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

Langley rollover crash slows traffic on 200 Street in Willoughby

Crews called to Monday afternoon collision involving two cars

Township mayor Jack Froese talks short- and long-term goals for third term

Tree bylaw, pot sales among topics that will need attention in coming months

Used election signs could serve as emergency shelters, candidate says

Langley council hopeful wants to build one-person foul weather shelters for homeless

Four-vehicle collision shuts down section of Highway 10 in Cloverdale

One driver transported to hospital with what looked to be non-life threatening injuries

Langley player to compete in first NCAA basketball tournament in Canada

Former Brookswood star Louise Forsyth to play in Vancouver Showcase

B.C. sailor surprised by humpback whale playing under her boat

Jodi Klahm-Kozicki said the experience was ‘magical’ near Denman Island

Ovechkin has 4 points as Caps rough up Canucks 5-2

WATCH: Defending champs pick up impressive win in Vancouver

Vancouver mayoral hopefuly admits defeat, congratulates winner Kennedy Stewart

Ken Sim of the Non-Partisan Association apologized for the time it took to acknowledge Stewart won

Mental fitness questioned of man charged in Chilliwack River Valley shooting

Peter Kampos told his lawyer ‘his dreams are being stolen and turned into drugs’ at Surrey Pre-trial

Fraser Valley mom stuck in Africa over adoption delay

Kim and Clark Moran have been waiting four weeks to bring son home

B.C. government moves to tighten resource industry regulations

New superintendent will oversee engineers, biologists, foresters

Election watchdog seeks digitally savvy specialists to zero in on threats

Move follows troublesome evidence of online Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election

Most Read