Three options are being considered for Pro Rep

Just when you thought we were done with voting, the ballots in B.C.’s referendum on electoral reform will start going out to households across the province this week. But what exactly are we being asked to vote on?

The ballot will include two questions — the first will ask whether B.C. should switch from the current first-past-the-post election system to a system of proportional representation; the second question asks voters to rank three systems of proportional representation.

So, what is proportional representation and how does it work? The Courier spoke to Richard Johnston, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia.

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The questiions on Proportional Representation

From Global TV

This fall British Columbians will have a chance to vote on electoral reform.

On Wednesday, Attorney General David Eby presented a report to the provincial cabinet that includes recommendations on what the questions should be for the upcoming referendum.

Eby is recommending two separate questions.

  1. Which should British Columbia use for elections to the Legislative Assembly?
    • The current First Past the Post voting system
    • A proportional representation voting system
  2. If British Columbia adopts a proportional representation voting system, which of the following voting systems do you prefer?
    • Dual Member Proportional (DMP)
    • Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)
    • Rural-Urban PR

On the first question, British Columbians can only vote for one option and the winner needs 50 per cent of the vote plus one.

READ MORE: B.C.’s Attorney General recommending 2 ballot questions for electoral reform referendum

On the second question, British Columbians can rank the three choices or select one, two or three options. If none of the three gets a majority of first-choice votes, then the option that receives the fewest first-choice votes is dropped from further consideration.

Elections BC will be responsible for providing information to the public on the different systems, including the current first-past-the-post system (FPTP). For now, the best explanations of the possible electoral systems are contained inside an informational binder handed over to cabinet.

Dual Member Proportional (DMP)

This system of proportional representation (PR) is described as the most basic one being proposed.

In DMP most of B.C.’s existing ridings would be merged with a neighbouring riding to create two member districts.

The largest rural districts would remain unchanged as single-member ridings. Political parties would nominate up to two candidates per electoral district.

In an election, one seat in a dual-member district would go to the candidate who got the most votes, as under the current system. But the second seat would be allocated based on province-wide voting results and the individual districts.

This system tends to have proportional results province-wide, but not necessarily in each district. Independent candidates are elected if they place first or second in an electoral district.

READ MORE: More fair? Or less accountable? The cases for and against proportional representation in B.C.

Where it can get complicated is who wins the second seat in this model. The runner-up in an electoral district may not receive the second seat because it would be distributed to achieve province-wide proportionality.

“DMP is a relatively simple system to understand and for voters to use,” reads the submission. “The election ballot would change little from the current voting system.”

This model would see between the current 87 and 95 MLAs. A political party must receive at least five per cent of the province-wide vote to be eligible for the second seat in any district.

WATCH HERE: What are the possible B.C. electoral reform referendum questions?

Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)

This system combines elements of the current first-past-the-post system and ‘List PR’ systems that allocate seats on a regional or provincial level.

The system would create two different types of MLAs: those who are elected directly in a riding, and those elected or chosen regionally from parties’ lists.

The total number of seats a party gets in the legislature is based on how that party does in the province-wide vote. After all of the MLAs in traditional ridings are decided, the number of seats a party gets in the legislature is ‘topped up’ from the their party list so that their percentage of seats matches the percentage of votes they won.

The actual representatives who fill the List PR seats are either elected directly or allocated from the parties’ list of candidates. Those lists could be either open or closed to the public.

It is likely this system would see the current number of electoral districts reduced do make way for the List PR seats. At least 60 per cent of the total seats would be from the traditional single-member electoral districts.

“MMP also provides for a relatively simple ballot with the possibility for voters to vote directly for candidates for both FPTP and List PR seats,” reads the submission. “MMP could be implemented with either no increase or a modest increase to the size of the Legislative Assembly.”

Like the Dual Member system, MMP would include between the current 87 members and 95 members. The List PR seats would be allocated within defined regions. No region would have fewer MLAs than it currently does and a political party must receive at least five per cent of the province-wide vote to be eligible to receive List PR seats. Voters could have one vote, counting for both the local candidate and the List PR allocation, or two votes.

Elections BC would have to make some decisions on the list such as determining whether the order of candidates on the List PR ballot should be randomized or not.

Rural-Urban PR

This would be a mixed voting system that elects MLAs in two ways.

Single Transferable Vote (STV), a type of ranked voting, would be used in urban and semi-urban areas, and the mixed member proportional system described above would be used in rural areas.

