Electoral Reform

Dear Elections BC;

As we’re about to head into another voting period in British Columbia, I wonder how long it will be until we see electoral reform. Since I’ve been legally able to vote (almost 20 years now),  I’ve seen a large number of Canadians choose not to take part in the election process.  Many Canadians are disenfranchised by the voting system and choose not to vote out of the  belief that this non-action will lead to reform of the election process.  This reform has not occurred, and as such I am writing today with a suggestion.

In British Columbia in 2005, a Citizen’s assembly was formed with a goal of inform citizens of many topics, including alternatives to the first past the post (FPTP) voting system we have now. After spending the time to inform a few select citizens of how the current voting systems works, and a few alternatives, these select citizens got to vote on their preferred method of voting.  The understanding was that if an alternative was chosen, it would become the new standard. Instead of accepting the current FPTP system, these citizens instead voted for proportional representation; specifically 58% voted for a single transferable voting (STV) system and  a majority support in 77 of 79 electoral districts, which was unprecedented. Of course 60% was the required approval rating, higher than anything else in history of the region, so it didn’t pass. ElectionsBC agreed to hold another referendum in 2009, when it would be blatantly obvious voters wouldn’t even know what STV is.

So where are we today?

Elections BC mandates states their number one goal is to “Ensure ongoing support and enhancement of the electoral process,” yet I’ve not yet seen any electoral form that will increase voter turn out. Let’s take a look at the 2009 report [pdf] which states that 55.14% of registered voters voted, yet only and estimated 92% of estimated eligible voters registered. If your career was based on building a bridge, or saving a life, these results would not be acceptable. I see no reason why Elections BC is showing such complacency in protecting the values of democracy by providing a system that does not allow voters to demonstrate they are unhappy with the current process.

An option to request a change in process

An option to request a change in process

I propose two options be presented to voters on every voting ballot moving forward:

1) There are no candidates I can vote confidently in   []

2) I can not confidently participate in this electoral process, and would vote for electoral reform []

As of right now ElectionsBC has nothing more than a guess as to why voters aren’t voting or spoiling their ballot. How can ElectionsBC differentiate between a spoiled ballot and the desire of registered voters to find alternatives to what they determine as a broken system currently?  There should always be an option to demonstrate change is needed in a democratic electoral voting system. I hypothesize if these two options were added to the ballot, a majority of eligible voters will register, and vote.


p.s. Please send this on to your federal counterparts, the same applies.

3 thoughts on “Electoral Reform

  1. This comment comes from Anna Morton, Executive Coordinator of Elections BC via email (Thanks for responding Anna!):

    Dear Kris Constable:

    The British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform was formed in 2004 and consisted of 160 randomly selected citizens throughout the province that included aboriginals and citizens from each of the 79 electoral districts. It was their recommendation to adopt the BC-STV system.

    The Electoral Reform Referendum Act set a double approval threshold in order for BC-STV to be selected as the preferred electoral system and for the result to be binding on government. The first threshold required that BC-STV receive at least 60% of the popular vote province-wide, and the second required at least 48 of 79 electoral districts to have more than 50% of valid votes cast vote “yes.” Because of the significant support for electoral reform in 2005, government announced that there would be a second referendum in 2009, following an extensive education campaign. Neither of the required thresholds were met in 2009, when BC-STV received 39.09% of the popular vote, and a majority in only eight electoral districts.

    Elections BC is responsible for the impartial administration of the electoral process and administering applicable legislation as it is written. The format of the ballot is prescribed by s. 82(2), and Form 2 of the Election Act. Elections BC does not have the authority to modify the ballot as you suggest, as legislation and public policy are the responsibility of the Legislative Assembly and outside the jurisdiction of this office. You may wish to contact your MLA or the Attorney General regarding your suggestion.

    Finally, voter participation is voluntary and registration is permitted in conjunction with voting. Elections BC has a wide-reaching communications strategy to ensure eligible voters have the information they need to participate in the electoral process if they wish to do so.

  2. Hi Anna,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. When I review section 82(2) of the BC Election Act, it states: “For each voting station there must be a ballot box, a voting officer responsible for the ballot box and another election official.” I’m not sure how this applies.

    Just for clarification, you’re stating that Elections BC has no authority for enhancement of the electoral process, in an effort to encourage voter turn out? I would assume as a non-partisan organization with such a title as Elections BC, an operational goal would be to monitor, audit and and review for opportunities to improve the system.

    It seems like a broken system that would allow a political party (based off your recommendation to approach my MLA) to optimize voter turn out, as the party in power could obviously adjust it in their favour dynamically.

    Thanks in advance,

    Kris Constable

  3. Another response from Anna:

    I received your comment of April 14, in which you noted that the section of the Election Act to which I referred you, (s. 82(2)), describes voting stations, and not the format of a ballot. My apologies, the format of the ballot is actually prescribed by s. 86(2), and Form 2 of the Election Act which states:

    (2) Ordinary ballots must be prepared in Form 2 as set out in the Schedule to this Act and must include the following:

    (a) the full name of each candidate in the election or, if a candidate specified a different usual name in the nomination documents, this usual name;

    (b) in the case of a candidate nominated as a representative of a registered political party, the identification of the political party filed with the chief electoral officer under section 155 (3) (c);

    (c) if requested by an independent candidate in his or her nomination documents, an indication that the candidate is independent.

    To clarify, the format of the ballot is prescribed by legislation. As such, any changes to the ballot regardless of the purpose would require legislative change.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *