain the key feature of our present process that creates widespread trust in the results – namely, that ordinary people can act as scrutineers for all candidates, which ensures that even the losing candidates can accept the results, and
- participants were most excited about the possibility of using online processes to increase democratic engagement between elections (e.g., to formulate public policy). Check out yesterday’s New York Times story on this.
We hope you can make it and really appreciate anything you can do to help spread the word! In particular, please pass on this announcement to any individuals or groups you think might be interested.
As people watched the Academy Awards last Sunday, we wonder how many realized that the nominees were chosen by preferential voting – in particular, a variant of the Single Transferable Vote (STV). The Academy Award organization actually uses slightly different rules for their various awards, so we can’t describe just one system, but most nominees in most categories are chosen using the following method:
- Most award categories accept five finalists.
- Academy members who are eligible to nominate movies in a particular category receive a ballot on which they can indicate their top five preferences (using numbers from 1 to 5).
- Any movies that don’t receive at least one first-place choice from a voter are eliminated.
- All ballots with the same first choice are grouped together.
- Any nominee with more than 1/6th of the total number of votes will become a finalist.
- If there are fewer than five finalists, the remaining nominee with the fewest number of votes will be eliminated and the ballots transferred to the next choice on each ballot.
- Step 6 repeats until there are five finalists.
In effect, this is a multi-seat version of Instant Runoff Voting, in which the lowest ranked candidates are sequentially eliminated. It has the effect of choosing a broad set of widely supported nominees.
This year, the Academy introduced a slightly different procedure for selecting the Best Picture nominees. The new process is a little closer in spirit to the Single Transferable Voting method recommended by BC’s Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform in that extra votes (votes beyond the 1/6th of the ballots needed to win a finalist position) are redistributed in part to the second choice on each ballot after an initial round of elimination and transfers from the least popular nominees. This extra step is intended to ensure that ‘passion rules’ – i.e., that movies need both to have a loyal following and some broad support.
Wouldn’t it be nice if that were the way we elected our legislatures?
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Based on the results of Fair Voting BC’s democratic reform survey, Vancouver voters can be reasonably confident that the next city council will petition Victoria a third time to change the city’s charter to allow Vancouverites to choose their own voting system. They can also expect more deliberative dialogue processes similar to the West End Mayor’s Advisory Committee and continued interest in online voting, coupled with some scepticism about whether online voting can be acceptably secure. Depending on who gets elected, there will also be more or less openness to considering new ways to vote that might more accurately reflect voters’ true preferences.
On October 30, 2011, Fair Voting BC sent a survey on civic democratic reform issues to all mayoral and council candidates in the city of Vancouver. This page presents their detailed responses. We also invite you to check out the press release we issued on November 11, 2011, as well as a list of responses summarized by question.
As we did in 2008, Fair Voting BC is again asking candidates for civic office to take a stand on the need for democratic reforms at the municipal level. This year’s questions include the following:
- Do you commit yourself, if elected, to renewing in the first year of your term the city’s long-standing request for Victoria to grant local governments the power to choose our own voting system?
- If elected, will you endorse expanded use of deliberative dialogue approaches (similar to the Mayor’s Advisory Council in Vancouver) to generate future policy options?
- Which of the following best describes your view of the benefits of online (internet) voting?
- Online voting is proven to substantially improve democratic engagement
- Online voting has good potential to improve democratic engagement
- Online voting is unlikely to significantly change democratic engagement
- Which of the following best describes your attitude towards the security issues related to online voting?
- Online voting is now sufficiently robust and secure to be used in civic elections
- Online voting is relatively secure and may be valuable for consulting citizens, but is probably too insecure to be relied on for civic elections
Online voting is currently too vulnerable to undetectable fraud to be used in a civic election
Please comment on what democracy-related issues most concern you (e.g., voting, campaign financing, citizen engagement, etc.).
- If you are a current council member, please highlight any democracy-related initiatives you or your party has undertaken in the past term.
- If elected, what do you personally commit yourself to doing during the coming council term to promote democratic reform?
