Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you for the time and energy you are investing in the health of our democracy. You are investigating important issues related to how Canadians express their will as we elect our leaders. I very much appreciate the work you are doing.
I also appreciate this opportunity to address you regarding my own work. I teach computer science at the University of Waterloo, where I've been a faculty member for 25 years. I've also been interested in electoral reform for the last decade.
Over the summer and into the fall, I combined my expertise in computer science with my interest in electoral reform to model many of the systems that have been proposed for Canada. “Model” is a critical word to understand in this context. This is the definition I would like to use: the application of electoral system rules to data, producing results that assist in understanding the behaviour of the system.
I want to emphasize the last phrase. I'm trying to understand the overall behaviour of electoral systems. My goal is not to predict who wins and who loses under a different system. That goal has many difficulties, including voters changing how they vote when the system changes. Instead, I'm attempting to use past elections to see if the system is well behaved. If it has been well behaved in many such elections, we could expect it to be well behaved in future elections, even if voters change how they vote.
What does it mean for a system to be well behaved? I think this committee's own mandate provides a helpful definition that I'm sure you'll recognize. A well-behaved system “reduces distortion and strengthens the link between voter intention and the election of representatives”. Distortion is introduced when representation in government is significantly different from the level of popular support expressed in the election.
A well-behaved system should not be arbitrary or erratic. First past the post, for example, will award a party earning 40% of the vote anywhere from zero to 338 seats in the House of Commons. With a well-behaved electoral system, a small change in the votes cast should result in only a small change in the MPs elected. Another way to say that is that in a well-behaved system, the number of MPs awarded is proportional to the number of votes earned.
With that preamble, let's dig into the meat of my results.
Graphs like this are essential to my methodology for understanding whether a system is well behaved. It shows the proportionality of an electoral system across seven sets of data.
This graph is for first past the post and shows what a misbehaving system looks like. In contrast, here is the graph of the rural-urban system. It is well behaved. Notice how each pair of coloured lines track each other closely.
Let's take a few moments to understand these graphs. The centre, at 0%, represents the data from an actual election. In this case, it is first past the post 2015. The heavy points are the percentage of the popular vote for a particular party. The Liberals earned almost 40% of the votes, the Conservatives 32%, and so on for the other parties. The lighter points reflect how the parties were rewarded with MPs in the House. The Liberals' 39% vote share turned into 54% of the MPs at the expense of the other parties, which received fewer MPs than they deserved.
In 2015, first past the post was a misbehaving electoral system. But this is old news. We knew this on election night. What value have I added?
Remember that we want to see how each electoral system behaves in many different but realistic elections, not just in 2015. We can simulate a different election by taking the 2015 results and shifting 10% of each Conservative candidate's vote to the local Liberal candidate. That might reflect an election in which late-breaking good news for the Liberals swings voters to their camp. Applying the first-past-the-post voting rules to that set of data gives the Liberals 64% of the MPs, with only 43% of the vote.
If we swing 30% of the Conservative votes to the Liberals, they get 81% of the seats but still don't have a majority of the votes. Meanwhile, the effect on the Conservatives is devastating, with 7% of the seats in spite of earning 22% of the votes.
Of course, we can also simulate the movement of Liberal voters to the Conservatives. That is shown on the left side of the graph. Other graphs can simulate votes shifting between other combinations of parties.
First-past-the-post misbehaviour plays out in previous elections as well. These four graphs represent four real elections and 24 simulated elections. First past the post did not give a proportional result in any of them.
Let's move on to take a brief look at some of the other electoral systems.
The rural-urban proportional system is very well behaved. Here is the graph applying those rules to the 2015 election data and simulating related elections where votes swing between Conservatives and Liberals. Recall that the heavy lines represent the popular vote, while the lighter lines indicate the number of MPs. The important thing to note is how the two lines track each other very closely.
Here are the graphs based on earlier elections. In each case, the system is well behaved. I like the rural-urban proportional system, as proposed by Fair Vote Canada, because it addresses our huge disparity in riding sizes. It keeps our already huge ridings at about the same size by electing a single MP in those ridings. It gains proportionality by using multi-member ridings where higher population densities make that feasible.
