VIDEO: How to start thinking about a new voting system

A B.C. politicial science professor talks about first-past-the-post and proportional representation

Stick with the status quo, or pick a different voting system altogether?

A ballot with that question will likely hit British Columbians’ mailboxes by the end of the year, after the NDP government recommended four options to consider as part of its electoral reform platform: the current system – known as first-past-the-post – or not one, but three versions of proportional representation.

It’s tough for even seasoned political observers to navigate.

Greg Millard, a political science professor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, said people shouldn’t concentrate so much on the complexities of each system, but on how each one can affect their voice and what matters to them.

“Are you really worried and bothered by the fact you can get a party with 40 per cent of the popular vote that ends up with 60 per cent of the seats in the legislature, and has complete control of the government even though majority of citizens didn’t vote for it?” Millard said.

“How troubled are you by the fact small parties can be way underrepresented in the legislature relative to their popular vote? If you’re really bothered by that, then you should seriously look at voting for electoral reform.”

Proportional representation equalizes the stake each political party can claim, based on the number of ballots, Millard said.

Under the current first-past-the-post system, you don’t need a majority number of votes – or more than 50 per cent – to win. You just need more votes than the other candidates.

“So you can win a riding with 30 per cent if all the other candidates divide that support so they have less than 30 per cent,” he said. “The result, though, is that 70 per cent of the riding didn’t vote for you, and that creates some distortions once you start to aggregate all the ridings together in the legislature.”

Under proportional representation, he said, the number of MLAs representing a party with a seat in the legislature would more equally represent the popular vote.

Millard said British Columbians also need to ask themselves how they feel about minority governments.

“Proportional systems will almost always produce minority governments,” he said, which leads to coalitions as different parties cooperate to form government.

“That’s a big change, and a change under the current configuration would probably empower certain parties more than others.”

As a result, minority governments may water down their priorities, he said, and take too long to get things done. On the other hand, different parties can be forced to cooperate to create policies and reform.

Either way, he said, when the ballot arrives, it’s best to take the time and vote.

“This is a pretty technical question that does tend to discourage people who aren’t already committed one way or another, but it is important,” Millard said. “The electoral system is the mechanism whereby we translate voter preference into seats in the legislature…

“Staying home or failing to mail your ballot simply surrenders your say over the shape of our future elections.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Eagle’s Nest’s 52 tenants still displaced due to November water main break

Cariboo Friendship Society executive director said the tenants are spead out through the community

Proposed cannabis shop rejected because of downtown location

Three councillors defeated the proposal, citing proximity to the Salvation Army and parking issues

Pregnant Cariboo firefighter tries to save own house from blaze

Julia Flinton and Anthony Sellars both worked on the 2017 wildfires

School District 27 announces new hire for superintendent position

Chris van der Mark comes with experience from the Bulkey Valley

Marie Sharpe student can’t wait for ‘trip of a lifetime’ to meet Carey Price

“I get the chance to fly to Montreal and I’ve never been on a plane before.”

B.C. storm totals $37M in insured damages

The December storm wreaked havoc on B.C.’s south coast

B.C. chief says they didn’t give up rights for gas pipeline to be built

Hereditary chief: no elected band council or Crown authority has jurisdiction over Wet’suwet’en land

Condo rental bans may be on way out with B.C. empty home tax

Many exemptions to tax, but annual declarations required

UPDATE: B.C. boy, aunt missing for three days

The pair are missing from Kamloops

Daredevil changes game plan to jump broken White Rock pier

Brooke Colby tells council daredevil event would help boost waterfront business

Liberal bows out of byelection after singling out Jagmeet Singh’s race

Karen Wang says she made comments online that referenced Singh’s cultural background

Truck hauling compressed gas for ‘virtual pipeline’ crashes on B.C. highway

Driver charged and highway closed for nine hours - containers did not rupture

Trial date moved for convicted animal abuser Catherine Adams

Adams will now be facing her breach of probation charges in court on May 16

Most Read