One of the most covered promises from CAQ’s leader François Legault in 2018 was about reforming the voting system. This promise, reinforced by an agreement with the other opposition parties at the time, was later broken by the government. We therefore wanted to show with our project what would have been the results of the 2022 election if the prime minister had kept his promise to introduce a proportional voting system in Quebec. This political fiction exercise has been enhanced with various visualizations and expert testimonies.
Our project was published the day after the October 4th election, which once again showed the distortion between the popular vote and the distribution of seats in the National Assembly. With only 41% of the votes, the Coalition avenir Québec got 90 of the 125 elected members (72% of them). Our project came at the right time: the subject of electoral representation, in the light of these results, was on everyone’s lips. However, no one but us had done this work of transposing the electoral results according to a proportional voting system. We have therefore served as a reference for many other media, but also organizations, which wanted to demonstrate the impact that a more representative voting system would have had on our democracy.
Saying it does not have the same weight or the same impact as demonstrating it, especially since the results would have been particularly different. The CAQ would have retained its majority, but with 15 fewer deputies. The Parti Québécois would have slowed its downfall. Québec solidaire would have been more represented and the Conservative Party would have even entered the deputation. This is why our project was seen all over the province and was the subject of discussions in the days and weeks following the re-election of the CAQ, which, despite everything, has no intention of reviewing the ballot in the future.
For our project, we used a simple scrolly showing the results of the October 4th election, followed by the results of our simulation based on a proportional voting system. The representation of the National Assembly, and the color code associated with each of the parties, makes it possible to present the information in a visual and simple way for Internet users, while accompanying them in the story with a series of explanatory texts. We used svg illustrations, animated by gsap with React.js. This same visual, but static, was used to show the results of previous elections, from 2008 to 2018, if a different voting system had been introduced earlier. It is the before-after principle that has been put forward here. Everything is designed to be as easy to use on a computer as on all mobile devices. All calculations were made in Google sheets, based on guidelines provided by the many experts we consulted.
Our approach was briefly explained in the article, but all the calculations were not included in the story due to their complexity, which would have only made the story more difficult to understand. Complementary graphs also made it possible, in the rest of the article, to present the weaknesses of our actual voting system, to illustrate in a more efficient way what experts were saying in the article.
Material designed specifically for social networks also allowed us to present the results, and a summary of the project, in another way. Another complementary album for Instagram has even made it possible to revisit the rich history of the voting system’s reform in Quebec, proposed several times but abandoned every time.
Context about the project:
The promise of the Legault government to reform the voting system went as far as the redaction of a bill. It included a complex calculation method and a simulation based on the results of the 2018 election. This was the starting point of our project. However, many gray areas persisted between the bill and the simulation. All the experts we contacted could not understand Quebec’s calculation method and did not obtain the same result when doing their own calculations. A series of exchanges with provincial officials also failed to demystify the formula used by Quebec. We were then suggested to make a freedom of information request to get more answers to our questions, but it would not arrive in time for the publication of our project. We prepared it in advance in order to be ready, on election night, to transpose the results and to publish the morning after the election day.
We have therefore multiplied approaches with experts to develop the calculation formula closest to Bill 39. All our calculations are based on the results as compiled by Elections Quebec. We used their databases as a starting point, but then transposed them according to the calculation method obtained. Several experts did not want to indulge in this kind of exercise, which we finally did successfully. Our article was all the more relevant as it cast a critical eye on an abandoned promise made by the Legault government. Its abandonment benefited the government unlike the opposition parties. Our project also demonstrated how the rise of the Conservative Party in the polls did not translate into a seat at the assembly, but that a different voting system would have produced other results.
What can other journalists learn from this project?
During an election period, you have to see ahead and anticipate the projects that will have the most impact at publication. We knew that an abandoned promise between two electoral campaigns was an ideal opportunity for a simulation project. We therefore set out to demonstrate what the results of the election would have been if the promise to reform the voting system had instead been kept. We had no idea, however, how much it would be the hot topic the day after the election.
But since the majority of the project had been prepared in advance, we were able to put the final touches in the hours following the announcement of the elected government and therefore be ready to publish early in the morning, when everyone was talking about it, rather than two weeks later, when the dust would have settled. Our project also demonstrated that extensive research and complex calculations, which are difficult to understand, can be presented in a simple format, and embellished with information and expert testimonials that make it a complete file.