September 22, 2021

Is Canada's Election System Better Than Electoral College?

Many of the critics of our presidential election system (specifically our Electoral College) point to the supposed advantages of a parliamentary election system—like that of our Canadian neighbors. The critics argue that a parliamentary system—and the national leadership it creates—more accurately reflect the will of the voters. 

Canada's "first past the post" system awards seats in parliament to the candidate that gets the most votes in each "riding" (or district). In most cases, the leader of the party that controls the most seats nationally becomes Prime Minster (or shares power in a ruling coalition with other parties). When a Prime Minster's party controls a majority of seats, that party's agenda can—in most cases—be more easily implemented. 

Canada's recent election did return Prime Minster Justin Trudeau back to power for a third term—but his Liberal Party fell short of the seats needed for a majority. More tellingly, despite garnering fewer seats, the Conservative Party won the popular vote—33.9% to 32.2%. So much for parliamentary elections reflecting the will of the voters.

There is no doubt that our Electoral College system is flawed. Five times in our history, the winner of a presidential election lost the popular vote (1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, 2016). But—as we have argued many times before—a simple fix would make such events much less likely. Instead of our current "winner-take-all" system, a proportional system could more fairly allocate each state's electoral votes. Simply put, if a candidate wins 45% of the vote in a given state, he or she would get 45% of that state's electoral votes. One reform could make our system better than most.