B.C. Attorney General David Eby has recommended that a referendum on electoral reform be held by mail-in ballot in October and November.
We should remind ourselves why reform was promoted by multiple federal and provincial parties during the latest election campaigns. What’s wrong with first-past-the-post, the system we have now?
In a nutshell, FPTP doesn’t give electors fair representation. In the last 100 years of B.C. elections, 19 out of 27 of them have produced false majorities, meaning fewer than 50 per cent of electors have voted for a party that ends up winning more than 50 per cent of the seats, and 100 per cent of the power.
One example of this occurred in 1933 when the Liberals won only 42 per cent of the vote, but 72 per cent of the seats. The results were almost identical in 1972 when the NDP won 40 per cent of the vote, but 69 per cent of the seats. In both instances, about 60 per cent of electors were unable to send a representative to Victoria.
When votes fail to count toward the election of anyone, people feel disenfranchised – as disenfranchised as women were before they obtained the right to vote. Research shows that such feelings can result in voter apathy or outrage, low voter turnout, or attempts to vote strategically to try to circumvent a perceived worst-case scenario.
But the worst happens over and over with FPTP – our votes end up wasted. This has led to the upcoming referendum where we’ll be asked if we want to switch to proportional representation. We’ll also be asked to rank three possible PR systems in terms of preference.
There are specific rationales behind the Dual Member Proportional, Mixed Member Proportional, and Rural-Urban Proportional voting systems.
Let’s keep in mind that first-past-the-post voting originated in the 12th century when people believed the earth was flat. There’s nothing obscure or risky about modernizing our electoral system to improve democracy.
Dianne Varga, Kelowna