Finally, a small layer of top-up seats, like the ones used in MMP, offsets the disproportionality of the single-member seats. That top-up layer is important. Rural-urban proportional is inspired by Kingsley's proposal, but it is not the same. Kingsley's proposal leaves off the top-up layer. When we model that, the result is surprisingly good, but not as good as rural-urban.
I've also modelled STV, single transferable vote, with both small ridings averaging 4.1 MPs and larger ridings averaging nearly 11 MPs. Both are well behaved, but predictably, the system with the larger ridings does better.
Modelling mixed member proportional, or MMP, with two sizes of top-up regions shows that it is also well behaved.
Alternative vote has the distinction of being the only system I modelled that misbehaved more than first past the post. Using data from four real elections and 72 simulated elections, alternative vote did not produce a single proportional result.
Another alternative that might seem attractive is to keep exactly the same riding boundaries we have now but enlarge the House with 10% more MPs, making them top-up seats similar to MMP. We might call this MMP-light if we elected MPs in the local ridings using first past the post, or we could call it AV-plus if we elected MPs using the alternative vote.
While both of these systems would be a step toward proportionality, my modelling shows that it would be a very small step, even with the best-case scenario of calculating top-up seats over each province, rather than smaller regions, as is common with MMP. A 10% top-up simply is not enough to overcome the disproportionalities of all those single-member ridings. But if we use exactly the same constraints with the rural-urban system, that is, 32 extra MPs assigned to top-up seats and calculated at the provincial level, we get a well-behaved system.
Thank you for your attention thus far. I've gone over some very detailed and technical material. You may feel at this point like my brother, who said, “That makes my head hurt.” Nevertheless, I believe it is important information for your decisions.
Let me summarize. First past the post frequently misbehaves. Alternative vote is worse than first past the post. STV, MMP, and rural-urban are all well behaved across many different simulations. Last, half-hearted attempts such as MMP-light and AV-plus are only slightly better than what we have now. Rural-urban, under exactly the same constraints, is excellent.
The program I've written and the input data are available for anyone to download, run, or modify. The results I've shown here are readily available on the web at election-modelling.ca.
Thank you again for your attention and for the incredible service you are performing for Canada. I look forward to your questions on my comments here, as well as my earlier submission to the committee.
Thank you, and good evening.
Thank you for inviting us to appear before the committee to share our position and expertise on the United Kingdom's electoral systems. My colleague Mr. Hughes and I thank you for your welcome.
The Electoral Reform Society is a non-governmental association that campaigns for a better democracy in the United Kingdom. The principle underlying our work is that every voice needs to be heard and every vote must be reflected in Parliament.
I will start talking about the various systems in the U.K. My colleague will then speak to the system in New Zealand, which changed in 1996. Finally, we'll talk about our experience of referendums.
Thank you very much for inviting us to give evidence today. We're honoured to be here and thank you for your warm welcome.
The Electoral Reform Society campaigns for a better democracy in the U.K. We believe that every voice should be heard and every vote valued and that votes should be fairly translated into parliamentary seats.
I'll address the U.K. experience of proportional voting. I'm loving the well-behaved idea, which isn't one I had come across before. My colleague Darren will speak to the New Zealand experience, and finally, I'll share reflections on the U.K.'s recent experience of referendums.
First past the post, as you may know, is used to elect all members of Parliament, and in England and Wales only, municipal representatives. All our other institutions and elected offices use other systems.
The ERS's preferred system is a proportional system with a constituency link that allows voters to vote preferentially for candidates from parties or independents. This system, the single transferable vote form of PR, is used in Scottish municipal elections as well as in Northern Ireland and in Ireland. It's a candidate-centred system that puts maximum choice in the hands of the voter rather than the party.
We like it because candidates reach out to far more voters and they visit neighbourhoods they never bothered with under first past the post. They literally go to parts of the community that would otherwise go untouched. They have a different kind of conversation, often more positive. After all, they're saying, “You might not want to give me your first preference, but how about giving me your second or your third preference”. It's a different kind of conversation. It's a more positive conversation.
There's more competition. Uncontested seats are a thing of the past at the Scottish municipal level. There are no no-go areas. Competing everywhere is worthwhile, and people are far more likely to have a representative they voted for and a choice of representatives to visit.