We will be collecting responses until the end of the first week in November, at which point we will be distributing candidates’ responses to our supporters and to the media via a press release. At the moment, we are specifically inviting candidates in Vancouver to respond to this survey, but we encourage our supporters to volunteer to solicit responses from candidates in their own towns and cities around BC. Please send an email to email@example.com if you would like to help us in this effort – we can easily set up a custom SurveyMonkey survey for you and give you a link to distribute to your local candidates which will allow you to collect their responses automatically.
Voters Consistently Ignored With Single Member Plurality
A slew of recent provincial election results under the current Single Member Plurality voting system shows just how common it is for voters’ expressed intentions to be largely ignored in the makeup of the resulting legislature, and therefore how large swaths of the population end up not being represented the way they wish and deserve to be.
SMP Delivers Overwhelming Majority of Seats Even When Half the Voters Don’t Vote for Leading Party
PEI went to the polls in early October. The Liberals went into this election with a large lead – polls at the end of August were giving them a lead over the Conservatives of 59% to 31% (with the Greens and NDP splitting the last 10%) and, had this support held up, they certainly would have deserved to win a majority government. But would they have been entitled to win every last seat in the PEI legislature? That’s what seat projections were showing. Over the campaign, the race had tightened quite a bit: in the final days of the campaign, the Liberals lead had dropped to 53% and the Conservatives had risen to 34%. How would this shift in fortunes been rewarded by our voting system? The day before the election, the well-respected political predictor, Eric Grenier, at threehundredeight.com used polling data to estimate that the Conservatives would win a single measly seat. When the vote was counted, the race was even closer than the polls were showing – the Liberals had dropped a further 2% to 51% and the Conservatives had gained a remarkable 7% to end at 40%. However, the Conservatives were not rewarded for their valiant campaigning, ending up with a mere 5 seats to the Liberals’ 22 – i.e., with 51% of the vote, the Liberals took 82% of the seats. Perhaps more importantly, the Conservatives were essentially shut out of the more urban parts of the province – only their Stratford-Kinlock seat is close to the capital.
Such results are drearily typical of Single Member Plurality voting. Newfoundland had a similar outcome – the Conservatives won 56% of the vote and took a large surplus of seats: 37 of 48 (77% of the total). The Liberals retained the title of Official Opposition by winning 6 seats on 19% of the vote, while the NDP came in third with 5 seats on only 25% of the vote – well behind the Liberals. Huh? Only in the wacky world of SMP voting is 25% less than 19%!
Close Contests Are Really No Contest
In PEI and Newfoundland, SMP delivered an overwhelming landslide to the leading party. In both Manitoba and Ontario, the two leading parties had virtually the same level of popular support, but in both cases one party ended up with many more seats than their near-rival – on the order of 1.5-2X as many. Such distortions greatly exaggerate the actual closeness of the race, and, as in PEI and Newfoundland, tend to produce highly regionalized results (see maps below).
In Manitoba, the NDP won 46% of the vote to the Conservative’s 43% – quite a close contest. However, due to the vagaries of SMP, the NDP won 36 of 57 seats – 63% of the total. The Conservatives had to settle for 20 of the remaining seats, while the Liberals, who took 8% of the vote, had to settle for a single seat. As with PEI, there was a strong regional (rural/urban) divide with the Conservatives winning virtually all rural seats in the south of the province and on the southwestern edge of Winnipeg, while the NDP won almost all the other seats in Winnipeg and the northern half of the province.
It is somewhat ironic that the Conservatives had, at some points, been predicted to win a higher share of the popular vote than the NDP, but even if this had happened, the seat results would have remained unchanged. Conservative leader Hugh McFadyen resigned following the election, saying that the outcome was “far short of we had hoped for.” Despite virtually matching the NDP in the popular vote, McFadyen said “The reality is this in politics … you have to deliver bottom-line results if you want to carry on as leader of the party.” The irony is that this is not the reality in most countries around the world – maybe it’s time for the Manitoba Conservative Party to endorse a more proportional voting system so that their supporters can get the representation they deserve.
