A family of four from the Czech Republic had an unexpected stay in Port Alberni earlier this month due to some broken brakes.
The Koutsky family—Petra and Ondřej and their daughters, Antonína and Josefína—have been caravaning through the U.S. and Canada to introduce an innovative voting method for elections. Their camper van can be easily spotted, with “questions for the world” scrawled in permanent marker all over its body.
Their trip was delayed shortly after their arrival on Vancouver Island, when the flashing warning lights popped up on their camper’s control panel and they discovered that their brake pads needed to be replaced. Unfortunately, their van—a Fiat Ducato—is manufactured in Italy, and spare parts are hard to come by in North America.
While they waited for the parts to arrive, they found themselves in the small city of Port Alberni.
They were admittedly feeling stranded at the beginning of their stay in Port Alberni. The city “has a reputation of a blue collar town,” said Petra. But it exceeded their expectations. They received an offer from a local woman to stay at her farm, and they were invited by a local politician to attend the city’s all candidates meetings ahead of the federal election on Oct. 21.
“We heard Port Alberni has its issues,” Petra said. “But people here are just so sweet to us. We spent the time very fruitfully here. Every kind of people we’ve met have been nice to us.”
“This is a town we will remember for all our lives,” added Ondřej.
Ondřej is the former director of the Institute for Democracy 21, an organization founded by Czech mathematician and social innovator Karel Janeček. The Institute promotes the Janeček voting method (or D21 voting method), where voters can cast multiple votes—both positive and negative votes. The method allows voters to express a wider scope of preferences, reflecting the complexities of social choice more accurately.
Rather than campaigning online, Petra and Ondřej have been campaigning in person, talking with local politicians about introducing the innovative voting method in their communities. They describe it as a “consensus building voting system” that weakens extremists and populists and supports more moderate options.
“Nowadays people need consensus more than ever,” said Petra. “If people are given the chance, they have complex priorities.” With D21, she added, moderate options are always boosted and enhanced.
“A lot of people don’t want their votes to get wasted,” added Ondřej. “Smaller parties are not getting enough votes. If you change the system, you find people voting for the smaller parties. This can completely change the political game.”
The B.C. government’s recent referendum to implement proportional representation was rejected by more than 60 percent of voters. Ondřej wants to reopen the discussion about voting systems.
“People just didn’t understand it,” said Ondřej. “It was too complicated. With D21, every voter has much more power to decide what he or she truly wants.”
Overall, the family spent two weeks in Port Alberni. “That’s one of our records,” Petra laughed.
After another week on Vancouver Island, the family headed to Washington State, after which their trip will be over and they will return to Prague.
“This journey is an experiment,” said Ondřej. “Now we will sit down with people from [Institute 21] and think about the future.”
For more information about the Koutsky family, or the Janeček voting method, visit www.4human21.world.