The Canada Weighted Vote Electoral Method

How It Works

For Quick Access:  To view a pdf file that shows how CWV produces proportional representation, click here.  If you'd like to input your own election scenarios and see the CWV outcome, click here to access an interactive file in Excel format. 


What the Canada Weighted Vote Electoral Method is:

An electoral method to achieve proportional representation in a national or regional legislative body. 

How it works - A Summary:

1.  At the ballot box in each voting district, all registered political parties are listed, including those without a candidate in the district.  All registered candidates, including those without party affiliation, are listed on the ballot.

2.  Voters cast one vote for a single candidate or party to represent them.  The candidate receiving more votes than any other becomes the only Member of Parliament (MP) for the district.

3.  The voting power of parties represented in Parliament (Canada's House of Commons) is then brought into line with each party's share of the popular vote, by awarding additional parliamentary votes (not additional MPs) to parties that were ‘short-changed’ in the election, based on their share of the popular vote.  This is done electronically, instantaneously.  

4.  If enabled by legislation, the most under-represented political parties that have met a predetermined minimum percentage of the overall national popular vote are awarded one or more MPs, appointed from 'party lists'.  As a respect to democracy, a low threshold is recommended.

6.  The average voting power of each party MP is determined by dividing the party's total voting entitlement equally among the number of the party's MPs.  For example, each MP of a party that won 10% of the overall vote in a general election, but won only 5% of seats, will have 2 votes in the House of Commons.  However, the distribution by MP can be varied by Party Leaders (for example, to balance regional representation in the party).     

7.  MPs who have been elected as Independents or have no party affiliation have a vote in the Parliament equal to the overall average parliamentary vote per party MP.     

The process of how this works to produce proportional representation can be seen in the pdf or Excel files referred to at the top of this page. 

Impacts and Outcomes

1.  The tradition of exactly one vote in parliament for each Member of Parliament (MP) is ended.  Most MPs are given additional votes, including fractions of a vote, to reflect the percentage of the popular vote received by their party.  No MP has less than one full vote.  A majority of “Voices”, which determines decisions in the House of Commons, would have to be defined in legislation as “the expression of the ballots cast by voters in an election and represented by the number of parliamentary votes of each Member of the House of Commons”, or other wording to that effect.  Parliamentary power is defined by the percent of the total popular vote won by each party and the parliamentary votes carried by each party, rather than by parliamentary seat.

2.  Parliamentary power is defined by the strength of the popular vote and the parliamentary votes carried by each party, rather than by parliamentary seats. 

3.  Full proportional representation is achieved without changes to district boundaries or district magnitudes; exactly one MP is elected to represent each district. 

4.  Every vote cast at the ballot box counts towards every voter's first choice; strategic or compromise voting is unnecessary (No more "I can't vote for her because she doesn't have a chance of winning.")

5.  An end of strategic voting would likely increase diversity of representation.  Voters have an effective choice in favour of parties that they see as being more representative of their views.  New parties that might form around segments of society have a better chance of representation, as representation is based on total popular vote across all districts, and not on individual districts.  

6.  If it does not disturb the ratio of seats by province and territory, the number of seats in the House of Commons could be increased by a relatively small number, through the appointment of party list MPs for the most under-represented parties meeting percentage threshold minimums.  

8.  Voter participation may increase significantly (no more "What's the use? The system is rigged.").

9.  CWV does not specifically apply quotas to ensure gender or ethnic equality; its focus is on the fair representation of broad national policies in parliament.  However, because CWV is likely to increase the number of represented political parties, and because every vote counts, all parties are likely to become more sensitive to issues of gender, culture, and ethnicity.  Representation is likely to become more balanced.  Also, party Leaders may assign heavier voting power to MPs in their caucus that he/she deems under-represented of a gender or ethnic community.

10.  Coalition governments become the norm.  Compromise on legislation becomes common practice, as governments realize that with CWV they are not likely to achieve a real majority (that is, an overall popular vote of more than 50%) if they call an election when key legislation is defeated.  Forcing legislation to be passed using threats of snap elections becomes rare.  In this way, CWV creates more stability than minority governments under today’s electoral system.  Fears of ‘fringe’ parties holding disproportionate power recede.          