The Ontario election in October produced a similar result – the day before the election, ThreeHundredEight.com was predicting that the popular vote was a solid three-way contest with the Liberals slightly ahead of the Conservatives (36.6% to 33.3%), but this small difference was expected to deliver twice as many seats to the Liberals than to the Conservatives. The NDP, with 2/3rds the popular support of the leading Liberals, were expected to win barely one third as many seats. In the end, the Liberals ended up at over 37%, the Conservatives about 2% lower at just over 35%, and the NDP down to under 23%; the Liberals won one seat shy of a majority at 53 seats and the Conservatives gained ground to win 37 seats (the NDP took 17). This seat distribution corresponds somewhat more closely to the parties’ vote shares than originally predicted, but the Liberals still gained a significantly disproportional advantage from how the votes were distributed. As in Manitoba, the results reflected a strong regional divide, with the Conservatives sweeping several rural regions and the Liberals taking a disproportionate number of the seats in the Greater Toronto Area.
Time For Elections To Make Sense?
When I explained these various provincial election results to my children, they were aghast. “How can they let this happen?” they asked me. An excellent question. I’m doing all I can to stop these outrageous outcomes, and I invite all of you to join Fair Voting BC in working for an end to elections that don’t make sense.
Our friends at ARDD (L’Association pour la Revendication des Droits Démocratiques, or the Association for Claiming Democratic Rights) have just informed us that the Quebec Court of Appeals has turned down their motion to have Single Member Plurality voting declared unconstitutional. Although the court did not accept their claim, they also did not explicitly explain the basis for countenancing the self-evident denial of representation to millions of voters and thereby, according to ARDD’s legal team, have left open the way for an appeal to the Supreme Court. We invite you to join us in fundraising to support this appeal – please visit the link on the right to offer your support.
The information we received from ARDD is copied below; please visit their website for more details:
In summary, the Appeal Court accepted what was obvious, the first-past-the-post voting system distorts the popular vote, but declared that this in itself wasn’t sufficient to grant our motion since all voting systems produce distortions.
Well then, what about the scale of the distortions and the manner in which they are produced? We provided expert testimony that demonstrates that the level of distortion is beyond that of the distortions caused by other electoral practices and were subsequently declared unconstitutional and that the manner in which it is done is unclear violation of the equality guarantees of the Charter.
No matter, this evidence wasn’t given proper consideration. In the lower court decision not a word was devoted to our most compelling evidence in the analysis and the Appeal Court Judges decided that this slight of hand did not constitute a judicial error.
Again, we would accept the decision if it had been demonstrated that we had erred in claiming that the fact that first-past-the-post denied effective representation to as many as a million voters that voted for the Greens in the 2008 federal election was an infringement of their democratic rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
But this was not done. They simply dodged this inconvenient fact with dismissive silence concerning how such an electoral anomaly could be countenanced. To date, the contestable prejudice caused to those who have their votes discarded by an electoral system that is unique in that it doesn’t possess a mechanism to aggregate votes or voting preferences has not been addressed and thus gives us grounds for an appeal.
Moreover, Judge Dufresne went on to make two outlandish statements that suggests that he doesn’t believe that fundamental democratic principles apply to the Charter Right to effective representation.
The first was to suggest that the fact that the reversal of the democratic result of the Quebec 1966 and 1998 general elections (the party that won less votes than another went on to form a majority government) and the fact that almost a million voters who voted Green did not gain any representation in the 2008 federal election did not constitute an impairment of effective representation. At the same time, Judge Dufresne uses a statistical outlier, a once-in-a-hundred year electoral result from the 2007 Quebec General Election (the three major parties gained more or less representation proportional to the popular vote) to demonstrate that the distortions inherent to first-past-the-post are not systemic, yet he ignored that two smaller parties that together garnered 7% of the vote in 2007 were denied any representation at all.
He then suggests that the most recent federal election in which the Conservatives form a majority government with only 39% of the popular vote and in Quebec the Bloc is reduced only 4 out of 75 seats despite amassing 25% of the popular vote while the the NDP gains 70% of the seats with only approximately 40% of the vote is evidence to the contrary. In making such a claim, Judge Dufresne again asserts that effective representation does not require that each and every vote carries relative equal weight.
