12 Electoral Systems.doc

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15 Apr 2012
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12. ELECTORAL SYSTEM
The electoral system in Canada is an adaptation of the British model (i.e. one
person – one vote; single member, simple plurality elections) at the federal and
provincial levels and an adaptation of the American model (presidential-
congressional system) at the municipal level, but with many variations. However,
the one person, one vote principle is often not upheld.
Franchise
- provincial versus federal control of the federal franchise
- restrictions, current and present, on who can vote: citizenship, age limits,
women, property owners, Asians, Aboriginal peoples, mentally disabled
and prisoners, place of residence
- voters lists – temporary vs. permanent – and fixed election dates
Distribution of MPs seats between provinces
- redistribution of constituencies represented by MPs every 10 years
- quotient, Senatorial floor, grandfather clause
- maldistribution of seats between provinces
Distribution of MPs seats within provinces
- gerrymandering and the role of the courts (provincially)
- riding boundaries to be redrawn in each province every 10 years
- Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, 1964
- Electoral Boundaries Commissions (10)
- margins above or below the average
Political consequences of electoral laws
- ballot structure categorical/nominal or ordinal
- magnitude of electoral districts single member or multi-member
- electoral formula majority, plurality or proportional
In most countries, there is a consistent association between single-member
plurality formulas and two-party political systems. Canada, at least federally, is a
major exception.
The electoral system and the party system
- single member, simple plurality system vs. proportional representation
- the electoral system as a promoter of regionalism and a source of division
in the country – ref. Alan C. Cairns
- attempts to change federal and provincial electoral systems, e.g. Ontario
and British Columbia
Plebiscitary (direct) democracy
- Canada is a representative democracy, with a few exceptions
- referendum, plebiscite, initiative, recall.