This is the most complex of the three proposed systems of PR. Rural-Urban PR is currently not used anywhere as a single integrated system.

The system would ensure proportionality in most areas of the province.

READ MORE: Opposition leaders in Quebec want to change the way you vote

Local representation in rural areas would be maintained with small to medium impact on the size of existing electoral districts.

The system would provide less proportional results in rural areas than in urban areas. The system could also see a high percentage of independent representatives, with more of them elected in STV regions.

“Rural-Urban PR was developed to address the varied geographic and demographic needs of voters in the urban and rural areas of Canada,” reads the submission. “It can provide some proportionality in the most rural areas of the province while retaining comparable levels of local representation for those voters.”

Like the other systems, the number of MLAs would be between the current 87 and 95. The MMP regions would contain the same rules as the proposed MMP system for the entire province. The STV regions would use elements recommended by the previous Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform.

READ MORE: Ottawa cuts short election reform debate to rush bill through before 2019 vote

First Past The Post

This is the current electoral system in British Columbia.

Each electoral district picks one MLA, and the candidate with the most votes becomes the riding’s representative.

The system does not produce proportional results, with parties getting around 40 per cent of the vote holding all the power in government.

Although the 2017 provincial election was a different story, this system often produces single-party majority governments.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Mixed member representation

This fall British Columbians will have a chance to vote on electoral reform.

On Wednesday, Attorney General David Eby presented a report to the provincial cabinet that includes recommendations on what the questions should be for the upcoming referendum.

Eby is recommending two separate questions.

  1. Which should British Columbia use for elections to the Legislative Assembly?
    • The current First Past the Post voting system
    • A proportional representation voting system
  2. If British Columbia adopts a proportional representation voting system, which of the following voting systems do you prefer?
    • Dual Member Proportional (DMP)
    • Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)
    • Rural-Urban PR

On the first question, British Columbians can only vote for one option and the winner needs 50 per cent of the vote plus one.

READ MORE: B.C.’s Attorney General recommending 2 ballot questions for electoral reform referendum

On the second question, British Columbians can rank the three choices or select one, two or three options. If none of the three gets a majority of first-choice votes, then the option that receives the fewest first-choice votes is dropped from further consideration.

But what do those systems actually mean?

Elections BC will be responsible for providing information to the public on the different systems, including the current first-past-the-post system (FPTP). For now, the best explanations of the possible electoral systems are contained inside an informational binder handed over to cabinet.

Dual Member Proportional (DMP)

This system of proportional representation (PR) is described as the most basic one being proposed.

In DMP most of B.C.’s existing ridings would be merged with a neighbouring riding to create two member districts.

The largest rural districts would remain unchanged as single-member ridings. Political parties would nominate up to two candidates per electoral district.

In an election, one seat in a dual-member district would go to the candidate who got the most votes, as under the current system. But the second seat would be allocated based on province-wide voting results and the individual districts.

This system tends to have proportional results province-wide, but not necessarily in each district. Independent candidates are elected if they place first or second in an electoral district.

READ MORE: More fair? Or less accountable? The cases for and against proportional representation in B.C.

Where it can get complicated is who wins the second seat in this model. The runner-up in an electoral district may not receive the second seat because it would be distributed to achieve province-wide proportionality.

“DMP is a relatively simple system to understand and for voters to use,” reads the submission. “The election ballot would change little from the current voting system.”

This model would see between the current 87 and 95 MLAs. A political party must receive at least five per cent of the province-wide vote to be eligible for the second seat in any district.

WATCH HERE: What are the possible B.C. electoral reform referendum questions?

Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)

This system combines elements of the current first-past-the-post system and ‘List PR’ systems that allocate seats on a regional or provincial level.

The system would create two different types of MLAs: those who are elected directly in a riding, and those elected or chosen regionally from parties’ lists.

The total number of seats a party gets in the legislature is based on how that party does in the province-wide vote. After all of the MLAs in traditional ridings are decided, the number of seats a party gets in the legislature is ‘topped up’ from the their party list so that their percentage of seats matches the percentage of votes they won.

The actual representatives who fill the List PR seats are either elected directly or allocated from the parties’ list of candidates. Those lists could be either open or closed to the public.

It is likely this system would see the current number of electoral districts reduced do make way for the List PR seats. At least 60 per cent of the total seats would be from the traditional single-member electoral districts.

