Press release no. 3 - Report of the Chief Electoral Officer on the voting system - The Chief Electoral Officer examines various ways of dividing the territory within the context of a compensatory mixed system



    QUEBEC, Dec. 21 /CNW Telbec/ - In his report concerning the compensatory
mixed system, the Chief Electoral Officer examines the ways of dividing
Québec's territory to apply a system by virtue of which both "division"
members and "list" candidates would be elected. It should be recalled that
according to the parameters defined in the Draft Bill to replace the Election
Act, general elections in Québec would make it possible to elect 127 members,
namely 77 members representing as many divisions, as well as 50 members chosen
from among the lists submitted by political parties. The purpose of the choice
of these list members would be to compensate for a lack of proportionality of
the plurality system in effect in Québec at present time.
    "As part of the scenario of the Draft Bill to replace the Election Act,
changing the voting system entails changing the electoral map," indicated
Mr. Marcel Blanchet, Chief Electoral Officer. "The challenge would then lie in
reconciling the objectives of effective representation which we are already
pursuing with the idea of improving the harmony between the votes cast and the
number of members elected," he added. As is the case when it is necessary to
determine the characteristics of the compensatory mixed system, several
choices may be made when dividing the territory, the impacts of which will
have to be known when the decision as to whether or not to change the voting
system is made.

    Single-member seats and "calculation basis"

    Starting from the premisses set out in the Draft Bill to replace the
Election Act, the Chief Electoral Officer believes that the process for
delimiting single-member seats would be similar to the one currently used,
except that instead of delimiting 125 electoral divisions, the Commission de
la représentation électorale should delimit 75 such divisions, to which would
be added two exceptional divisions, namely Iles-de-la-Madeleine and Nunavik.
Having said this, it is important to realize that the area of these
single-member seats would increase considerably, in comparison with the
current divisions.
    Moreover, the idea of using the federal electoral map, which has
75 ridings in Québec, as a basis for establishing the new map of the 77 Québec
electoral divisions was mentioned. The Chief Electoral Officer believes that
such a hypothesis would entail certain major drawbacks. Indeed, a delimitation
initiative would have to be carried out in any case to draw the boundaries of
the electoral divisions adjacent to the exceptional divisions. One must also
consider the fact that the federal map is based on the total population of the
territory, whereas the Québec map is drawn up by taking into account the
number of electors entered on the permanent list of electors.
    The Chief Electoral Officer already takes advantage of the portraits of
Québec's electoral population available every day from the permanent list of
electors. The Chief Electoral Officer considers that this is certainly the
most appropriate basis for drawing up an electoral map. This question of the
calculation basis is also relevant when delimiting the compensation regions.

    Compensation regions

    Under the hypothesis that a voting system would apply a compensation on a
regional basis, it would be necessary to draw on Québec's electoral map the
boundaries of a certain number of regions represented by the 50 "list" members
mentioned in the Draft Bill to replace the Election Act. The configuration of
these compensation regions raises various questions, notably when determining
how populated they will be.
    According to specialists and the analyses carried out by the Chief
Electoral Officer, the more populated the compensation region, the more seats
it will have and the more proportional the results will be. In such a context,
third parties would have better chances of being fairly represented. In
summary, the fewer the regions, the more proportionality will come into play.
    Here is a related question: what is the implicit vote threshold that a
political party needs to achieve in a compensation region in order to "obtain"
a first list member? Here once again, the fewer the regions, the more
available compensation (or "list") seats there will be, the lower the
compensation thresholds, and the easier it will be for small parties to take
advantage of compensation. Simulations carried out by the Institut de la
statistique du Québec (ISQ) reveal, for example, that if the national
territory is divided into nine regions having an equal population, the
representation threshold that must be achieved to obtain a first list member
is on average 7.1%, whereas with a national territory divided into 26 regions,
the representation threshold climbs to 20.9%.
    Another possibility mentioned during the work of the Special Committee on
the Draft Bill to replace the Election Act would be to determine the
boundaries of the compensation regions on the basis of the boundaries of the
17 current administrative regions of Québec. These administrative regions are
characterized by major disparities at the demographic level, with the
population of some of these regions being less numerous than some of the
districts mentioned in the Draft Bill. The compensation system would thus
function differently according to whether the region had a high or low
population density, which would reduce the proportionality of the election
results for a large number of regions. Certain "administrative" regions would
not even receive one compensation seat.

    Three delimitation hypotheses

    Under the hypothesis that a voting system with regional compensation and
regional redistribution or a national compensation system with regional
redistribution of list members were chosen, it would be necessary to establish
the regions serving as the basis for the calculation of the compensation. The
Chief Electoral Officer made three possible delimitations to see how the
compensation mechanisms would apply (see pages 90 to 98 of the report):

    
    - a first delimitation would include 15 regions (of the three
      delimitations, it is the one that would most respect the boundaries of
      the administrative regions);
    - the second scenario would comprise 17 compensation regions;
    - with the third delimitation, there would be 9 major regional units.
    

    An analysis of the "benefits vs. drawbacks" of these hypotheses shows
that the objective of proportional representation is best achieved in the
third case, where there would be only nine compensation regions. Indeed, each
of these territories would obtain at least two compensation seats, and in
seven out of nine cases, the territory would obtain three seats or more. In
fact, the simulations carried out by the ISQ reveal that there are few
differences in terms of the proportionality of results and the representation
of small parties between the nine-region scenario and a national compensation
where there would only be one big region, namely all of Québec. In fact, this
nine-region scenario would be a good compromise for those people looking for
both proportional results and a territorial base for list members.
    From the standpoint of drawbacks, however, the nine compensation
territories would cover vast areas, which would reduce the feeling of regional
affiliation.

    Number of Members in the National Assembly

    Taking advantage of the openness shown by the Minister responsible for
the Reform of Democratic Institutions, the Chief Electoral Officer included in
his report on the compensatory mixed system, a section dealing with a related
question, namely the number of Members elected to the Québec National
Assembly.
    With statistical data to back his findings, the Chief Electoral Officer
notes that in 2007 a Québec Member represents on average many more electors
than his counterpart did in 1951 (approximately 61,000, as compared to some
44,000). The Chief Electoral Officer also notes that the Member's
responsibilities have grown over the years, notably with the transfer to
Québec of a certain number of programs and matters which in the past had been
administered by the federal government. One may therefore conclude that there
has been a significant increase in the workload of Québec MNAs.
    The Chief Electoral Officer makes no specific recommendations on this
subject. However, he offers readers numerous comparisons with the Canadian
provinces, American States, German Ldnder and Australian States.
    The report of the Chief Electoral Officer on the characteristics of a
compensatory mixed member voting system is available on the website of the
Chief Electoral Officer at the following address: www.electionsquebec.qc.ca.
    -%SU: INF,CPN,LAW
    -%RE: 1




For further information:

For further information: Denis Dion, Information officer, (418)
644-3320, 1 888 870-3320, ddion@dgeq.qc.ca

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