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February 28, 2018 at 8:32 AM

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Last day! Share your thoughts on electoral reform in BC

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Later this year, citizens of British Columbia will have an important – and potentially game-changing opportunity to shape the province’s voting system.

In the fall, a special referendum will be held to ask residents whether or not people want to change the way we elect our politicians.

In advance of this, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of both the current First Past the Post model, and the proposed Proportional Representation approach.

Right now, however, you also have a chance to provide input on how the referendum should be designed. The Province has put out a survey that asks for your input into this matter. It may seem a bit wonkish, but how the referendum questions will be asked will potentially have a big impact on the outcomes… so being able to shape these questions is important.

Today, February 28, 2018, is the last day to take the survey. We’d like to encourage everyone – if you haven’t already done so – to take a few moments to your input.

The voting booth is a public space. The way our voting takes place – the method we collectively use to enact our democracy – will have the potential to shape the Province for generations.


Related to this, the VPSN Board is also currently developing a position on the referendum, which we will publish over the next few months. While we are not currently endorsing a particular position, we do want to share a link to a Consultation Survey Guide produced by Fairvote BC. Fairvote, to be clear, advocates for Proportional Representation, but we think they raise interesting points about how the government survey is structured. We’d encourage you to take a look at their work.

:: Further Reading - Fairvote BC – Consultation Survey Guide


The ‘short and sweet’ on the two approachs 

There are 87 seats in British Columbia’s legislature.

First Past the Post – The current electoral system assigns electoral seats on the basis of voting outcomes in each electoral riding – such that the candidate with the most votes in each riding wins the seat.

Under this system, if, hypothetically, there were only two political parties in the province, and Party A got 60% of the vote in each of the 87 ridings, and Party B got 40%… then Party A would end up with 100% of the seats, and Party B would have none. (Of course, it’s never that polarized in real life, but this example is intended to show how the math works). Proponents of this system suggest that a key strength is its simplicity.

Proportional Representation – The proposed alternative refers to a method that assigns electoral seats based on the overall proportion of popular vote held by each party.

In the hypothetical scenario outlined above, If Party A received 60% of the popular vote, and Party B received 40% of the vote… then the total number of electoral seats would be assigned proportionately – 60% and 40% to the two parties, respectively. (In other words, were there 87 seats being contested, Party A would get 52 seats and Party B would get 35 seats).

Importantly, Proportional Representation refers to a family of different voting systems in use around the world – but they all, through various means, follow the sort of general principle of allocating votes described here. Proponents of this type of system suggest that a key strength of the approach is its fairness.

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