“MMP also provides for a relatively simple ballot with the possibility for voters to vote directly for candidates for both FPTP and List PR seats,” reads the submission. “MMP could be implemented with either no increase or a modest increase to the size of the Legislative Assembly.”

Like the Dual Member system, MMP would include between the current 87 members and 95 members. The List PR seats would be allocated within defined regions. No region would have fewer MLAs than it currently does and a political party must receive at least five per cent of the province-wide vote to be eligible to receive List PR seats. Voters could have one vote, counting for both the local candidate and the List PR allocation, or two votes.

Elections BC would have to make some decisions on the list such as determining whether the order of candidates on the List PR ballot should be randomized or not.

Rural-Urban PR

This would be a mixed voting system that elects MLAs in two ways.

Single Transferable Vote (STV), a type of ranked voting, would be used in urban and semi-urban areas, and the mixed member proportional system described above would be used in rural areas.

This is the most complex of the three proposed systems of PR. Rural-Urban PR is currently not used anywhere as a single integrated system.

The system would ensure proportionality in most areas of the province.

READ MORE: Opposition leaders in Quebec want to change the way you vote

Local representation in rural areas would be maintained with small to medium impact on the size of existing electoral districts.

The system would provide less proportional results in rural areas than in urban areas. The system could also see a high percentage of independent representatives, with more of them elected in STV regions.

“Rural-Urban PR was developed to address the varied geographic and demographic needs of voters in the urban and rural areas of Canada,” reads the submission. “It can provide some proportionality in the most rural areas of the province while retaining comparable levels of local representation for those voters.”

Like the other systems, the number of MLAs would be between the current 87 and 95. The MMP regions would contain the same rules as the proposed MMP system for the entire province. The STV regions would use elements recommended by the previous Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform.

READ MORE: Ottawa cuts short election reform debate to rush bill through before 2019 vote

First Past The Post

This is the current electoral system in British Columbia.

Each electoral district picks one MLA, and the candidate with the most votes becomes the riding’s representative.

The system does not produce proportional results, with parties getting around 40 per cent of the vote holding all the power in government.

Although the 2017 provincial election was a different story, this system often produces single-party majority governments.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Dual Member

Dual Member proportional voting is the first of three systems that will be listed on the ballot in BC’s upcoming referendum.  The Dual Member system is a modern take on the two-member riding system that Prince Edward Island has used for most of its history (until the mid-1990s) and was one of two options on the ballot in PEI’s 2016 plebiscite on voting reform.  Since BC also used multi-member ridings until the 1990s, Dual Member also echoes our own voting history.

How it Works

With Dual Member voting, BC’s current single-member districts would be paired to create half as many dual-member ridings, so the number of MLAs would be unchanged. The Attorney General also recommended that a small number of the rural ridings remain single member ridings.

All candidates would run in their local dual-member riding.  The ballot would be very similar to what we currently use, except that parties would have the option to list two candidates instead of one, and voters would check one box on the ballot, just as we do now.

The first seat in every paired riding would go to the first candidate of the party with the most votes.  The second seat would go to one of the remaining candidates in such a way that the overall seat share closely matches the vote share by party.

 

Example

As an example of how this might work in practice, consider what could happen on Vancouver Island. Currently, there are 14 seats on the Island, so we would end up with seven paired ridings, each with two MLAs.

In the 2017 provincial election, BC NDP candidates earned about 40% of the vote on the Island, and the BC Liberal and BC Green candidates each earned about 30%.  Our current system elected 10 NDP MLAs, 3 Green MLAs and 1 Liberal MLA; a proportional result would have been 6 NDP, 4 Green, and 4 Liberal MLAs.

Using Dual Member, we likely would have seen 6 NDP MLAs and 1 Green MLA elected to the 7 first seats in the paired ridings.  This means that to balance out the results, the second seats would have gone to four BC Liberal MLAs and 3 Green MLAs.

The MLAs elected to the second seats would generally be elected in their areas of greatest strength. BC Liberal MLAs would likely have been elected in the northern half of the Island, while the Green MLAs would likely have been elected primarily in the southern part of the Island.

You might like the Dual Member option if you like the idea of keeping a ballot that’s very similar to what we use now, and which will give you two local MLAs (typically from different parties).

