Tuesday, July 12, 2016

5th Electoral Reform Committee meeting - JP Kingsley

in which the Conservatives only want to talk referendum and the Liberals mostly want to talk about online voting, which we aren't getting for the 2019 federal election, in part because the Liberals have not rolled back Fair Elections Act provisions that prevent Elections Canada from pilot testing it.

JP Kingsley gives his personal suggestion for a new combination electoral system - urban MMP and rural FPtP - and the CPC MPs launch the dismissive phrase "consultations in cafeterias" to refer to any discussions with Canadians about electoral reform that isn't a referendum.

Since May 2010, Kingsley, former Elections Canada CEO from 1990 - 2007, has been Chair of the Executive Advisory Committee of Dominion Voting, a Canadian company selling electronic voting machines and tabulators. In May 2010, Dominion bought the infamous Diebold Election Systems from Election Systems & Software. 
From 2007-2009, Kingsley was President & CEO of the Washington-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems, which "provides assistance and support for elections in new and emerging democracies" in 135 countries including Haiti, Iraq, Libya, Nicaragua, and Yemen.

Lest you think his position at Dominion Voting inclines Kingsley toward online voting for the next federal election, it does not. In a presumed response to Lib Ruby Sahota's comparison to online banking and Sherry Romanado's comment in the previous meeting that :
"I can order pizza online. On the day of the vote, it may be raining, I might be busy. Online voting gives me an option"
Kingsley, who thinks online voting is eventually inevitable and even necessary to engage the young and "differently abled" and voters not in their riding, said in his excellent opening remarks to the committee:
"Online voting. The analogy with online banking and purchasing I heard this morning is flawed. Banks hedge the risk from the person - a margin of error is acceptable against which they hedge. What margin of error is acceptable in elections?" 

The ERRE committee has not yet posted July minutes or transcripts so here's some notes on the Kingsley Q&A meantime : 

CPC Scott Reid : Referendum. He begins by quoting KIngsley from June : "You can only hold a referendum on a constitutional matter. Changing the electoral system is not a constitutional matter." Did you mean the Referendum Act would need to be changed to hold a referendum?
Kingsley : Yes, that's what I meant.
Reid : In 1992 you held a referendum 4 months after passing Referendum Act. Could you do it in 4 months again because Mayrand says he would need 6 months?
Kingsley : Easier then. Defers to Mayrand's 6 months.

NDP David Christopherson : Unlike Mayrand who is still in office, you can give opinions. Why should we move from comfort zone of FPtP to "something that more accurately describes the will of the people"?
Kingsley : "I can't think of a country that went with FPtP when installing a democracy because of its known difficulties. If you do not come out with a new system, then the people complaining about the system in place now will have to live with it."

Bloc Luc Theriault : More equitable state funding for small parties would address vote inequality.
Kingsley : We should return to previous system of $2 per vote per party annually, even if at $1.50 not $2. 
Theriault : Funding means smaller parties can make themselves heard in between election campaigns. 
Kingsley : My suggestion : Given size of Canada, remote vast rural ridings would keep FPtP to elect 40 to 60MPs. For urban ares, group 4 -5 current ridings and voters would choose their 4 or 5 MPs based on the vote. Everyone would vote for one candidate or one party. The party would be chosen by the new riding association from the grouped-together 4 or 5 ridings. To achieve gender parity in say 5 available seats, there would be 3 men and 3 women coordinated alternating man-woman-man-woman. Voters would vote for one man or one party - they would only have one vote. If 60% of people vote for Party A, they get 3 seats or 60%.

Elizabeth May : Given distortions we experienced under FPtP, do you believe our democracy will be improved when we get rid of it? 
Kingsley : Democracy will be improved when committee has done its work, when we have best system or least worst system as Shakespeare would have said. The process itself is important.
May : Power of PMO is unique to Canadian system. 
Kingsley : Concentration of power under Pierre E Trudeau was to ensure unity of direction, that ministers would not go contrary to what party wanted. That machinery over time created more authority of Prime Minister. Not directly related to issue but feeds into it.
Holding any referendum vote would require rewriting the outdated law but it was a good act re free broadcasting time - 1 1/2 hour to both sides. 

