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

New Barriere Fire Chief appointed

Ashley Wohlgemuth first woman to serve as Fire Chief in Barriere

B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

This is only the fourth state of emergency ever issued during a fire season

Third overall in Canada for McLure, B.C. cowboy

McLure junior bull rider, Jake Bradley, finished third overall at the recent… Continue reading

UPDATE: 5 injured in plane crash following Abbotsford International Airshow

One in critical condition in incident involving vintage plane

Slippery suspect evades RCMP near Clearwater twice in one week

Anyone with information urged to contact RCMP or Crime Stoppers

Happy birthday Boler: An anniversary gathering of the cutest campers in Winnipeg

Hundreds of the unique trailers in Winnipeg to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Manitoba invention

Tim Hortons says its China expansion will include menu with congee, matcha

Coffee chain plans to open 1,500 stores in Asia over the next decade

How to help B.C. wildfire victims

Donations being taken by many organizations, BC Hydro waiving bills

Whole city of Kimberley on an evacuation alert due to wildfires

Residents woke up Friday morning being told to get ready to leave any moment

Feds to allow charities to engage in political, but not partisan, activity

The plan is to allow charities to pursue political activities

Trump suggests Canada has been sidelined from latest NAFTA negotiations

Canadian officials have insisted they’re unfazed by being left out of the discussions

B.C. judge who cried during a victim statement to rule on recusing herself

The judge will decide if she’ll disqualify herself from sentencing a man for sexual assault

Photographer files complaint with police after alleged assault on the job

Toronto photographer says he was attacked while covering a protest

Publication ban lifted on details about Fredericton shooting that killed 4

Judge lifts publication ban on court documents related to the Fredericton shooting

Most Read