Like the two other systems on the ballot, Dual Member would deliver strong proportionality, preserve the same number of MLAs in each region of the province as we have now, and would allow voters to vote for specific candidates.  And if we aren’t happy with it, there will be another referendum after we’ve used it for two elections to decide if we want to stick with it.

You can find more details at dmpforcanada.com

Voters guide for referendum

Voter’s Guide


Elections BC is mailing a referendum voter’s guide to every household in B.C. between October 15 and 26, 2018. The guide covers how to vote in the referendum and information about all four voting systems on the referendum ballot.

What can I do now to get ready for the referendum?


Make sure your voter information is up to date, especially if you’ve never registered to vote, moved recently, or changed your name. This will help make sure you get your referendum voting package in the mail between October 22 and November 2, 2018. You can make sure your voter information is up to date by:

You can also get informed to help make your decision. Refer to the neutral information on our website about the characteristics of each voting system on the ballot, and get information from all sides in the debate.

The Attorney General of British Columbia released a recommendations report about the referendum and the voting systems on the ballot. Read the report here.

Who can vote in the referendum?


You can vote in the referendum if you are:

  • a Canadian citizen,
  • 18 or older as of November 30, 2018, and
  • a resident of B.C. for at least six months immediately before November 30, 2018.

 

David Eby, Attorney General, has released a report detailing the results of the citizen engagement on electoral reform, which informed his 18 recommendations to cabinet for how the fall 2018 referendum should be structured. 

The public engagement ran for 14 weeks, ending Feb. 28, 2018, and drew 180,000 visits to the “How We Vote” website, with a record 91,725 questionnaires completed. Another 1,101 questionnaires were completed by a panel selected to represent B.C.’s demographic mix to provide a base for comparison to the website respondents. Substantive written submissions were received by 46 organizations and 208 individuals. 

The report released today contains a comprehensive breakdown of results, and analysis of the recommendations by the attorney general.

“British Columbians made their voices and their values heard, and it was important we gave them the opportunity to direct how this referendum should work,” said Eby. “This input has provided us a firm footing for the recommendations I am putting forward to cabinet. While the engagement marked a first step in involving the public more meaningfully in our democratic process, ultimately, British Columbians, through the referendum, will determine how we vote in B.C.”

The attorney general’s recommendations to cabinet cover all aspects of the fall 2018 referendum, which will decide whether B.C. keeps its current First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system or moves to a system of proportional representation (PR).

The report recommends that the referendum ballot include two questions:

1.   Which should British Columbia use for elections to the Legislative Assembly (Vote for only one.):

  • The current First Past the Post voting system
  • A proportional representation voting system

2.   If British Columbia adopts a proportional representation voting system, which of the following voting systems do you prefer? (Vote for the voting systems you wish to support by ranking them in order of preference. You may choose to support one, two or all three of the systems.):

  •  Dual Member Proportional (DMP)
  •  Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)
  •  Rural-Urban PR

If a majority of responses to the first question vote to adopt a proportional representation voting system, then responses to the second question would determine which system is implemented in British Columbia.

The report’s key recommendations also include that:

  • The referendum campaign period begin July 1, 2018, and end by Nov. 30, 2018.
  • The referendum voting period (by mail-in ballot) run Oct. 22, 2018, to Nov. 30, 2018.
  • The chief electoral officer, who is independent of government, provide neutral and factual information to voters about the referendum, including voting systems on the ballot.
  • The chief electoral officer select one designated group to advocate on behalf of retaining the current FPTP voting system, and one to advocate on behalf of PR, using a selection process similar to the 2009 referendum on electoral reform.
  • If voters decide to adopt a proportional representation system, a second referendum be held following two general elections, where voters would decide to keep the new system or return to FPTP.

The report describes the three proportional representation systems to be included on the ballot, which correspond to the engagement with British Columbians. If a proportional system is adopted, it must include a set of features, including:

  • No significant increase in the size of the legislature.
  • No region of the province having fewer MLAs than it currently has.
  • No political party being eligible to receive a seat if they receive less than 5% of the overall vote in the province or region.

Eby presented the report with recommendations to the public, prior to delivering it to cabinet for deliberation.

Learn More:

How We Vote Report and Recommendations:
https://engage.gov.bc.ca/app/uploads/sites/271/2018/05/How-We-Vote-2018-Electoral-Reform-Referendum-Report-and-Recommendations-of-the-Attorney-General.pdf