There's some evidence of some specialization when it comes to casework. After all, when there's a team of MPs or representatives voting locally, you can begin to have some sharing of the casework load. Translated to the federal level, that approach sees a team of local MPs from a range of parties, very much like in Ireland, where it's used for the lower house and you have three to five local MPs. Interestingly, Ireland has multi-member constituencies elected by STV and an extremely local focus by candidates, which is interesting. That's something they have under a proportional constituency system.
Turning to MMP, which we also have some experience with, but we call it AMS, the additional member system, that's the system used in Scotland and Wales for their Parliaments. As you all know, it's a system where people can vote for the constituency representative and a party list.
What happens is that it produces broadly proportional parliaments where people are seeing seats reflect votes. Voters retain a clearly identifiable local representative. It has produced both power-sharing governments and majority governments, and crucially, it has also enabled parties to put forward a balanced and diverse group of representatives.
On that note, I'm going to hand it over to Darren.
I just wanted to share some of the New Zealand perspective from experience that I had as both a constituency and a list MP in New Zealand under a proportional system.
New Zealand is an interesting case study, because it is a unique clash of unfairness, some anger amongst the voters, and a bit of luck, which always helps in politics.
Basically, I think the New Zealand context leading towards proportional representation is very hard to replicate. There had been two general elections in a row where the biggest party in vote share became the opposition rather than the government. There had been a decline in the two-party system from the voters' perspective, and there were elections regularly where third or fourth parties would receive large shares of the vote. One in particular got 20% of the vote and in return only two seats. That sense of unfairness was really building up quite strongly.
Then on the anger side, in the 1980s, there was far-reaching economic and social reform, which some of you may be familiar with, that left virtually no area of life untouched. It was delivered by parties, both the centre right and the centre left, contrary to what their manifesto commitments had been and with a real sense of a revolution taking place in the country, in a policy sense, with no direct mandate from the public for that.
That combination of unfairness in results and anger amongst voters about the state of politics, the actions of politicians, and the policies they were following really led to that unique scenario, that moment when change was able to be achieved. There was also a report that the prime minister misread his notes, which said, “Please don't promise a referendum on proportional representation,” and he said out loud, “There will be a referendum on proportional representation.” It was hard to row back from that once he had said it. That is why I say there was a bit of unfairness, a bit of anger amongst voters, and a bit of luck.
The result has been now, for over 20 years, strong, stable, respected governments that go the full term, contrary to some of the perceptions about PR. There have been seven general elections, and all but a couple of years have resulted in a minority government, parties having to work together in order to get things done. These governments have crossed the ideological spectrum. In fact, there have been more centre-right governments than centre left, although the centre left has had a good fair share of time in government as well. In terms of strong leadership, Helen Clark, the Labour prime minister, and John Key, the National prime minister, the conservative prime minister, are easily two of the most successful leaders those parties have had in 40 years, in terms of policy program, popularity, and election-winning record.
There has been a tremendous advancement on diversity of the House of Representatives in New Zealand. There are many more women members and ethnic minority members, and of course, crucially, better representation for indigenous New Zealanders, the Maori people, than first past the post could ever have achieved.
New Zealanders now like it. After six attempts, at the sixth general election under proportional representation, there was a further referendum that wasn't planned at the time, but it's something that happened. After this experience with PR, six times, New Zealanders chose again to stick with PR, which means that political parties have adapted. It wasn't easy, initially, but they have adapted, and they have made it work. There are no serious anti-proportional representation parties today in New Zealand. It has become very much a mainstream part of democracy that is good for voters and that political parties and politicians have been able to make work.
I'm just going to wrap up with a few reflections on referendums, which have been quite a new phenomenon for us in the U.K. and might be of interest.
The electoral reform referendum in 2011 was a classic case of proxy voting. The real issue on the ballot paper became the unpopularity of the junior coalition party, the Liberal Democrats. In contrast with New Zealand, where voters had an opportunity to consider the pros and the cons of the status quo, first past the post, in the U.K. we were just plunged into a negative discussion about the one non-proportional system that was on offer. The voting system was of low interest, and voters had no prior knowledge to come to grips with the issues. The campaign was too short. It was a low interest, low information, low turnout—41%—referendum.
