New voting method lacks pizzazz

Randy Simms
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By Monday morning we’ll know who’s at the helm of the provincial Liberal party.

More than 35,000 people have registered to vote and the whole thing is going to be done using technology. Thanks to the Internet, everyone with a personal identification number can make a decision in the confines of their own home.

Voting started Nov. 8 and the polls close at noon on Sunday.

Given our penchant for leaving things to the last minute, I imagine a lot of folks won’t vote until this weekend.

The Liberals are using what’s called a preferential ballot, which allows voters to rank their favourite candidates in order of importance.

For example, if you think Dwight Ball should be leader, he’d be your No. 1 vote, but if he doesn’t have enough votes after the first ballot to hit 50-per-cent-plus-one, then your No. 2 choice comes into play. Voters are expected to rank all five candidates on the ballot for this purpose.

According to political operatives, the best place to be in such a contest — if you can’t come up with 50-per-cent-plus-one on the first count — is the No. 2 position; the theory being that the person ranked No. 2 on a majority of  ballots will eventually win.

To confuse the matter a little more, there’s a weighting system.

Every district is allotted 100 points and a candidate’s showing in a particular district means he or she earns a percentage of those points.

The points are supposed to give balance to the race — a popular candidate in one area won’t be able to run away with the race because there are only so many points to go around, no matter how many votes get cast.

Let’s say that Dwight Ball, a much-favoured son of the west coast, receives a disproportionate number of votes in that area.

But even if he gets 60 per cent of thousands of votes cast in Deer Lake, he still only gets 60 out of the 100 points available in that district.

Similarly, Paul Antle might get 4,000 out of 6,000 votes cast in an east coast district, but it won’t change anything.

Both candidates will get 60 points.

And it’s all about the points.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not criticizing the process.

In order to win, the successful candidate has to show that they have broad support across a large swath of the province, and that makes being everyone’s second choice such an enviable position.

Still, it may be my age and nothing more, but I miss the old ways. I always enjoyed those leadership conventions where the outcome is unknown and a group of closeted delegates work the floor for hours in favour of their chosen one.

There’s a kind of excitement attached to seeing what a candidate who is out of the race will do, and where they will throw their support before the next vote.

Anyone who has been part of such an event will know what I mean.

It was all so intense: the horse-trading, the chanting, the jaw-

dropping demonstrations of support as candidates entered the arena. The alliances made and broken — the sheer spectacle of it all. I’m nostalgic already.

Leadership races were a form of dramatic entertainment that journalists and political junkies loved. They made for some compelling, must-see TV.

This new selection process? Not so much.

The excitement will be short-lived because the computer tabulates the result and the only thing to do is hit “enter.”

This new process is good — there will be no last-minute deals struck in a back room to try and change the outcome. No one has to risk their political future by picking the wrong horse. No deals signed on napkins. No promises of electoral goodies later.

Yes it’s a good system, and the times they are a’changin’. I get it.

But still …

Randy Simms is a political commentator and broadcaster. He can be reached at: rsimms@nf.sympatico.ca

Twitter: @RandyRsimms

Geographic location: Deer Lake

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