One has to wonder what is the frame of reference being used to apply the concept of effective representation for each and every citizen. Do the egalitarian values inherent to democracy enter the equation? Apparently not in Quebec at this time.
Consequently, we will be filing an appeal to have our case heard at the Supreme Court of Canada.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
In 2009, then-radio-host Christy Clark said “people are sick to death of the way our political system operates. … People tell me … they’re tired of electing politicians who ignore what their constituents want and do what their leaders want them to instead.”
Clark could have chosen no better example of this behaviour than the recent HST fiasco. Regardless of the technical merits of a Value-Added Tax, even the government has acknowledged that opposition to the tax was “in large measure due to our own handling of the introduction of that major policy change”, as Finance Minister Kevin Falcon said. Premier Clark likewise noted that “government understood the way this was brought in well over a year ago wasn’t good enough.”
It is worth considering why the government at the time felt that they could introduce the HST so soon after an election campaign in which they had explicitly denied that they were considering it. According to Fair Voting BC President Antony Hodgson, a significant contributing factor was the disproportionate number of seats our voting system gives to the major parties.
“In 2009, the Liberals won 46% of the popular vote, but our First-Past-the-Post voting system gave them 58% of the seats,” Hodgson said. “Since half the seats effectively gives a party all the power, the government was able to cut off debate on the HST in the legislature and ignore calls to engage in public consultation. Dissent inside the party was squelched. When high-profile Liberal MLA Blair Lekstrom felt heat from his constituents and called for slowing down and engaging the public in conversation, he was forced to resign.”
“The HST referendum results clearly show that BC voters want our government to listen to us,” Hodgson added. “Tools such as citizen initiative rights (imperfect as BC’s current Act is) and reformed ways of voting such as the Single Transferable Vote (STV) recommended by the Citizens’ Assembly can play an important role in shifting the balance of power away from the Premier’s office towards more involvement of voters and empowerment of individual MLAs.”
Christy Clark echoed this idea in her impassioned plea in 2009 that voters support STV: “the change it will bring frightens [the backroom boys] – politicians will be forced to listen to their communities first and their leaders and parties second.“
In light of the clear public thirst for meaningful influence over public policy, Fair Voting BC calls on the provincial government to re-open a public dialogue on updating our voting system and initiative rights to better enable us to hold our politicians accountable.
Invite Your Friends and Neighbours
Fair Voting BC invites you to host a video night with your friends and neighbours during the week of September 12-18 to celebrate National Democracy Week; this is a great opportunity to break out the popcorn and talk about an important issue that doesn’t necessarily come up in everyday conversation.
Check out the great lineup of suggested movies we’ve put together (see below), along with our “Hosting a Video Night” checklist. Head down to your local video store, grab one of these movies, and enjoy an evening of stimulating conversation.
“Hosting a Video Night” Checklist:
Before the event:
- Pick a date
- Pick a movie (see below) and buy popcorn
- Invite friends and neighbours, or post a notice (if you’re ambitious, book a room at a community centre, school or church)
- Add details of your event to our map (see below – just click the ‘Add’ button)
At the event:
- Welcome people and collect their contact information (ask if they’d like to sign up for our monthly email newsletter)
- Show the movie
- Discuss the issues; talk about what people might like to do to respond
- Follow up with us at Fair Voting BC – let us know if you’ve decided to do something, or would like help from us to get something going (send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Map of Video Night Events:
Click on the map to the right to open a full-size view. If you’re hosting an event, please add your event to our map by clicking on the ‘Add’ button (include contact information if you’re open to more people joining you). If you’re looking to join an event, browse through the event markers in your area.
Note: the ‘Add’ button is a little hard to find – look for it under the row of buttons at the top right of the map. When you enter an event, you will get a little popup menu – click the top entry to confirm. You should also add event details on the second tab in the dialog box (you can ignore the other tabs). Finally, save your marker’s URL if you want to edit your information in the future.
