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Voting System Referendum in BC
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ArticleId: 4932 Written: 2017.10.23 by: Robin Tivy

As you know, there is going to be a referendum in British Columbia to modernize the voting system. Ideally voting systems would be judged according to their pros and cons, not which existing parties might "win" or lose. The question should be "Which system collects more information from voters", not which of today's parties might become more or less powerful. To make the discussion intelligent, here's a brief outline of the main alternatives:

  1. First past the post
     Whoever gets the most votes wins, even if they don't have any support from the majority of people. This is the system we have right now.

  2. Mixed member Proportional (MMP)
     Voters get two votes: one to decide the representative for their single-seat constituency, and one for a political party. The final legislature is made up of people directly elected in ridings plus "at large" representatives put forth by the party. This system increases the voice of minority parties whose members are spread geographically across the province.

  3. Dual Member Proportional (DMP)
     This is the same as MMP except that all members come from local ridings. But each riding is twice as large and elects 2 members. The 1st seat in every district is awarded to the candidate who receives the most votes, similar to first-past-the-post voting (FPTP). The 2nd seat is awarded to one of the remaining district candidates so that proportionality is achieved across the region, using a calculation that aims to award parties their seats in the districts where they had their strongest performances.

  4. Ranked ballot
     This system uses , there are multiple choices on the ballot, and the voter marks their first choice with a "1", second choice with "2" and so on. The votes are counted in multiple passes. After the first pass, the choice with the least votes gets eliminated, and you look at the second choice of those people. This system eliminates vote splitting and vote wasting. But it is the same as "first past the post" as far as not giving minority parties a voice. But for a referendum, it is superior to a single question.


#6135 - 2017.10.26 Steve Grant - Rural vs Urban
Then if the issue of rural voters having up to three times the representation of urban voters comes up, then the Liberals are sure to frame it as a rural vs urban outrage. While at the same time deliberately obfuscating the facts. The Liberals hold almost all BC's rural ridings.

The map Palmer mentioned shows that geographically the Liberals hold most of BC. Perhaps he and the Liberals need to be reminded our democracy is supposed to be "one person, one vote", not "one hectare, one vote".

#6132 - 2017.10.25 Steve Grant - Disparity in number of voters per riding
Both Robin and Palmer appear to overlook an important aspect of improving BC's voting system.

Though democracy is supposed to be based on "one person, one vote", in BC, with the intent being "fairness", some ridings have far more voters than others. Over three times, in one case. Rural voters have far more powerful votes than urban voters.

This is important in the context of proportional voting because "at-large" MLA's reduce those regional imbalances. And so would make the provincial popular vote resemble more closely the party seat count. Hard to see that as being less fair.

#6130 - 2017.10.23 Robin Tivy - Open letter to Vaughn Palmer (Vancouver Sun columnist)
Hello Vaughn Palmer,

I read your column in the Vancouver Sun dated October 20, 2017, where you pointed out that the Liberal leadership hopefuls are united in fighting electoral change. Vaughan Palmer: Liberal Leadership hopefuls united in fighting electoral change"

I believe you are correct that the old guard of the BC Liberals are against any electoral reform. But I think that your article should have done more to point out what is wrong with their position. In particular, their notion that any new system is stacked against the rural parts of BC.

"The fix is in," complains Mike de Jong. "They (the New Democrats) have decided, along with their junior partners in the Green Party, to impose a form of proportional representation that will not serve the interests of rural B.C."

That's just like saying that the present system was stacked against the cities, because most of the BC Liberals were mostly elected in rural ridings. It's not because the system was stacked, it is because that was the outcome. Neither the old system nor the new system is inherently "stacked". What's wrong with the old system is not that it is stacked. What is wrong is that "First past the post" does not reflect the will of the people as accurately as a proportional system. It results in too many wasted votes. Too many people see that their vote is wasted. The discussion should be about the system, not who might win or lose.

In particular, what is wrong with your article is that you repeat very clearly all their false arguments, and then seem to go along with them yourself. You reinforce their misleading ideas by saying the following:

"Taking that scenario as an outcome, there would be a dramatic reduction in local representation, particularly in the regions being placed on alert by Stone and the other Liberals. Currently the Interior and North are represented by 23 seats in the legislature. That contingent would be reduced to just 10 if the New Democrats were to impose federal riding boundaries on the province."