In contrast, the Scottish referendum campaign, which was looking at the potential independence of Scotland as a country, lasted for two years. It gave voters the time and space to come to grips with the issues in some detail and to become knowledgeable. The stories of heated debate about technical issues around the currency arrangements at bus stops and in the pub are all true. People had enough time to get really informed and knowledgeable. It was a high information, high interest, high turnout referendum at an 86% turnout. The evidence shows that the political capacity building that took place during that referendum has sustained itself, with more Scots now taking part in formal and informal political activity.
Finally, there is the EU referendum campaign. The formal campaign just lasted for four months. It was very short. This is in our report entitled “It's Good to Talk: Doing referendums differently after the EU vote”. We did polling throughout the campaign. People said they didn't feel well-informed about the issues at the start of the campaign in February. Only 16% felt well informed or very well informed. That rose to just one-third with a week to go before polling day. Obviously, that's reporting how informed people feel. It's not scientific, but it does give us a good indication that people didn't feel informed. The issue mattered hugely to everybody in the U.K., and so the turnout was high at 72%, but it was a low interest, low information, high turnout referendum.
Done well, referendums can hope to achieve high-quality public information and debate in the run-up to polling day. Done badly, a referendum can obliterate any chance of meaningful public and political debate, as the ballot topic is completely overtaken by proxy issues. Reflecting on comparable examples, and the particular time constraints of the Canadian process, where there's a real practical deadline around implementation, we cannot see how a good referendum is achievable here.
We'll conclude our remarks there. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and committee members. My name is John Poulos, and I am the president and CEO of Dominion Voting Systems, based in Toronto.
I have been following this committee with great interest, in particular the presentations by Mr. Marc Mayrand, Mr. Greg Essensa, and Mr. Jean-Pierre Kingsley, all renowned election administrators for whom I have the utmost respect. I am familiar with the various alternatives that have been proposed to date.
I've asked to appear before this committee to provide a first-hand perspective of how technology is currently deployed in elections around the world and how technology may address some of the issues that arise when contemplating different electoral systems.
Electoral automation has been my profession for the past 14 years. Therefore, not only am I aware of the global trends and discussions, but I have broad and diverse first-hand experience in deploying tabulation technology for administrators globally. Internationally, we have deployed tabulation technology in the Philippines, representing a voting base of 50 million eligible voters across 82,500 polls; nationwide in Mongolia, which represents perhaps the most severe environmental and physical challenges to voting; and more recently across the entire island of Puerto Rico.
In the United States we work with more than 1,000 electoral agencies across 35 states, including several statewide deployments. In November we will be tabulating the votes for just over one-third of U.S. voters. In Canada, we provide tabulation technologies to more than 100 agencies at the municipal, the provincial, and as a pilot, even the federal level.
Now, when considering a potential change to the electoral system, including any of the various voting alternatives proposed to the committee, I will first address the need for timely results.
As the complexity of the ballot increases, so does the time needed to manually hand count. In addition, as both the ballot complexity and the time needed to count go up, there is also a corresponding increase in the rate of human error. Mr. Mayrand has already identified the challenges of the hand count experience in Australia and speaks to the need for timely results. The link between timely results and voter confidence is well documented, so I won’t comment on it further. Instead I will address how technology has solved the issue elsewhere.
In the Philippines, implementing the same type of tabulating technology that is in wide use across Canada, the time to result went from weeks to hours. What makes this relevant to this committee is the fact that the ballot was perhaps among the most complex ever. The ballot featured more than 100 voter selections in a multi-column, single-spaced, double-sided, 22-inch paper ballot. In terms of sheer size, there were 82,500 polls for 50 million eligible voters.
In the case of Mongolia where there is simply no telecom in over 30% of the locations, the time to result with this technology fell to 90 minutes for half of the polls, with over 85% reporting within a few hours.
When this technology has been used in Canada with our local infrastructure, the results have been even better. In each case, the paper ballots were digitally scanned in real time, and the results from each location were modemed in, after the election, immediately following the close, populating a central database. Results from each poll were printed off as soon as polls closed, and the consolidation was able to happen centrally in an automated fashion.