Note about our suggestions: Fair Voting BC is a non-partisan organization. Some of the following films have a definite partisan slant, but we have included them because they deal more or less explicitly with some aspect of democracy, not because FVBC endorses any particular film. By and large, the text is drawn from the films’ websites. Please let us know if you have other suggestions for us.
Films About Canada:
- Democracy 4 Dummies (2007). This documentary shows curious cynics and aspiring politicians how to run for office with little or no money. Full of laughs and satirical commentary, this election adventure should leave even the most skeptical viewer thinking, “If these guys can do it, so can I!” Democracy 4 Dummies follows the campaign trail of Dylan Perceval-Maxwell, an eccentric Green Party candidate and vegetable oil car driver in Montreal. While Dylan ultimately loses to federal opposition leader Gilles Duceppe, he gets the most votes of any Green Party candidate in Quebec. Dylan and other Green Party candidates show us how to raise funds and collect signatures with dogs, skirts and anything else catchy.
- Encirclement: Neo-Liberalism Ensnares Democracy (2008, B&W, 160 min) Drawing upon the thinking and analyses of renowned intellectuals, this documentary sketches a portrait of neo-liberal ideology and examines the various mechanisms used to impose its dictates throughout the world.
- Democracy à la Maude (1998) A Canadian woman leads the fight against unjust corporate globalization, and for social justice. Bullfrog Films, NFB
Films Based in the USA
- Gerrymandering (2010) – order through their website. Takes a hard look at the framework of our democracy and how it provides our politicians a perfectly legal way to control electoral outcomes by altering electoral district boundaries.
- UNCOUNTED (2008) is an explosive documentary that shows how the election fraud that changed the outcome of the 2004 election led to even greater fraud in 2006 – and now looms as an unbridled threat to the outcome of the 2008 election. This controversial film examines in factual, logical, and yet startling terms how easy it is to change election outcomes and undermine election integrity across the U.S. Noted computer programmers, statisticians, journalists, and experienced election officials provide the irrefutable proof.
- Murder, Spies & Voting Lies (the Clint Curtis story) (2008) Whistle-blower Clint Curtis, a computer programmer by trade, sticks to his claims that he was asked to make vote-rigging software for electronic voting machines by former US Congressman and loyal Bushite,Tom Feeney (R-Fl). Tension rises when the vote-rigging scandal dips into a murder mystery. While Clint Curtis testified to a Congressional Judiciary committee caucus in December 2004, and passed a lie detector test shortly thereafter, mainstream media has paid scant attention to his story. Independent filmaking is filling that gap.
- Hacking Democracy (2006). The disturbingly shocking HBO documentary HACKING DEMOCRACY bravely tangles with our nation’s ills at the heart of democracy. The film the Diebold corporation doesn’t want you to see, this revelatory profile follows a tenacious grandmother from Seattle, Bev Harris, and her band of extraordinary citizen-activists as they set out to ask one simple question: How does America count its votes? This movie starkly reveals a rotten system riddled with inaccuracy, incompetent election officials, and electronic voting machines that can be programmed to steal elections.
- CAN MR. SMITH GET TO WASHINGTON ANYMORE? (2007). The inspiring story of a modern-day Mr. Smith’s quixotic campaign to win the 2006 Missouri Democratic primary with little more than political savvy, tireless work, and passionate leadership over a committed group of grassroots volunteers that grows from a few friends to more than 500 by election day. When twenty-nine-year-old Jeff Smith decides to run for the congressional seat of the retiring Democratic party leader Richard Gephardt, his family and friends think he’s crazy.
- Recount (2008): HBO docudrama about the hanging chad controversy in Palm Beach County featuring Kevin Spacey as Gore advisor Ron Klain and Laura Dern as Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris.
- Recount Democracy (2002) Forget the hanging chads and butterfly ballots. The Presidential election drama of 2000 is still a mystery to most Americans. “Recount Democracy” investigates charges of disenfranchisement and 180,000 uncounted Florida votes cast largely by the working poor and people of color, uncovering racial exclusion, voting rights violations and the subverting of a recount in the most contested and controversial election in U.S. history.