Lib Sherry Romanado : Simplicity of ballot, link between elector and elected, parties should be national coast to coast. Please elaborate.
Kingsley : Some parties are under-represented so there's bodies missing in caucus. In Quebec, eastern Canada there are fewer Conservatives than should be there. It's at caucus that national decisions are made for the rest of Canada - proportional or mixed proportional would address that but no system will be perfect.
Romanado : How would coast-to-coast parties affect intraparty competition?
Kingsley : Open list, choosing among candidates within the same party- electors rank within the same party which one they prefer. If only 4 to be elected in that riding, I would bust my proverbial to be among 1st four. There will be temptations but party discipline will address that. 
Romanado : I had 7 candidates in my riding and I benefitted from FPTP - that's the reality - but now I represent them all. 
Kingsley : With my suggestion, [ridings with several MPs] , after election, electors could choose who among those 4 or 5 they choose to take their issue to.

CPC Girard Deltell : Referendum. What is more important in consulting Canadians - a referendum or "townhall consultations in a cafeteria"?

Lib Ruby Sahota : Using compulsory attendance [not compulsory voting], would a new electoral system increase voter turnout?
Kingsley : I don't believe in compulsory voting, rather compulsory attendance. However "I don't know if 50% attendance at the polls is sufficient to lend legitimacy to a government."
Sahota : Twitter question : How much higher is voter turnout in countries with proportional representation?
Kingsley : One study by Prof Blais (sp?) found about 7%. I may be wrong. Might be marginal.
Sahota : Simplicity of ballot to increase voter turnout.
Kingsley : Youth are not voting. 58% turnout in last election; 39% in one before. Failure to engage. If we are to keep voluntary attendance at polls, we must do better at getting across *why* to vote. They don'y watch tv; why do we still do tv?

NDP Alexandre Boulerice : Public education needed. People think they are voting for a PM.
Kingsley : Must listen to Canadians. Social networks will create snowball effect. Canadians capable of understanding what democracy is about. I don't endorse any particular system but whatever you come up with must maintain link between MP and community.

CPC Blake Richards : Your suggestion of two systems - one urban, one rural - why is that a good system? 
Kingsley : People in rural areas accustomed to link with elected MP; a proportional system represents more difficulty for them because geography. 

Lib John Aldag : How do independents fit in to any new system?
Kingsley : A problem internationally with some PR systems but not mixed member. Chances of being elected the same as they are right now - low.
Aldag : Online voting. Mayrand not seeing it for 2019. When then?
Kingsley : Both later and faster than we think. All-pervasive technology must asssure integrity of elector identification. Mayrand said not in 2019 because he needs permission from House and Senate to even think about it never mind test pilot it; used to be just from PROC.
Aldag : Do you have preferred approach for a pilot test for say people with disabilities? How can we phase it in?
Mayrand : Could not apply to all Canadians - too broad a test. Could try people with "differing abilities" or mobility issues or a few ridings. Could then check to see how well we performed.
Aldag : What margin of error is acceptable?
Kingsley : Canadians will say if we have online voting - must be 0% error.

End of first round questioning. Might get to second round later if there is any interest in this first round.


West End Bob said...

Canadians will say if we have online voting - must be 0% error.

So what's the error %age under the current system?!?

Highly doubtful it is 0% . . . .

Alison said...

Bob : Kingsley's full quote : "Wittingly or otherwise under the current system there is a margin of error. It is exceedingly slim and it is not something that is mathematically ascertainable, but if we try to convince Canadians to go and vote online as a general population, they will say "I want zero percent error."

The crux of the problem according to Kingsley lies in both casting the vote and transferring the vote. A secret ballot demands that the link between the voter’s identity and that of the cast ballot be broken, so there’s no way to go back and check accuracy. he suggests concurrent paper ballots.

Here's a good article on how Online voting is a cybersecurity nightmare

Here's a problem from your neck of the woods involving the company Kingsley is now with - the second largest e-voting system vendor in the US : http://bradblog.com/?p=9221#more-9221

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