11.  Unless the rare situation of a true majority occurs, legislation normally will be crafted to either earn the consent of other parties until a majority of votes in parliament, or be defeated.  Opposition Bills would be more fairly considered, and new ideas would be less likely to be suppressed.

12.  Members 'crossing the floor' have no effect on parliamentary vote standings; parliamentary votes remain with the party in accordance with its share of the popular vote in the most recent general election, as modified by by-elections.  If an MP chooses to leave his/her party and sit as an Independent, he/she loses all voting power, as there has been no popular vote that elected him/her as such in the election.  An MP who has been removed from a party caucus carries with him/her one vote, as a respect to the district voters who may have elected him/her as a choice of person; the party removing an MP loses that parliamentary vote.  Alternatively, the MP removed from caucus can sit as an Independent and be assigned parliamentary voting power equal to the average for all MPs.   

13.  If there is a by-election in a district to fill a vacant seat, the popular vote results of the by-election replace those of the previous election in the district, and the overall voting power in parliament is recalculated.  Normally, the change would be very minor.

14.  Overall, the Canada Weighted Vote Electoral Method would achieve other, broader, results common to other forms of proportional representation, including citizen satisfaction with democracy, an increase in the number of political parties in parliament, a greater percentage of women in parliament, policies favouring better health, education, and security policies, possibly less income inequality over time, and stable economic policies.

Conformity to Principles:

Legitimacy – The Canada Weighted Vote Electoral Method (CWV), by ensuring that every ballot cast counts towards voting power in the Parliament or Legislature, promotes general acceptance of election results.

Fairness of Representation – CWV is a proportional representation system.  Because every vote counts towards legislative voting power, it is fair on the basis of population.  Demographic representation is accommodated by better enabling ethno-cultural groups, gender groups, and others to form political parties with voting power in the Legislature.  Importantly, representation is not solely defined by human membership in the Legislature or parliament, but by the weight of the votes carried by each political party.  This is a reflection of the fact that voters primarily vote for a preferred political party, regardless of the personality of the candidate.

Voter Choice -- The CWV method maintains the current system whereby any party or individual can be represented as a candidate in a district.  In addition, every registered political party is listed on the ballot, even if it is not fielding a candidate in the district.  Achieving PR with CWV encourages a wider variety of political parties and views, thereby increasing voter choice.  A voter’s first choice counts directly toward parliamentary power.

Effective parties -- All registered political parties are given parliamentary/legislative voting power in direct proportion to each’s share of the overall popular vote, as long as they elect at least one candidate, or are entitled to Party List MPs if they meet pre-set thresholds for representation in parliament . 

Stable and effective government -- The Canada Weighted Vote method will normally produce minority governments that may or may not necessitate building coalitions among parties.  Compromise on legislation and policy will be more common, as governing parties will see that, with more parties, the chances of achieving 50% or more of the popular vote in a general election is unlikely.  The experience of European countries with PR systems indicates that minority governments are as stable as Canada’s current first-past-the-post electoral system.

Effective parliament – The CWV method promotes full and open debate of a wider variety of views.  Unless there is an absolute majority outcome in an election, legislation is passed based on a broader consensus of all members of the Legislature.  Legislation is not forcibly enacted by false majorities, as is often the case under the current plurality system.

Stronger voter participation -- By ensuring that every vote counts directly towards each voter's preferred choice on the ballot, the Canada Weighted Vote system offers a positive rationale for voter participation.

Accountability – All MPs are directly accountable to the electorate on Election Day in the district which they represent. If there are List MPs, they have their seats as a result of their party’s overall share of the popular vote on Election Day, and in this way they are accountable to the electorate.

Simplicity and Practicallity of voting – The Canada Weighted Vote method maintains the current system of a single vote for one representative or one political party.  Voters do not rank unfamiliar candidates or vote for several outcomes.
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