How to decide what to vote for in B.C.’s referendum on electoral reform

Ballots are due at Elections BC on Friday, Dec. 7, at 4:30 p.m.

The deadline to vote in B.C.’s electoral reform referendum is Dec. 7 at 4:30 p.m. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)

The deadline to vote in B.C.’s electoral reform referendum is Dec. 7 at 4:30 p.m. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)

It’s Monday morning. You only have five days to submit your vote on how B.C.’s elections should work. Whether you like the status quo or you want reform, here’s what to do.

First off, did you get a ballot? If not, head to your nearest Service BC Centre or Referendum Service Office with some government identification and ask for your ballot package. Can’t find a centre near you? Call 1-800-661-8683.

Your ballot is due at Elections BC on Friday, Dec. 7, at 4:30 p.m.

There are two questions on the ballot. The first questions asks: proportional representation or first past the post?

READ MORE: John Horgan, Andrew Wilkinson square off on BC voting referendum

Currently, B.C. uses the first past the post system. B.C. is divided into 87 electoral districts, each represented by one member of the legislative assembly.

Voters can choose one candidate, and the candidate with the most votes wins and gets to represent that district in the legislature. The party that wins the most seats gets to form government.

This system, according to Elections BC, tends to favour more established parties, and all votes for losing candidates are thrown out.

Staying with first past the post is supported by the BC Liberals, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of BC, and the official opposition group to proportional representation, No Proportional Representation BC.

The official opposition group is run by Bill Tieleman, a former NDP political strategist, Suzanne Anton, the former Attorney General and Bob Plecas, who authored a controversial review into the child welfare system.

READ MORE: ICBA again tries to halt B.C.’s electoral reform referendum

If you chose proportional representation in the first question, there are three systems you may consider in the second question.

According to Elections BC, proportional representation gives smaller parties a better chance of getting into the legislature, as well as making government more closely reflect votes cast by British Columbians.

Dual member proportional

In this option, most electoral districts would be combined with their neighbour and represented by two MLAs.

In two-MLA districts, parties can have one or two candidates (a primary and a secondary) on the ballot, and voters pick the party, not the candidate.

The primary candidate whose party gets the most votes gets to represent that district.

Who becomes the second MLA? That’s based on how much of the popular vote each party gets province-wide, so that the percentage of seats in the legislature is roughly equal to the amount of people who voted for that party.

READ MORE: B.C. electoral reform option designed by University of Alberta student

Independent candidates win a seat if they place first or second in the district, and a party must get at least five per cent of the popular vote to get any second seats.

This system was created in Canada, but it’s not used anywhere in the world.

Mixed member proportional

In this system, the province’s 87 electoral districts would be grouped into regions.

Each district would elect one MLA, and each region would get a number of MLAs based on a list of candidates prepared by the party, based on the percentage of seats each party gets in the legislature. Voters will be able to choose which candidates go on this list.

READ MORE: Is pro rep in fact ‘lit’? Horgan’s debate comment prompts online groans

A legislative committee would still have to decide if each voter gets to choose a party and a candidate, or only a candidate.

This system is used in Germany, New Zealand and Scotland and here in B.C., Premier John Horgan voted for it.

Rural-urban proportional

This system would combine a mixed member proportional system for larger, rural ridings, and has a single transferable vote system for urban ones.

The urban districts would be larger, combining several current districts into one and be represented by multiple MLAs picked during several rounds of voting.

Instead of voting for just one candidate, voters can rank each candidate from first to last place. They don’t need to rank them all, but they must vote for at least one.

Any candidate who gets enough votes, determined by a quota that will be different for all districts, is elected as one of the district’s MLAs.

Any extra votes (beyond the quota) the candidate receives are moved to those voters’ next choices. Then, Elections BC would count which candidate (excluding the one already elected) has the most votes.

READ MORE: Threat of extremism posed by proportional representation overstated, say academics

If that candidate has reached the quota, they are elected, and any extra votes are moved over to the voters’ second choice.

This continues until all seats in the district are filled.

If there is a round of voting with no candidates having reached the quota, then the last-place candidate is dropped, and their votes are moved to the voters’ next choice.

The single transferrable vote system is used in Ireland, Australia and Malta.

Proportional representation, in all its forms, is supported by Fair Vote Canada, the BC NDP, BC Greens and Vote PR BC.

It’s also been endorsed by B.C. Teachers Federation president Glen Hansman, new Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, David Suzuki, Generation Squeeze CEO Paul Kershaw and universal childcare advocate Sharon Gregson.

Reaching the finish line

You’re almost done!

After you’ve made your choice, put your ballot into the provided secrecy sleeve, put that into the certification envelope, put that into the yellow out envelope and, finally, drop the whole package into a mailbox, at your nearest Canada Post location or a nearby Referendum Service Office or Service BC location.

As of Friday, more than 1.2 million packages have been received by Elections BC. That means 37 per cent of eligible voters have sent in their ballots.

READ MORE: One week left: 37% of ballots returned in BC’s electoral reform referendum

If voters choose first past the post, B.C. elections will go on as before. If a form of proportional representation is chosen, legislative committees will drill down into the details and the resulting system will be tested during the following two elections.

Following the second election, another referendum will be held to allow British Columbians a final say on which electoral system they want for their province.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cowichan Valley Capitals defenceman Logan Rands pokes the puck away from Alberni Valley Bulldogs forward Talon Duff. (Elena Rardon/Black Press Media)
Offence sags as Cowichan Capitals reach midway mark

Caps score one goal in three games as pod season continues

BCYP Minister for the Southern Interior, Aislinn Dressler of Fernie said the Youth Parliament being virtual was a great way to learn about how the BC Parliament was operating. (Photo contributed by Aislinn Dressler)
Applications open for Islands Youth Parliament

Applications must be received by April 23

Someone used this counterfeit $50 to pay for items at the Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store in downtown Duncan in April 2021. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Duncan businesses warned of counterfeit cash

Fake $50 passed at Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store

Martin Drakeley, North Cowichan’s manager of fire and bylaw services, says the municipality’s fire halls have responded to more fires than usual this spring. (File photo)
Dry weather, wind leads to more brushfires this spring in North Cowichan

‘Be safe. Be fire smart. Be situationally aware.’

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident tries to save vehicle from the Columbia River

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general had argued there is no justification to delay proceedings in the case

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces travel restrictions between the province’s regional health authorities at the legislature, April 19, 2021. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sees 862 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, seven deaths

Recreational travel restrictions set to begin Friday

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson is photographed following her budget speech in the legislative assembly at the provincial legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. budget lacks innovative drive, vision during uncertain times, say experts

Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s budget sets out to spend $8.7 billion over three years on infrastructure

Using panels kept cold by water circulating within them, B.C. researchers compared thermal comfort in 60 of the world’s most populous cities, including Toronto. (Lea Ruefenacht)
B.C. researchers use air conditioning to combat spread of COVID particles

Dr. Adam Rysanek and his team have proven a new worthwhile system – a mixture of cooling panels and natural ventilation

Police road checks are coming for people travelling between regions while COVID-19 travel restrictions are in place. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. clarifies COVID-19 travel restrictions, Lower Mainland a single zone

Vehicle checks on highways, at ferry terminals to start Friday

Victoria police are looking for a 38-year-old man after he allegedly assaulted and choked a missing 15-year-old victim in Beacon Hill Park Tuesday night. (Black Press Media file photo)
15-year-old choked in Beacon Hill tent, Victoria police assaulted while intervening

Police searching for 38-year-old suspect, two officers injured in altercation with park residents

Most Read