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

Incumbents and acclaimed mayors win elections all across B.C.’s north

Fraser Lake saw their first female mayor elected

Mayoral results from across B.C.

Voters in 162 municipalities in B.C. set to elect mayor, council, school board and more

Every vote counts: 10 tightest races in B.C.’s municipal elections

Peachland saw their election decided by just one vote

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

10 things still illegal in the new age of recreational cannabis

Pot is legal – but there are still a lot of rules, and breaking some could leave you in jail

‘She’s charging. Oh God’: Mama grizzly runs at B.C. man armed with shotgun

People online were quick to question – and defend – a man’s decision to shoot a grizzly bear charging him on a Bella Coola front yard

Canada announces $20M fund for women entrepreneurs

New federal program will provide up to $100,000 for female business owners to grow their operations

Vancouver Island man claims falling ice smashed his truck windshield

Man discovered volleyball-sized chunk ice on his truck Saturday, near Nanaimo, B.C.

B.C. vegan butcher to appear on Dragons’ Den

Victoria’s Very Good Butchers will star in Nov. 29 episode

Fast ferries from B.C. spotted in Egypt

Controversial aluminum BC Ferries vessels ’big white elephants covered in dust,’ eyewitness says

Canadian troops, families take shelter in hotel after Florida hurricane

Most of the Canadians were evacuated from the military base before Hurricane Michael

B.C. jury trial hears police-sting audio of man accused of killing girl, 12

Garry Handlen has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder of Monica Jack on May 6, 1978.

5 tips to keep trick-or-treaters safe this Halloween

BC Children’s Hospital has a few suggestions to keep Oct. 31 fun

B.C. man gets seven years in prison for baseball-bat attack on Kamloops teen

Kamloops man who beat Jessie Simpson into a coma has pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. He was originally charged with attempted murder and assault with a weapon.

Most Read