Tag Archives: first past the post

PR Referendum Guide

BC is having a referendum on how we choose our elected MLAs. This is a big deal. If the referendum passes and we move to a proportional representation voting system, it will fundamentally reshape voter engagement and politics in this province. So vote wisely. Your ballot should arrive by mail in the next few days, if you haven’t already received it.

The Ballot

There are two questions on the ballot.

  1. Which system should British Columbia use for provincial elections?
    1. The current First Past the Post voting system
    2. A proportional representation voting system
  2. If British Columbia adopts a proportional representation voting system, which of the following systems do you prefer? (Rank in order of preference.)
    1. Dual Member Proportional (DMP)
    2. Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)
    3. Rural-Urban Proportional (RUP)

You need to fill out your ballot and mail it back to Elections BC so that it arrives before November 30.

If voters choose proportional representation, the next 2 elections will be conducted under the most popular system from question 2. After that, there will be a second referendum to asking if British Columbians like the new voting system or we should go back to the old voting system.

The Options

The options might be overwhelming at first, but in less than 10 minutes you can learn the basics.

Here’s a 3 minute summary of what is wrong with our current system, from National Post columnist Andrew Coyne.

And a fun, easy-to-understand 4 minute video summarizing the options you’ll be voting for. If you only have 4 minutes to figure out how to vote, watch this video.

How I’m voting

Question 1 is easy. I’m voting for proportional representation. Our voting system is broken and needs to change. Too many people vote strategically for a party that isn’t their favourite. More people don’t even bother voting because their vote doesn’t seem to matter. Proportional representation should fix these problems, but if it doesn’t we can always go back to First Past the Post after 2 elections. So there is little risk of trying.

Question 2 is harder. Any of the options will be better than the system that we have right now, but they each have their pros and cons. As the video above points out, Dual Member is the simplest, Mixed Member is the most common around the world, and Rural-Urban gives voters the most power with ranked ballots.  I used the survey at referendumguide.ca to explore the characteristics of each of the proportional systems and this is what it suggested.

BallotRD

  1. Rural-Urban
  2. Dual Member
  3. Mixed Member

Rural-Urban is clearly my preferred system. I like having a ranked ballot and power as a voter to pick candidates from a bunch of political parties. As an example of how this might play out for me in Vancouver, my ballot would probably rank a bunch of Green and NDP candidates with the best ones at the top. That level of choice might not appeal to everyone, so I’m glad there are other options like Dual Member and Mixed Member being proposed that offer simpler ballots.

More Details

If you want more details on the voting systems and how the mechanics work, this 24 minute summary goes into all the details:

If you’re curious what the results of the last election (2017) hypothetically would have been under the 3 proportional representation systems, checkout bcvoteoptions.ca.

If you have an hour to hear more about why we should keep our voting system or change it, you can listen to a debate between the Yes and No sides from the Politicoast podcast, featuring Suzanne Anton and Seth Klein.

If you want to read more, there are descriptions of the three PR voting systems proposed here:

If you want to have a celebrity explain it to you, here’s Dan Mangan.

Lastly, there seems to be a lot of fear mongering coming from the No PR side (especially with Facebook ads) so to counter it I suggest you checkout Fair Vote Canada’s mythbusters series (which tackles questions like will proportional representation remove local representation or lead to unstable governments) and this spoof ad below for a chuckle.

Bonus Videos

Strategic Voting – #hashtagfail

Strategic voting sites were all the rage this election. Websites like Project Democracy used advanced seat projection models and the latest polls to determine what ridings would be close and how progressive voters should ‘strategically vote’ to stop the Conservatives.

What an utter failure (or ‘hashtagfail’ as my buddy Jack would say). Pundits Guide warned us that Conservatives love strategic voting sites, but few people listened. The promise of having your vote count in a system where so many votes are wasted was too strong to resist.

If you look at the closest races in Canada involving the Conservatives, all of them decided by less 2% of the votes cast, the ‘strategic’ recommendations were horrible. In the 10 races where strategic voting could have been effective, Project Democracy got 5 of them wrong, and the Conservatives won all five of those ridings.

Riding Result PD Strategy Verdict
Montmagny – L’Islet – Kamouraska – Rivière-du-Loup Cons +1101 +10 over NDP Vote Bloc FAIL
Nipissing – Timiskaming Cons +14 over Libs Vote Liberal PASS
Etobicoke Centre Cons +25 over Libs Safe Liberal Seat – Vote Anyone FAIL
Yukon Cons +132 over Libs Vote Liberal PASS
Elmwood Transcona Cons +284 over NDP Safe NDP Seat – Vote Anyone FAIL
Esquimalt – Juan de Fuca NDP +406 over Cons Vote NDP PASS
Bramalea – Gore – Malton Cons +538 over NDP Vote Liberal FAIL
Don Valley West Cons +639 over Libs Vote Liberal PASS
Mississauga East – Cooksville Cons +661 over Libs Safe Liberal Seat – Vote Anyone FAIL
Lotbinière – Chutes-de-la-Chaudière Cons +777 over NDP Vote NDP PASS

1 – vote difference in Montmagny reduced to 10 after counting error detected.

Unfortunately, in a first-past-the-post voting system, only 2 parties can be viable alternatives. Strategic voting is a failed coping mechanism. We need to either change the voting system or get ready for polarized American-style politics with the Conservatives battling the NDP across Canada. Even as an NDP supporter, it’s not a prospect I’m looking forward to. I’d rather have more choices.