- DEFLATING THE ELEPHANT: FRAMED MESSAGES BEHIND CONSERVATIVE DIALOGUE (2009) teaches us how language impacts our lives and more significantly, our political discourse. Language is influenced by what is known as framing, meaning every word is connected to a concept. How those concepts are used and repeated have proven to shape ideology, behavior and thought-process. George Lakoff, author of Moral Politics: What Conservatives Know and Liberals Don’t and Don t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, dissects the conservative dialogue and provides explanations and examples on how they have spent the last 35 years perfecting their ideas and their language. Framed messages is a system and strategy that works. The key is to understand why it works. Features Sean Penn.
- Electile Dysfunction (2008) The mere fact that political consultants who make their living manipulating voters are willing to analyze their tactics onscreen without fear of repercussion sums up the problem with the modern electoral process. Public disapproval of politics and politicians is at an all time high, and for good reason. Cynicism and distrust are the hallmarks of this public disenchantment. The unholy alliance of special interest money and public policy has produced government that is perceived to be out of touch with the reality of everyday citizens and unresponsive to their needs.
- Dear Oprah: Non-Voting America’s Wildest Dream (2008) Almost a hundred million Americans don’t vote. Even when they’re electing their president and, with that, the most powerful political leader in the world. A year before the presidential elections of 2008 a crew of young European filmmakers goes on a journey all across the country in a little old motor home to search for America’s missing voters. Who are they? Why don’t they vote? Can a young and fresh presidential candidate as Barack Obama make them vote? How would American politics change if more young people, single women, poor white people, African-Americans and Latino’s would start voting?
- Media Malpractice (2009) The 2008 Presidential election was historic in many ways. For the first time, the vast majority of mainstream media decided to openly back one candidate. Media Malpractice tells the entire story of this precedent-setting and dangerous media reality. In just four years, Barack Obama went from being a little-known State Senator, to being elected President of the United States. This film explores the role of the media in facilitating the victory that shocked the world. While the media did everything they could to elevate Obama, they took a very different view of John McCain s VP nominee Governor Sarah Palin. With an interview of Palin done exclusively for this film, Media Malpractice examines the real story behind many of the media-created perceptions used in a blatant attempt to destroy her credibility.
- Frontrunners (2008), is a charming, candid, and almost scary glimpse into the advanced levels of student sophistication in America’s top high schools. In this case, filmmaker Caroline Suh, who has copious experience as a documentary producer, put her documentary research skills to use at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, an elite school in which students who aren’t admitted to Top Ten colleges are considered total rejects by their peers. Frontrunners charts the arc of the student government elections, starring four kids who want the presidency.
- The War on Democracy (2007): Award winning journalist John Pilger examines the role of Washington in America’s manipulation of Latin American politics during the last 50 years leading up to the struggle by ordinary people to free themselves from poverty and racism. Since the mid 19th Century Latin America has been the ‘backyard’ of the US, a collection of mostly vassal states whose compliant and often brutal regimes have reinforced the ‘invisibility’ of their majority peoples. The film reveals similar CIA policies to be continuing in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon. The rise of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez despite ongoing Washington backed efforts to unseat him in spite of his overwhelming mass popularity, is democratic in a way that we have forgotten or abandoned in the west.
MANUFACTURING CONSENT (1993) explores the political life and ideas of world-renowned linguist, intellectual and political activist Noam Chomsky. Through a dynamic collage of biography, archival gems, imaginative graphics and outrageous illustrations, Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick’s award-winning documentary highlights Chomsky’s probing analysis of mass media and his critique of the forces at work behind the daily news.
- Keys to Good Government (1993) In recent years, American government has been plagued with a burgeoning number of scandals and corrupt public officials, yet for almost two centuries American government had been characterized as sound and morally untainted. What caused the change? Unfortunately, we disregarded and lost much of the specific advice given to us by those distinguished men who formed our original government. Discover the keys to good government by investigating the wise counsel and instruction given to us by leaders like William Penn, Benjamin Rush, Noah Webster, John Witherspoon, John Adams, Fisher Ames, George Washington, and many others.
