The voting Survey: a lesson in sampling bias part II

So far, in the last post, I had revealed an example of sampling bias as being the fact that the questions only hint at particular alternative voting systems without coming out and suggesting one and how it has been implemented elsewhere, so that a more intelligent response to the questionnaire could be made possible. A casual questionnaire participant would look at these questions on offer and probably say “sounds like a great idea” without understanding the details of the proposed voting system that would make him or her think otherwise.

It is also my understanding that certain groups of people (i.e, government and industry) are often breathless in their praise of computers. Now mind you, computers are a great technology (my blog runs on one), but the most trustworthy technology have been voting with physical paper ballots. It is hard evidence that a vote took place. Pushing a button or pulling a lever or interacting with a computer sends electrons through conductors that have no memory and leave no trace of themselves behind. The “memory” on a computer would then only be as effective as the program running that is counting my vote. On the other hand, a pen mark on a paper ballot will last a hundred years.

This is to say nothing about our experiences with federal elections south of the border. Since the voting machines came in, there have been accusations, not without merit, of corruption in the American voting system, due to the way the machines counted the votes, leading to people ask how they were programmed. But when called upon to surrender their source code, companies like Diebold refused, citing patent infringement. If this were government-owned source code, they could make a clear case for public accountability, and demand that the feds surrender the code and make it public. But Diebold is a private company, so they can’t make that demand. This in effect gives companies like Diebold unaccountable power over election turnout in the United States.

On the “Cooperation” scenario is that allowing opposition parties to participate in developing policy places the Prime Minister as the lone president of “Canada, Inc.”, thus Americanizing the Candian system (I know you all want that), since this also allows the PM to be elected on a separate ballot (not a bad idea in some ways). Of course this proposal of separate ballots for the PM is nowhere on this questionnaire. Everything is just hinted at, hoping the participant doesn’t think any bit deeper.

We would have to say farewell to the bloodletting of Question Period, and if we ever hated big governnment before, it would be worse this way, with no effective opposition, and no avenue for citizen input in the lower chamber. The government would have 338 elected employees (formerly called MPs) working for it, rather than some of them in opposition. That would only leave the upper chamber, the senate, to speak for anyone with an opposing view.

There were then these binary questions asked, in the form of “which do I want more?”:

  1. A government where one party governs and can make decisions on its ownOR a government where several parties have to collectively agree before a decision is made?
    • I like how the question makes you want to answer in favour of cooperation. Cooperation leaves no voice of opposition, and no accountability. But if I favour the first option, am I supporting dictatorships? Also, was there ever a problem with “cooperation” and policy making in the past that would lead us to demand a total overhaul?
    • I don’t define governing with an opposition party on the other side of the house “governing on your own”.
  2. One party governs and is solely accountable for policy outcomesOR several parties must cooperate to govern and they share accountability for policy outcomes?
    • This question is really the same as the first, and makes no suggestion as to how accountability would be held in the second scenario. “Shared accountability” leaves open the question “to whom?”. There has to be an elected body that holds MPs accountable. Up until the last election, that role was filled by the MPs in opposition.
    • This brings up the murky topic about the senate being elected …? I like the senate and understand what they do. They are not just a rubber stamp on Parliament, they speak for minorities, and for the long term. That is why they don’t run for election. They are there to think of policy’s effect over decades and vote based on “sober second thought”. The lower chamber and elections have the problem of only thinking as far as the next election for the effect of policy. Senators do not have to do the bidding of the lower house or of their party or of the Prime Minister. Policy is something we must live with for decades into the future, and we need that additional deep thought by detached individuals to help the lower chamber change its policy so that things work into the future. It has served us well in the past, and again, the only complaints come from self-interested groups who want to see a more American system. Remeber, our senators right now have no committement to party loyalty whatsoever, and is thus detached from the lower house. The American system is still bound to party loyalty.
  3. Ballots should be as simple as possible so that everybody understands how to voteOR ballots should allow everybody to express their preferences in detail?
    • Simple is always better.
  4. Members of Parliament that do what their party promised, even if it means going against what their constituents wantOR members of Parliament that do what their constituents want, even if it means going against what their party promised?
    • Voters usually vote for their party and their platform. The local platform is far less publicized, even locally. So, I think party promises should come first, since that is likely what got their party into power. And to the extent that the party strays from the original platform, MPs should become the voice of their constituents.
  5. No further action needs to be taken to ensure that those elected to Parliament better reflect the diversity of the population they representOR further action needs to be taken to ensure that those elected to Parliament better reflect the diversity of the population they represent?
    • Diversity is determined by voters. What on Earth could the government do to change that? Telling some people they can’t run and saying that others can? The voters have to decide that. And if a under-represented member of a minority wants to run, then let him or her, and wish them the best of luck. Was there ever anything preventing this from happening?
  6. Canadians should have the option to cast their ballots online in federal elections, even if the security or privacy of online voting cannot be guaranteedOR Canadians should continue to vote using paper ballots at a polling station, even if it is less accessible for some voters?
    • Again, we have always accomodated disabled people at the voting station. I say that as the husband of a wife who has been in a wheelchair for over a decade. It is another non-problem. The huge problem is from the first choice: the lack of security in online voting. This is always the problem in improving convenience for people in computer software: security is always sacrificed. To make the voting system trustworthy, I believe it is worth a little discomfort for a few minutes at the voting station in filling out a paper ballot. Again, I have heard of no one complaining about not using computers. I have heard a whole lot more about us speaking of American elections as a laughingstock with their computer voting.
  7. Voting in federal elections is an obligationOR voting in federal elections is a choice?
    • Voting is our right. That includes a right not to vote. Sorry to say that, but that is the reality. If the candidates are all sub-optimal, then I should not be forced to cast a choice. The politicians must simply learn to be more in touch with the people who elect them. This is a simple human expectation.
  8. Having many small parties in Parliament representing many different viewsOR having a few big parties that try to appeal to a broad range of people?
    • I don’t think that can be answered with this questionnaire, nor is it the purview of our government to do anything about that. It should be up to the voters. It would help if the government lowered the official minimum seats for official party status from 6 down to 1.
    • And if the party was treated less as an extension of the PMO as it has been in recent decades, and more of a looser-knit set of politicians speaking for those who elected them, this idea of “representing many different views” would never have been a problem. Nobody asked for all party MPs to vote as a block on every possible legislation. Simply stop doing that, and we will be fine.
  9. Members of Parliament that spend more time in their constituency working with constituentsOR Members of Parliament that spend more time on Parliament Hill working on the issues that matter to their constituents?
    • I don’t see what problem this solves. If you are in your constituency office, you are spending less time voting on legislation in Ottawa, and less time in Question Period. If you are speding more time in Ottawa, you are spending less “face time” with your constituents. Wouldn’t we have already worked this problem out a long time ago? Why is this question being asked?
  10. Members of Parliament that always support policies that they think are best for their constituents, even if their constituents disagreeOR Members of Parliament that always support policies their constituents want, even if the MPs themselves personally disagree?
    • Also, wouldn’t an MP already know why they were elected and not let their personal opinions contaminate their support of policies? I would treat the voters as always being right, and would never be so paternalistic as to feel that I know better what my constituents need.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.