Your above statements are misleading. You fail to mention that the representation of the larger population centers would also be reduced by the same proportion of 23 to 10. For that to be true, you must be assuming that most of the "at large" members are from the cities. You need to point out that that is not necessarily so. Either political party has the choice over where their "at large" members would come from. The BC Liberals could appoint all of their "at large" candidates to be from rural areas. And then advertise that the opposition were all city dwellers, etc. And obviously that would mean the cities would have their representation reduced dramatically.

Your final statement deals partially with what I am saying, but the way it is worded it sounds like it would somehow give the NDP and Greens some some kind of advantage.

"Other regions of the province would lose local representation as well, of course. But New Democrats and their Green partners could readily be accused of not minding the reduction in local representation in the North and Interior, given that they hold only four seats there in the first place."

You talk about something called "reduction in representation in the north and interior" as if it is somehow a proven fact. As I have pointed out, this is not necessarily true. Do the math. In the new system, the BC Liberals could just as easily have all of their members from the rural areas. There is absolutely nothing that will necessarily reduce representation of any part of the province.

#6136 - 2017.10.22 Robin Tivy - Problems with "first past the post"
The problem with first past the post is people have no way of expressing their wish to get rid of a given party. This leads to people having to vote strategically. And in some ridings, guess how to vote strategically. Either a proportional system or a ranked ballot would do the job for them.

A key example of the "strategic voting" problem was the the last federal election. Many people wanted to get rid of the Harper government. But "first past the post" did not give them a mechanism to consolidate their opposition. So an organization called "Leadnow" was formed to set up a "vote pledging" system. They went door to door, got people to pledge their vote, then told people just before the election who to vote for strategically. Meanwhile even the campaign workers spent much of their time telling people how to vote strategically, rather than discuss issues. Both of the candidates that came to my door talked exclusively about strategic voting.

The strategic voting worked, since Harper was defeated, but now Trudeau has a "false majority". Many people that voted for him only did so strategically.

#6134 - 2017.10.22 Robin Tivy - Old Guard BC Liberals are against it because they would have to change
It seems the BC Liberals have decided they are vehemently against any and all changes to the election system.. Their current strategy is to obscure the issue by talking about rural versus urban voters. They ignore that there were thousands of rural voters who voted against them, and whose votes are without representation. For example, there is nobody in the legislature who owes any allegiance to the thousands of people in the Kootenay area who voted for the green party. There is no representative in the legislature who represents any of the thousands of people across the north who don't agree with BC Liberal policies. Instead, the BC Liberals carry on as if they are the sole representatives of the north.

Furthermore, the BC Liberals ignore the fact that in the last legislature, the government was almost entirely concentrating on the issues important to their rural supporters and ignoring pressing issues important to the cities. Now their strategy is to act as if they represent the land itself. And then tell people how to think about the referendum - repeat after me: "proportional representation is bad for the north", that's all you need to know.

Changing the issue is a common strategy in referendums. For example, the transit funding referendum was warped by turning it into some other issue.

See the following article in the Vancouver Sun from 2017 October 20th Vaughn Palmer: Liberal leadership hopefuls united in fighting electoral changes.

One might wonder why the Liberals have decided they must be against it. "The fight of our Lives" says leadership hopeful Andrew Wilkinson.

Why is it "the fight of their lives"? Why is it that they think they could not be elected in a new system? The back room boys of the Liberal party are not stupid. They know that what kept them in power in the past. Their power came from the money they got from big corporations paying to get preferential treatment. ("pay to play"). And from a flawed election system.

But then the New York times entered the argument with that historic article calling BC "the wild west of political financing". That one article seemed to change everything. Yet they stuck to their arguments right to the end, when they took a hit in the actual election. So they lost that one.

The next line of defense was to oppose any public financing of political parties (the $2.50 per voter "subsidy"). Better to have a system where the wealthy are the ones who finance political parties. They try to frame that argument with the false analysis that "public money shouldn't be spent on political parties". As if that was true. They lost that.

So now they are laying the groundwork for their false analysis regarding election change.

Why do they do this? Because if election did a better job of measuring their support, they would need to change to get more support. Their past policies did not have the support of the majority of voters. To avoid changing those policies, they MUST oppose any system that might better measure the will of the people. That's why it's "the fight of their lives".

They must oppose proportional representation. They also must oppose other alternatives such as a ranked ballot system, where voters would indicate their second choices as well as first.

They fear that the majority elected will turn out to be against them. After all, under a proportional system, there would be 16 seats going to the Green party. They MUST make sure such a party does not get significant power. They must make sure they get as little funding as possible.