Films About Other Countries
- Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas (2008) What is democracy? Freedom, equality, participation? Everyone has his or her own definition. Across the world, 120 countries now have at least the minimum trappings of democracy—the freedom to vote for all citizens. But for many, this is just the beginning not the end. A look at new democratic institutions and experiments in both North and South America.
- The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard (2006) This UK-based mini-series follows Mrs Ros Pritchard, a successful manager of a supermarket. When a couple of politicians make a spectacle of themselves outside her shop, Ros decides to stand for election herself, just to prove that she could do better. Her story grips the nation and eight weeks later no one is more surprised than Ros herself when she wins the General Election and becomes the next Prime Minister. Six 1-hour episodes.
- Please Vote for Me (Chinese, with subtitles) (2007). Two males and a female vie for office, indulging in low blows and spin, character assassination and gestures of goodwill, all the while gauging their standing with voters. The setting is not the Democratic presidential campaign, but a third-grade class at an elementary school in the city of Wuhan in central China. “Please Vote For Me”, which is on the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences documentary feature shortlist, packs its fleet hour with keen observations. Chroniciling a public school’s first open elections – at stake is the position of class monitor – filmmaker Weijun Chen has crafted a witty, engaging macro-lens view of human nature, China’s one-child policy and the democratic electorial process as the ultimate exercise in marketing.
- Frontrunner (2008) The setting: Afghanistan’s first democratic election ever. In the aftermath of 9/11, America’s military might has set the stage. But who will determine the fate of democracy in Afghanistan? Is it possible, a woman running for President? Where unspeakable cruelty to women had become part of day-to-day life under the Taliban? Vote for the mother, Dr. Massouda Jala shouts to the crowd. FRONTRUNNER tells the heroic story of this medical doctor and mother of three and the first presidential bid by a woman since the ouster of the Taliban.
- Sex, Drugs and Democracy (1994). This feature-length documentary film explores the limits of personal freedom by taking an uncensored look at the unconventional approach to morality and politics in Holland.
For more ideas, check out this list of over 20 political films compiled by the Springfield City Public Library and this list of 10 documentary films shown in 2004 as a package called “Why Democracy?”.
In response to Tuesday’s announcement that Vancouver will ask the province for permission to conduct an internet voting trial in the fall municipal elections, Fair Voting BC is giving the city a yellow light.
“We applaud the city for seeking to increase voter participation and believe that online voting will come,” said Antony Hodgson, President of Fair Voting BC. “However, for elections to be recognized by the public as legitimate, we have to know that the voting process is transparent. Voters should not be asked to trust a system they cannot monitor. That’s why we have scrutineers in our current system.”
“With today’s online voting systems, you send your vote into the ether”, said Jim DeLaHunt, a director with Fair Voting BC and a computer scientist with 25 years experience. “With no paper ballot, there’s no way to check that the system recorded your vote properly. Since all votes go through a central software system, they are vulnerable to bugs and tampering. Is it really so unimaginable that, with control over the city’s $1B annual budget at stake, election software employees won’t be vulnerable to bribes?”
“The principle of a secret ballot is also at risk. Voting is not like online banking,” said DeLaHunt. “With online banking, your transactions are secure but not secret. You can see that your bank processed them properly. But with voting, neither the government nor the software providers should know how you voted.”
DeLaHunt added that Fair Voting BC’s concerns echo those of professional computer scientists: “The internet has the potential to transform democracy in many ways, but permitting it to be used for public elections without assurance that the results are verifiably accurate is an extraordinary and unnecessary risk to democracy,” declared the Verified Voting organization.
DeLaHunt plans to pursue discussions with the city’s Chief Electoral Officer, city councilors and Minister Chong to ensure that the requirements will address Fair Voting BC’s concerns. Fair Voting BC also plans to approach other cities, such as Surrey, which are considering online voting.