In the case where an election may have successive rounds of voting, such as a ranked choice system, proportional representation system, or hybrid system, the database would already have all the selections, so each successive round would be instant and could be done with a press of the button.
The next issue that arises is voter concern regarding the displacement of hand-counted paper ballots. This is not a new concern, and it has been addressed in thousands of jurisdictions with the advent of fully transparent auditing capabilities. Any modern paper-based tabulation system that has been deployed around the world now captures the image of every ballot, and combines that image with the machine’s interpretation of all the marks made by the elector.
These resulting audit marks offer a completely objective and fact-based view to any auditor post-election of how each mark was interpreted and, more importantly, why. When used effectively, this process effectively mirrors the current practice of scrutineers standing over the shoulders of the manual ballot hand-counters.
There are many specific examples of recounts using modern tabulation technology, too many to list, where all recounts are exactly the same each time, a feat that is rare in a manual hand-count election, and virtually impossible in a manual hand-count election featuring a complex ballot.
The key here is that the jurisdictions that have thoughtfully preserved the role of the scrutineer/independent auditor have found that the deployment of tabulation has increased the accuracy and transparency of the count.
In addition to addressing the need for timely results, as Mr. Mayrand has brought up, and the accuracy and transparency issues that follow, tabulation technology also affords the built-in options to address other issues that exist in our current system that may be of interest to this committee. In no particular order, every jurisdiction that has implemented a modern tabulation system has concluded the following: the numbers of unintentionally rejected ballots can be reduced to zero when the administrator configures the system to warn electors of any errors done while marking the ballot; deploying the so-called second-chance voting, issues of language- and literacy-based mistakes are eliminated; in jurisdictions where a DRO, deputy returning officer, box is used, such as Canada, issues of a blank DRO box causing a ballot to be rejected fall to zero; the deployment of tabulation technology has provided options to the increasing problem of election day staffing by eliminating the need to have several large hand-count teams in larger urban polling centres; and last, the ability to leverage the technology to enable various assistive options makes voting accessible and allows voters of all physical abilities to exercise their right to vote privately and independently.
The last point has, in many cases, been the underlying driver to the move of tabulation technology around the world and, indeed, has been used across Canada in various capacities over the last 14 years.
Moving to the cost of tabulation technology, I will point out that Mr. Essensa has used the word “congruence” as an option to leverage Canadian government spending.
In many electoral centres around the world, including the United States, the same agency is tasked with running elections for various levels of government. While it is not entirely possible given current Canadian laws, I will point out that there is precedence among many jurisdictions where various separate agencies leverage the same technological investment. In this specific case, there isn't any reason that I'm aware of why current tabulation technology that is currently being used across this country can't be leveraged for federal use.
Before I conclude, I would like to point out that, while my comments have been around systems that preserve paper ballots, there are other options available. Multi-channel voting is the premise that the voters have a list of options to choose from when exercising their franchise. Various channels would include, but would not be limited to, vote by mail, vote by telephone, and vote by Internet.
Elections Canada and various provincial agencies currently use vote by mail, while various municipalities use a combination of the three, almost always in conjunction with the paper ballot. Voting by telephone and voting by Internet have been ongoing for over 13 years in Canada. I've experienced providing technology for all three methods in addition to paper-based technology, and I've have been doing so since 2003.
I note that Mr. Kingsley stated to this committee, “Online voting is coming fast. That light at the end of the tunnel is a train”, to which Mr. Essensa added, “The challenge is not the lack of technology, but the questions concerning the privacy, security, and reliability of these technologies”. Last, Mr. Mayrand added to this, “caution is needed in moving forward to ensure that Canadians continue to have the same high level of trust in the integrity of their elections”.
From my experience, and through the conversations I have on an almost daily basis with administrators across this country, I believe all three of those statements to be absolutely true. While each so-called channel of voting has its own pros and cons, I will limit my comment to what I know to be fact, which is that despite what this committee or this country decides on which channel or combination of channels of voting is appropriate for our electoral norms, the challenges introduced with any of the various voting alternatives that this committee is considering can be met through the use of technology that is already being deployed in this country.
