Threlkeld: Electoral system should be decided by jury, not politicians or referendum

Simon Threlkeld has a new article in the Canadian National Observer advocating against having electoral reform decided by referendum. An excerpt:

Electoral system should be decided by jury, not politicians or referendum

Politicians should not decide the rules under which they are elected, because fair and democratic decision-making requires that those who decide do not have a conflict of interest. All of Canada’s political parties should accept this.

The Conservatives say that whatever electoral system parliament decides on, it needs to be ratified in a national referendum. Rather transparently, what concerns them is not giving the public a say, but rather preserving the status quo which in the 2011 election gave them a majority of the seats with just under 40 per cent of the popular vote.

Rule by the people needs to be well-informed, because only informed views provide a good basis for a decision.

A referendum is highly unsuitable for ensuring an informed decision about Canada’s electoral system. The public would only learn about the option(s) on the ballot voluntarily in their spare time, and most people are not especially interested in learning about electoral systems. In B.C.’s 2005 referendum on a proposed new electoral system, shortly before voting day 66 per cent of those surveyed by Ipsos-Reid said they knew “nothing” or “very little” about the proposal on the ballot. In another survey, over half of those who voted “no” said they did so because they did not feel “knowledgeable.”

3 Responses

  1. Law professor Ilya Somin has written an article for the Volokh Conspiracy, Can “sortition” sort out the problem of political ignorance?
    His answer is “no”.
    He has also written a book on thus and the broader subject. (H seems not to have a solution for political ignorance, other than to make government smaller, which sortition is unlikely to do.)


  2. Somin is claiming that proponents of sortition are promising too much from it. As long as humans make the decisions, they can make them badly. Sortition alone is not effective at turning people into experts.


  3. Thanks for the pointer, Jon. I’ll create a post about this.


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