A referendum in British Columbia could determine the type of voting system to be used for provincial elections. A referendum in the western Canadian province, held by mail, would take place from 22 October to 30 November 2018 with voters deciding on the type of election method to use from among a limited list of options. They would actually be offered a chance to ditch plurality voting.
The final decision on holding the referendum has yet to be made but today the cabinet of British Columbia’s premier John Horgan agreed to move forward and the local election administration known as Elections BC are now expected to respond. The cabinet advised that the ballot contain two questions with options and the exact text to their questions can be seen below:
- Which should British Columbia use for elections to the Legislative Assembly?
- The current First Past the Post voting system
- A proportional representation voting system
- 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
The first question involves basically the option of sticking with the plurality method of voting (First Past the Post) or switching to proportional representation. The second question asks voters to rank three proportional systems. Plurality voting, universally seen as the least efficient election method, is almost universally used across the democratic world.
As part of the government’s announcement, published in detail here, there may be future legislation to hold follow up referendums as well:
“Cabinet confirmed that, should a new proportional system be chosen, a second referendum will be held following two election cycles, to give British Columbians the opportunity to decide whether they wish to keep the new voting system.”
When all is said and done, giving people a direct vote to decide on the election method they use is a truly democratic way of implementing change. In effect, the outcome of this referendum could determine the fate of British Columbia. Whether they maintain the current system or embrace a proportional representation voting system may fundamentally alter their futures and those of future generations. And the three proportional representation voting system options the cabinet offered would likewise have a major effect on politics in the province.