As I suggested, I think we've ended up, in quite a British fashion, with sort of incremental and piecemeal changes, which has given us a kind of laboratory of different electoral systems. They have different origins, as well, so we've had brand new institutions. We've had a lot of devolution of power from Westminister, and we've had these brand new institutions in Scotland and Wales, and with those came new non-first-past-the-post electoral systems.
I suppose in looking at those examples, it wasn't necessarily that the citizens perhaps had some sort of a role in validating the idea of a new devolved institution. There were referendums around those, but not always particularly on the electoral system. So the origins have really been quite diverse.
I think I've spoken a little about the 2011 AV referendum. There have been quite a lot of examples where a new system has been kind of imposed, or political leaders have decided that this would be part of an institution and that's what they were going to do. That's been quite a common pattern as well.
I should say on the referendums, and we set it out thoughtfully in our report, that we didn't take a position as to whether in and of themselves they're good or bad for us. It's all about the context and the timing and how they are conducted, and how much emphasis is put on public information, public education, and the public role. We made nine recommendations about the good conduct of referendums, with a lot of emphasis on the public role, starting even when the legislation for a referendum had been put through, having a strong citizen role there.
There has been quite a variety of impetus and motivation behind that, and therefore, the public role is varied as well. The thing that really stuck out for me about the electoral reform referendum was how very low the prior knowledge of the public was, and how there were no real opportunities to become educated about the status quo, about first past the post. If people don't understand the status quo, it's quite hard to have a rich conversation about what to replace it with.
Okay. That's good, because that's not the intention of this committee, nor its mandate.
Just for context, our mandate, which I'm sure all of you have read, is to change.... It is to offer to the government some ideas, and then a model which we recommend for change to improve our system, to make it a better behaving system, a more accurate system.
In that context of change, I want to turn to you, Mr. Hughes, for a moment.
The New Zealand experience is often held up: “New Zealand, New Zealand, New Zealand”. We hear a lot about you, and often people arguing for opposite things use New Zealand as an example to somehow try to prove their points. The context for the change that New Zealand went through was rather special. There was a high level of voter discontentment and maybe a gaff from a prime minister promising one thing that was not as written on the paper.
Up until maybe this morning, the context we were operating under was also unique in Canada. We had an elected government with a majority under first past the post also committed to making a change to the system that got them elected, understanding the false majority that was achieved, similar to that of the last government we had, which was 39%. Yet this morning, the Prime Minister was musing that maybe people are happier now ,so the mood for change is less, and so maybe the commitment is less. The unique alignment of stars to get change through is important.
I want to get to a point Ms. Ghose made about how voters see things differently under a change. She said that there are no so-called safe seats, seats that have traditionally voted one way to the extent that they kind of get ignored, not just by the party that has the seat, but also by the other parties, which think they can't get the seat.
Was there any cultural change that went on in New Zealand in the way that voters experienced the campaigning of parties? What happens on policy if those voters remain relevant because their votes affect who will form the next government?
Ms. Ghose, you mentioned that changing the electoral system would assist in getting more women elected. We've heard multiple witnesses say multiple things that it's not the electoral system that will get the women elected, it's many other things.
I'm just going to preface my question with a comment. When someone applies for a job, usually they look at the job description, maybe the location of the job, the conditions of employment, what kind of tasks they do, and see if they want to apply for that job. Very rarely do they say, “Hmm, what's the interview process going to be? What kind of tests am I going to have to take?”
I'm not quite convinced that the decision for women to pursue public office has anything to do with the electoral system. There are two things. First is seeking the nomination. I understand you yourself have run for office. There's seeking the nomination, and then there's getting elected. Those are two different things.
I firmly believe the seeking of the nomination has everything to do with the actual job. Do I want to live in Ottawa? Do I want to transfer? Do I want to work the hours? Am I going to enjoy the tone? Am I going to like the personal attacks and so on? I don't think it's the actual electoral system. Perhaps, once they get the nomination, that could be a different story.
I'd like to get your opinion on that.
When a ballot goes through a paper ballot scanner, the election administrator has the ability to configure it however they wish. The “no change”, if you will, setting would be the complete analogy to our current federal process where the ballot is scanned and drops in the box, pure and simple, and whatever happens, happens.
