Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lessons for the Liberals from the NDP leadership contest

The criminal voter suppression attacks launched against the federal election in May 2011 and the NDP leadership election prove that any elections need robust protection to avoid any taint of possible illegitimacy.

The NDP leadership election provides at least three solid lessons for the Liberal Party of Canada in the runup to our selection of our permanent leader in the first half of next year.

Lesson #1:

The first clear lesson is to avoid at all costs any live electronic voting at a combined advance vote plus live vote at a convention similar to that used by the NDP. Although the NDP has not said that they, or their independent election monitor, noticed any voter suppression attempts on the electronic voting used for advance voting, there were substantial attacks on the second ballot.

Those attacks caused long delays, voter frustration and possible voter suppression through denial of service. 

The second ballot resulted in a substantially lower number of votes cast compared to the first ballot.

The computer firm retained by the NDP to handle the election stated that such denial of service attacks requires very large computer capacity to deal with – a political party such as the NDP (and presumably the LPC) does not have the capacity needed to prevent such clogging of the voting system; you would need capacity similar to that possessed by the giant Google corporation.

Given that, the LPC should avoid any electronic live voting and insist on paper ballots and electronic voting during the advance voting only. As the advance voting ends a few days before the voting tally is announced, this will give the LPC time to remedy any voter suppression through denial of service attacks in the advance voting period. Also, the independent monitor used by the LPC should be actively involved in testing the advance voting process to see whether there is any denial of service attack taking place, so that the final time for voting can be extended for as long as needed to allow all to vote.

Lesson #2:

Secondly, any candidate for permanent leadership should consider mounting a serious campaign to persuade Supporters to vote for him or her as their second choice. They should target all potential voters with a message to avoid their votes being wasted by not choosing a second alternative.

In the NDP election, as this table from Punditsguide shows, a significant number of voters (1,796) did not have a second vote choice that counted in the second round of balloting:

If those voters had voted for Nathan Cullen on the second ballot, for example, the gap between his total votes in Ballot 2 and Brian Topp's total votes would have been significantly narrowed, with a possible impact on the dynamics of the third ballot.

Lesson #3:

The third lesson for us is that if we want an exciting leadership race in 2013, we need to have at least 5 credible candidates running, so that many Canadians are glued to their television sets as the ballots proceed and the field is winnowed down.

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