A brief look into the basics of the systems being voted on in this referendum.

Voting package for the upcoming referendum.
Voting package for the upcoming referendum.

Between October 22 and November 20, registered voters in BC will begin to receive ballots regarding the BC Voting Referendum.

Voters will be asked to choose whether or not they want to keep the current First Past the Post system, or change to a Proportional Representation system. If the voter chooses Proportional Representation, they will then be asked to rank between 1-3 the system of Proportional Representation that they want. If Proportional Representation wins over First Past the Post, whatever system has the most votes for number 1 will become the new system of voting in BC.

The current system, First Past the Post, divides the province into electoral districts. Each district is represented by one Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). When voting, this system stipulates that the voter will mark the ballot for one candidate, and the candidate with the most votes wins and represents the district, regardless of party. In this system, the number of seats that a party gets in its legislature equals the number of districts its candidates win. With this system, there are 87 MLAs in BC.

Dual Member Proportional Representation (DMP) is one of the three options of Proportional Representations on the ballot. If this system is chosen, most of the electoral districts will be combined with neighboring districts, and this larger district will be represented by two MLAs. Parties will be able to have one to two candidates on a ballot running together, with the first listed being the primary candidate and the other being the secondary candidate. Voters will only mark the ballot once, and they can vote either on one candidate or on a pair of candidates. The first district seat will be won by the candidate with the most votes, or if running on a dual ticket, the “primary” candidate. According to elections BC, “a party’s second seats are filled in districts where its candidates did particularly well. Parties need at least five percent of the vote [province-wide] to get any second seats.”

This system has recently been developed in Canada, and is currently not in use. If passed, this would allow for there to be between 87-95 MLAs in the province.

Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMP) also allows for two MLAs per region, but differentiates between the two. There will first be a District MLA, who will represent electoral districts and would be elected through the current First Past the Post system. There would also be Regional MLAs, who would represent regions, or groups of electoral districts. They would be elected from a party list, and each party’s share of seats in legislature would then roughly match its share of the popular vote in the province. This system also stipulates that a party must have more than 5% of the vote in order to obtain regional seats. These regional seats would be allocated to parties within each defined region, not in the province as a whole.

However, there are more choices within this system. Elections BC explains that “In some forms of MMP, voters have two separate votes: one for a district candidate and one for a party. In other forms, voters cast one vote for a candidate that also counts for the candidate’s party. If MMP is adopted, a legislative committee will decide after the referendum if voters have one vote or two.”

This system is used in Germany, New Zealand, and Scotland at a national or sub-national level.

The final choice is called the Rural-Urban Proportional Representation (RUP). This system is actually a combination of two different types of Proportional Representation systems. It combines Single Transferable Vote (STV) and Mix Member Proportional Representation. The voters in urban or semi-urban areas would use STV to elect MLAs for their larger electoral district. Parties would be able to run multiple candidates in a district, and the voters would rank the candidates on a number scale, and would be able to rank as many as they would like. The rural districts would use the MMP system to elect regional and district MLAs.

This combination of systems is not currently used in any country, however, STV is used in Ireland, Australia, and Malta.

If you would like more information on the referendum you can go to https://elections.bc.ca/referendum or watch this video.