- Jim DeLaHunt
Director, Fair Voting BC
- Antony Hodgson
President, Fair Voting BC
- Fair Voting BC is a non-profit society which works to promote fair, accountable and transparent democratic processes at all levels of government in BC. We served as the official proponents in the 2009 BC-STV referendum campaign.
- Jim DeLaHunt is a Vancouver software consultant with 25 years experience, including 16 with Adobe Systems in Silicon Valley. He holds an MSc degree in computer science from Stanford University and has been studying the e-voting issue for nearly 10 years. Antony Hodgson is a mechanical engineering professor at UBC and has served as a director with Fair Voting BC since the 2005 BC-STV referendum. He became president in 2009.
Fair Voting BC has long opposed the vote-splitting problems created by our Single Member Plurality (First-Past-the-Post) voting system. All too frequently, voters are forced to choose between voting for the candidate they most support, but who they feel has relatively little chance of being elected, and another candidate who they like less, but who has a better chance to beat a candidate the voter truly dislikes. If the voter decides to vote for a less-liked candidate to defeat their least-liked candidate, we say they are voting strategically.
FVBC does not explicitly endorse strategic voting, but we recognize that for many individuals it is a perfectly rational response to the flaws of SMP. With that in mind, we would like to give you a list of websites you might find useful in your quest to make your vote count as much as possible:
Websites Presenting Computer Models Predicting Riding-Level Outcomes
These sites are non-partisan in their orientation and useful for all voters. The details of the prediction methods vary, but all are explicitly described, so the reader can make their own judgements about their reliability.
- Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy – An academic website presenting results of their “regional swing model” predictor.
- Three Hundred Eight – An excellent seat estimator for the 308 seats in the House of Commons. Has a helpful chart showing the current estimates of their model on a riding-by-riding basis.
- DemocraticSpace – Another excellent seat estimator. Has downloadable PDF files predicting outcomes on a riding-by-riding basis.
Websites Describing Strategic Voting and Offering Specific Advice on How to Do It
Warning: The following sites are all explicitly anti-Conservative and target Liberal, NDP and Green supporters seeking to prevent a Conservative win or majority. FVBC is non-partisan and so does not endorse strategic voting targeting a specific party.
- Pair Vote – Offers to match voters in different ridings who can’t cast an honest vote in their own riding without it being rendered useless by our SMP system. Although it is explicitly anti-Conservative, we believe they would honour requests to swap votes on behalf of Conservatives who live in ridings where their vote would not help their local candidate.
- Project Democracy – A new website in this election, it appears to have emerged from the voteforenvironment.ca website in the 2008 election. Has an explicitly anti-Conservative stance, offering advice on a riding-by-riding basis about who to vote for to prevent a Conservative majority.
- Catch 22 – Also an explicitly anti-Conservative site offering advice about how to vote locally to prevent a Conservative majority.
- Swing 33 – Refers to the number of seats needed in 2008 to have swung the election from a Conservative to a Liberal minority government. In addition to providing strategic voting advice, this site also suggests the idea of strategic donations – ie, contributing in close races to prevent a Conservative from winning
- Avaaz – Presents a different interface to the estimates provided by Project Democracy
The following article is generally neutral, but the publication itself is left-leaning:
- The Tyee – Presented a guide to the guides for strategic voting, including references to some academic papers on the subject
Critiques of Strategic Voting
- For an interesting perspective on the potential downsides of strategic voting, check out this CBC story by Professor and former NDP candidate Michael Byers or the Pundits’ Guide to Canadian Federal Elections which has an article entitled “Why the Conservatives Love the “Strategic” Voting Sites“. If you’re going to engage in strategic voting, you should do so with your eyes open!
- Also see Amy Minsky in the National Post arguing that there’s little evidence strategic voting works.
- Lead Now – a youth-oriented voter-engagement website. They led a public participatory process aimed at identifying top priorities for whichever new government forms.
- CBC Vote Compass – this site asks you to answer several policy questions and rate their relative importance to you and produces a map showing where you lie relative to the positions of the various national parties. Close to 2 million voters have used this tool during this election.