The deadline to vote in B.C.’s electoral reform referendum is Dec. 7 at 4:30 p.m. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)

How to decide what to vote for in B.C.’s referendum on electoral reform

Ballots are due at Elections BC on Friday, Dec. 7, at 4:30 p.m.

It’s Monday morning. You only have five days to submit your vote on how B.C.’s elections should work. Whether you like the status quo or you want reform, here’s what to do.

First off, did you get a ballot? If not, head to your nearest Service BC Centre or Referendum Service Office with some government identification and ask for your ballot package. Can’t find a centre near you? Call 1-800-661-8683.

Your ballot is due at Elections BC on Friday, Dec. 7, at 4:30 p.m.

There are two questions on the ballot. The first questions asks: proportional representation or first past the post?

READ MORE: John Horgan, Andrew Wilkinson square off on BC voting referendum

Currently, B.C. uses the first past the post system. B.C. is divided into 87 electoral districts, each represented by one member of the legislative assembly.

Voters can choose one candidate, and the candidate with the most votes wins and gets to represent that district in the legislature. The party that wins the most seats gets to form government.

This system, according to Elections BC, tends to favour more established parties, and all votes for losing candidates are thrown out.

Staying with first past the post is supported by the BC Liberals, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of BC, and the official opposition group to proportional representation, No Proportional Representation BC.

The official opposition group is run by Bill Tieleman, a former NDP political strategist, Suzanne Anton, the former Attorney General and Bob Plecas, who authored a controversial review into the child welfare system.

READ MORE: ICBA again tries to halt B.C.’s electoral reform referendum

If you chose proportional representation in the first question, there are three systems you may consider in the second question.

According to Elections BC, proportional representation gives smaller parties a better chance of getting into the legislature, as well as making government more closely reflect votes cast by British Columbians.

Dual member proportional

In this option, most electoral districts would be combined with their neighbour and represented by two MLAs.

In two-MLA districts, parties can have one or two candidates (a primary and a secondary) on the ballot, and voters pick the party, not the candidate.

The primary candidate whose party gets the most votes gets to represent that district.

Who becomes the second MLA? That’s based on how much of the popular vote each party gets province-wide, so that the percentage of seats in the legislature is roughly equal to the amount of people who voted for that party.

READ MORE: B.C. electoral reform option designed by University of Alberta student

Independent candidates win a seat if they place first or second in the district, and a party must get at least five per cent of the popular vote to get any second seats.

This system was created in Canada, but it’s not used anywhere in the world.

Mixed member proportional

In this system, the province’s 87 electoral districts would be grouped into regions.

Each district would elect one MLA, and each region would get a number of MLAs based on a list of candidates prepared by the party, based on the percentage of seats each party gets in the legislature. Voters will be able to choose which candidates go on this list.

READ MORE: Is pro rep in fact ‘lit’? Horgan’s debate comment prompts online groans

A legislative committee would still have to decide if each voter gets to choose a party and a candidate, or only a candidate.

This system is used in Germany, New Zealand and Scotland and here in B.C., Premier John Horgan voted for it.

Rural-urban proportional

This system would combine a mixed member proportional system for larger, rural ridings, and has a single transferable vote system for urban ones.

The urban districts would be larger, combining several current districts into one and be represented by multiple MLAs picked during several rounds of voting.

Instead of voting for just one candidate, voters can rank each candidate from first to last place. They don’t need to rank them all, but they must vote for at least one.

Any candidate who gets enough votes, determined by a quota that will be different for all districts, is elected as one of the district’s MLAs.

Any extra votes (beyond the quota) the candidate receives are moved to those voters’ next choices. Then, Elections BC would count which candidate (excluding the one already elected) has the most votes.

READ MORE: Threat of extremism posed by proportional representation overstated, say academics

If that candidate has reached the quota, they are elected, and any extra votes are moved over to the voters’ second choice.

This continues until all seats in the district are filled.

If there is a round of voting with no candidates having reached the quota, then the last-place candidate is dropped, and their votes are moved to the voters’ next choice.

The single transferrable vote system is used in Ireland, Australia and Malta.

Proportional representation, in all its forms, is supported by Fair Vote Canada, the BC NDP, BC Greens and Vote PR BC.

It’s also been endorsed by B.C. Teachers Federation president Glen Hansman, new Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, David Suzuki, Generation Squeeze CEO Paul Kershaw and universal childcare advocate Sharon Gregson.

Reaching the finish line

You’re almost done!

After you’ve made your choice, put your ballot into the provided secrecy sleeve, put that into the certification envelope, put that into the yellow out envelope and, finally, drop the whole package into a mailbox, at your nearest Canada Post location or a nearby Referendum Service Office or Service BC location.

As of Friday, more than 1.2 million packages have been received by Elections BC. That means 37 per cent of eligible voters have sent in their ballots.

READ MORE: One week left: 37% of ballots returned in BC’s electoral reform referendum

If voters choose first past the post, B.C. elections will go on as before. If a form of proportional representation is chosen, legislative committees will drill down into the details and the resulting system will be tested during the following two elections.

Following the second election, another referendum will be held to allow British Columbians a final say on which electoral system they want for their province.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

Jennifer Rice BC NDP North Coast Incumbent was re-elected for a third according to the preliminary results on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Jennifer Rice is North Coast MLA for third term

Preliminary election results show NDP Majority government

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

Subsea fibre optics running from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii and and then south to Vancouver will improve high-speed internet connection options for Coastal Communities, CityWest said on Oct. 13.
Subsea fibre optics running from north of Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii and and then south to Vancouver will improve high-speed internet connection options for Coastal communities, CityWest said on Oct. 13. (Black Press Media)
CityWest to refresh subsea fibre optics project

Fibre optics project to run cable from north of Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii then south to Vancouver

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read