Thursday, August 30, 2007

The 3% Threshold

"Fringe parties who have trouble electing a single candidate will be given not one but four seats for hitting the 3% threshold of the popular vote count" - Robert White, Kitchener, ON (NO MMP website)

I like Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) voting because if 43% of the voters support a party, then that party deserves 43% of the seats. If 23% of the voters support another party, then that party deserves 23% of the seats. If 3% of the voters support a different party, then that party (and their voters) deserves 3% of the seats.

I may not like some of my opponents politically, even if they only represent three percent of the population. I want them to have fair representation in the legislature for the following reason: I want to hear from my opponents as much as I want my supporters to hear from me. Someday, my opponents may become my supporters.

I want fair representation in the Ontario legislature. I want MMP.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know we both support the current push for electoral reform in Ontario, but there are a couple of things about this particular post that I think are worth considering in a comparative context.

Namely, that the 3% threshold and pure proportionality are the two primary reasons why I believe we should be extremely sceptical of MMP.

First of all, if we take your axiom that we ought to hear from our opponents -- which I profoundly agree with -- then that should apply irrespective of whether they earn 2.9% of the vote or 3.1% of the vote. Either people like me who support 'fringe' parties don't have anything to contribute to public discourse as Robert White contends, or we do have something to contribute to public discourse as you and I contend. But placing any threshold speaks directly against the axiom of hearing opponents' voices, which both you and I support.

The 3% number is completely and totally arbitrary and inelegant. Who's to say it shouldn't be 2% or 5% or 1.5% as in Israel? The only thing that is certain is that MMP completely collapses without a threshold -- and, on the flip side, the existence of a threshold explicitly holds that some people's voices and votes aren't worth listening to.

STV does away with these arbitrary mechanisms by accounting for second vote choices and by completely eliminating arbitrary thresholds.

Secondly, there is a downside to PURE proportionality. Assume there are three parties: Party A is a social democratic party like the NDP who get 49% of the vote. Party B is a neo-liberal, capitalist party that gets 48% of the vote. Party C is a neo-fascist party that gets 3% of the vote exactly.

Under MMP, Party C gets to call the shots because it takes two parties to form a majority in that legislature irrespective of their size.

STV solves this problem by still generating results that follow along a more diluted form of a so-called 'cube law' (ie. one with a power closer to 1 than to 3) and thus by being proportional, but not purely proportional.