The concept of second chance voting is that if you wish, you can take advantage of the capability of the machine to warn the voter somehow that they are about to make a mistake. There are some common ones out there, and we see them with Elections Canada all the time. There are good stats on how many ballots are spoiled. A common one would be to mark an x for someone and then realize, oh no, you meant to vote for somebody else. Then you scratch that out and mark another x. Then we get into the whole question of voter intent. With a voting machine we can warn the voter. Another common issue is circling your name. That's not an x and that's not putting a mark in, so should that count or not?
How you configure the machine, what kind of message to display on the machine, what language, and does the machine make an audible noise or not is completely up to the discretion of the election administrator. There are several considerations. If there's a beep, am I going to be embarrassed that I've made a mistake on my ballot? There's a reality to this. If we wish to warn voters while still maintaining privacy and secrecy, then that is a question, and that's a compromise that you have to look at. If the machine makes a beep, and somebody sees that John Doe went from the machine, took his ballot, asked for a new one, and then put it back, and now we know that he made a mistake, then is that intimidating?
These are questions that we won't comment on. We provide the tools and say it was in the realm of possibility.
Sure. I think “evolution” is the word.
To take an example, there was the adoption of the single transferable vote in Scotland, with the first set of elections in 2007. I was looking at some information recently that showed there was an uptick as time went on with the second and third uses of the new electoral system. People were casting more preferences, going down and saying, “I will cast a second, third, and a fourth preference.” That's just an example from the voter's perspective of the kind of evolution of the system. There's certainly no evidence of anybody wanting to change back to first past the post from any of the proportional or preferential systems.
I think the times have been interesting. Also, as I mentioned earlier, it's been quite some years now that we've had the new institutions. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, we had these new institutions of the Scottish and Welsh parliaments, and with that a new electoral system. There's been that gradual evolution since then.
Again, to give a concrete example, there were some concerns raised about having two different kinds of members of Parliament—and I might have reflections on this from elsewhere—a constituency MP and a list MP. That's really bedded down in Scotland, and it isn't really an issue any more. You've maybe had people who've even had a go at doing each of the roles, as well.
It's really been evolutionary. As Darren sort of indicated, citizens are getting used to it; parties are getting used to it. It does take a bit of time, and I would say in all of our systems that are fairly new, maybe a decade or two decades old, it's a continual process. Parties will still talk about how they're adapting to campaigning, which is, practically, different under new systems.
There's evidence from the U.S. about the greater civility. Many are having different kinds of conversations. You're participating in different areas where perhaps your party wasn't active before. It's those cultural changes that take a while, and they carry on evolving. It's not a one-night wonder, if you like.
This was considered to be an area of huge interest when the system first started, because people were obviously used to having single-member constituency MPs only and then, suddenly, all these list MPs arrived and there was, I think in the early days, quite a strong feeling of class A and class B that did exist. And as Katie cited, in Scotland there was a similar thing at the beginning.
What I would observe is that, as time went on, voters and citizens tended to judge the politicians by performance, by achievements, rather than by what type of MP they were. Of course, not everyone does that. There are always some who will want to make the distinction.
I guess the constituency MPs continue to do the work that they've always done, and that you're all very familiar with here. List MPs fall broadly into two areas. One type are people who, in all honesty, probably want to be constituency MPs, and so their parties might assign them to a certain area to work in and they'll run services and be invited to things, and so on and so forth, in a way that gives representation of their party to voters in that particular constituency, remembering that the same voter has two votes under that in that New Zealand context.
The more interesting area, I think, about list MPs is that it enables a richer diversity of people to come to Parliament, people who represent communities that might be significant across the whole country but very, very small in status in a particular geographical mapped-off area of a constituency. That's enabled the Parliament, in what is called the House of Representatives, to look much more like a house of representatives because of that.
Also within that category are people who are policy specialists in certain areas, people who are experts at something, for whom the parties say, “Look, we really need somebody with these sorts of skills”. They might not be somebody who'd be elected at a geographic level or somebody whose great strength is in running surgeries for constituents in need, but they are people who have a lot to offer to public policy from a certain area. I think in that context, being able to get people from both walks of life was very useful.