Québec, December 21, 2007 – Mr. Marcel Blanchet, Chief Electoral Officer of Québec, has made public a report on the characteristics of a compensatory mixed member voting system and other related questions. In so doing, the Chief Electoral Officer has carried out the mandate entrusted to him in December 2006 by Mr. Benoît Pelletier, Minister responsible for the Reform of Democratic Institutions. The government had resorted to a provision of the Act allowing it to consult the Chief Electoral Officer following the work of the Special Committee on the Election Act dealing with a draft reform of the voting system tabled in the National Assembly in 2004. It will be recalled that this Committee was unable to reach a consensus on certain characteristics of the proposed voting system.
Mr. Blanchet pointed out that "the architects of a possible compensatory mixed member voting system must make choices and the report of the Chief Electoral Officer will inform elected representatives and all interested persons about the consequences of some of these choices." The exercise carried out by the Chief Electoral Officer thus consisted of seeing how a compensatory mixed member voting system would work and what would be the effects of the proposed changes on the proportionality of the results, on the representation of women and minorities, on the representation of the regions and on that of small parties.
A theoretical model and statistical simulations
How does one "test" a voting system that does not exist in Québec in order to "see it in action" and to anticipate its various possible impacts? With this question in mind, the Chief Electoral Officer designed a theoretical model in collaboration with various specialists in mathematics and political science. The idea of testing the voting system using past election results was ruled out: on the one hand, to produce the most neutral and most impartial analysis possible and on the hand, because Québec polls did not offer some of the characteristics that had to be included in the analysis, such as voting twice. This theoretical model allowed the Chief Electoral Officer to create a sort of "laboratory" where it was possible to test in particular:
It was by carrying out statistical simulations, in collaboration with the Institut de la statistique du Québec, that the theoretical model was applied. "We called on mathematicians and statisticians to whom we submitted various scenarios," specified Mr. Blanchet. "This inevitably led us to enter a highly specialized field, but it was the best way to obtain informative answers and to see the impacts that the compensatory mixed member voting system could have," added the Chief Electoral Officer.
Consultations held in Québec and international experience
The report of the Chief Electoral Officer on the compensatory mixed member voting system also echoes the consultations that were held following the tabling of the Draft Bill to replace the Election Act. All of the briefs submitted in 2005 and 2006 to the Special Committee on the Reform of the Election Act were re-examined. The documentation emanating from the Estates General on the Reform of Democratic Institutions held in early 2003 and from the public consultation that had preceded them was also reviewed.
Research done by various international experts was also taken into account during the examination of the various characteristics of the compensatory mixed member voting system. In addition, the Chief Electoral Officer compiled an inventory of the numerous experiences of Canadian provinces and other countries, having a connection to Québec's initiative.
All of this documentary research, whether in Québec, in Canada or at the international level, made it possible to complement the information collected during the statistical simulations.
The "other questions" addressed by the Chief Electoral Officer and his position on the choices to be made
The mandate that the government entrusted to the Chief Electoral Officer was "open" in that it allowed the Chief Electoral Officer to "propose any suggestion or element that appeared appropriate in order to achieve the objective of having a National Assembly that better represents the diversity of political opinions and the wishes of Québec's electorate".
The report made public today goes further than what the Minister had requested, by studying certain specific impacts of a compensatory mixed member voting system and by addressing the question of the number of Members in the National Assembly. From the strict standpoint of the administration of elections, the document comes back to the idea of voting on a Sunday rather than on a Monday, in addition to responding to the Minister's request that an examination be made of the idea of holding fixed-date elections in Québec.
Finally, it is important to emphasize that while the report of the Chief Electoral Officer expresses an opinion on numerous subjects in terms of "advantages and drawbacks", it remains first and foremost a source of analyses and information seeking to provide insight to those individuals who will make the decisions as to the possible changes to Québec's voting system. In the words of Mr. Marcel Blanchet, "it is not the intention of the Chief Electoral Officer to take the place of the legislator, since the way in which members are elected and the representation of electors in the National Assembly are extremely important stakes which must be decided first and foremost by citizens and elected officials."
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.