121,000 wasted ballots in Vancouver? No thanks! We’re voting for Proportional Representation
It’s time to improve our province’s electoral system.
Eligible voters in British Columbia have an extraordinary opportunity. Between now and November 30, a provincial referendum is being held to held choose the way we vote. Voters can cast a ballot in support of the current system (commonly known as “First Past the Post”), or a system using proportional representation, where the number of seats a political party receives matches the number of overall votes they receive.
Although our work at the VPSN focuses mostly on Vancouver and its urban environment, our efforts have always been attuned to the decisions coming out of Victoria. The provincial government exerts tremendous influence on our city through its various policies, programs, financing, and legislation. For that reason, we see this referendum as being particularly important. It’s a chance to change to a system that is fairer, more equitable, and more inclusive than the status quo approach.
The VPSN Board of Directors recently passed a motion unanimously supporting the switch an electoral system based on proportional representation. We’ve marked our ballots with a YES for PR, and we would encourage you to do the same. This is an important election, and your vote is critical.
Under the present First Past the Post system, British Columbia routinely elects majority governments (effectively wielding 100% of the decision-making power) with less than 50% of the popular vote. First Past the Post may seem simple and straightforward (as its supporters will often claim), but as a democratic system it is deeply broken. Not only does it waste votes and create distorted majority governments, but it reinforces an inequity of access to provincial power.
Just look at the situation locally.
We have 11 ridings in Vancouver. In the 2017 provincial election, NDP candidates, with just over 51% of the total combined votes in these ridings, ended up with three-quarters of the seats (lucky them!). The Liberals, who had a third of the votes, ended up with only a quarter of the seats (their loss!). The Greens with 14% of the vote, ended up with no seats at all (it ain’t easy being green!).
This is what First Past the Post gets you. Across the 11 ridings, just shy of 128,000 voters were able elected MLAs, while just over 121,000 voters – or roughly 49% of the ballots cast – were rendered useless. In an era where we bemoan, societally, declining voter numbers and increasing cynicism, the idea of wasting votes like this is scandalous. The “math” used in First Past the Post isn’t simple, it’s deceptive and disingenuous. In a province where we espouse values of democratic process and inclusion, every eligible voter deserves to have their ballot count.
Yet if you aggregate the distortion that we experience locally across the province, the inequity, distortion, and wastage of votes that occurs under First Past the Post becomes even more significant. There have even been elections held in recent memory where the “winning” party had a smaller share of the popular vote share than the runner up – and still formed a majority government! (Anyone remember Glen Clark?)
To be clear, for us this isn’t about the implications for specific parties; rather, it’s about the opportunity to change a system that distorts both our democratic process – and the public confidence in effective, fair, and equitable representation.
Under a proportional representation system, every ballot will effectively inform the composition of our provincial legislature, and “false majorities” will be eliminated. This is better for democracy.
The referendum ballot also allows voters to rank their preferences for one of three potential PR systems – Rural-Urban Proportional, Mixed Member Proportional, or Dual-Member Proportional. We encourage everyone to read up on the three options, or use this handy vote compass tool to help assess your electoral preferences.
At the end of the day, however, we feel that any one of the three PR options offered would be better than the system we currently have. But here’s something to note: even if you are unsure about which option to pick, you can still express your support for proportional representation by answering only the first question on the referendum.
The referendum race will be close. Please take a moment to mark your ballot and send it in (or drop it off) today.
A move to Proportional Representation will not only benefit our city, but it will make our province the most democratic in Canada. It’s the right time for British Columbia to move to a voting system that actively embraces the core principles of democracy: equity, a diversity of voices, representation, and access to leadership. Proportional Representation is the right choice for British Columbia.
:: More information on the referendum and voting choices
:: Request a ballot (deadline: November 23)
:: Vote compass tool – check your voting values against the referendum options
:: Where to MAIL or DROP OFF your ballot