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Why I’m voting for the rural-urban proportional system

I’m selfish.

That’s pretty much why I’m voting for the rural-urban proportional option in the referendum on proportional representation.

I’ve taken a good look at all four systems and filtered them all down to what works best for me, as a voter. Forget, at least for a minute, all the stuff about maps, false majorities, the rhetoric and take a look at what you want from your voting system. What works best for you, the voter?

I’ve always felt that democracy is a participatory system. So for me, I want a system that allows me the most participation when I go into the ballot box.

Sorry first-past-the-post, but going into a voting booth once every four years and marking an X beside one name on one ballot isn’t participatory enough for me. It serves the purpose, but we can do so much more … I’d like to do so much more. Voting should be more than one X every four years (now, before you jump down my throat, I don’t want minority governments with elections every 18 months or so either, but that’s not my point).

The point is for voters to become more involved, the electoral process needs be more involving.

There is an argument that voting should be simple, and first-past-the-post certainly is, but what’s wrong with a voting system that forces us to think a bit, even just a little bit?

So let’s apply that lens to the proportional representation systems, remembering that all three of them do give proportional representation.

My least favourite option is dual member proportional. Under that system you still only have one choice when you go into the ballot box. You, basically, vote for the party. Most ridings will be larger and will be represented by two MLAs. If your party is running more than one candidate, which most will do, the party chooses which is the primary candidate and which is the secondary.

The first MLA will be the one with the most votes and the second will be allocated to create proportionality. The upside about the system, is that it elects only people who are the local ballot who receive votes.

The downside is the primary candidate for a party is the first elected. In other words, if Shirley Bond is the primary candidate for the Liberals in Prince George and Mike Morris the the secondary, it doesn’t matter who preferred Morris, Bond will be elected. Voters don’t get to vote for the specific candidates.

So, one choice in the voter’s booth and you vote for the party rather than the candidate … nah, not for me.

In terms of giving me more to do in the voter’s booth, mixed member proportional (MMP) is markedly better, depending on which form of MMP is ultimately chosen.

Under MMP, there will be two types of MLAs … local and regional. The local MLA is elected just like now, the one with the most votes gets in.

There are a couple of ways for the vote to occur: Voters can have two votes – one for a candidate and one for a party or voters have one vote and vote for a candidate and this vote counts for the candidate and the candidate’s party.

As I like to do more in the booth not less, having the chance to vote for a candidate and the party works better for me. This means, as voters,  we truly have options. We can like a candidate, but hate the party they represent. Under this form of MMP, we can vote for that candidate to represent us locally, but choose a different party to govern provincially. Some may think this is foolish, but having the option is better than not.

MMP elects the regional MLAs using lists which can be open or closed. A closed list means the party puts forward a list and a top-up MLA is chosen from that party list. An open list means voters vote for an individual candidate on the party’s list. In other words, you get to vote for both your local and regional MLA.

Once again, more choices means more involvement for the voter. The downside here is the options for MMP will be decided by a legislative committee after the referendum. Narrowing down these options ahead of time would have been better.

Which brings me to the rural-urban proportional system … the best one of the bunch for giving me more to do in the voter’s booth.

Under this system, rural areas will use MMP, not my No. 1 choice, but still a pretty good system depending on which options are ultimately chosen.

Urban areas will use single transferable vote (STV). What this means is voters will be asked to rank the candidates on the ballot, and there could be a number of them, in order of preference.

For me, who likes to mark more than one X every four years, this means, if there are 10 candidates in my riding, I get to decide where I want to put all 10 (or less, you don’t have to rank all of your candidates). The number of votes to get elected is determined by how many people vote and if the threshold isn’t reached, the bottom candidate is dropped and their second choices are allocated etc.

More choice means a better system for the voter.

STV, like MMP, allows us to vote for a candidate we might like but who belongs to a party we don’t. In addition, it creates proportionality without using a list for top-up MLAs.

The rural-urban proportional system gives voters more to do in the voter’s booth and, for me, the more choices and/or options the voter has, the better the system.


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