Citizens' Assembly Solution
The Citizens' Assembly of BC has expressed concern about how to
democratically elect MLAs to represent us in individual
constituencies or ridings, while at the same time adding a broader
degree of proportionality in a Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)
system, without adding any more MLAs to the current 80 members (a
condition set in founding the assembly), without increasing the
large geographical size of rural constituencies, and hopefully
while maintaining workable parliamentary stability.
All this while holding to the democratic principle of one person
- one vote of equal value, at the same time. Here's how it can be
Assume that the Citizens Assembly (and the voters of BC) would
accept 25% or 20 proportional MLAs and 75% or 60 constituency
(riding) MLAs in an 80 member MMP legislature.
Proportional MLAs would be elected province wide on a separate
ballot, either as individuals or from party pools. This would allow
voters to cast their proportional ballots for a different
individual or newly emerging party if they wished, while at the
same time voting for their favorite party candidate as the riding
MLA in their constituency.
If the Citizens Assembly decided that proportional MLAs should
be elected simply by recycling regular constituency first-choice
party votes, proportionality would still work, but possibly not
quite so well for emerging parties and views, and not for
Every five percent of the balloting for proportional members
would result in 1 proportional MLA. For example, the Purple Party
which might be unable to elect a single constituency MLA with a
total provincial share of 10% would still elect 2 proportional
MLAs, a good base from which to grow their popularity with
legislative exposure, if the electorate felt they deserved it.
Maintaining the current total of 80 MLAs, however means that 20
constituencies with riding MLAs need to be removed by redrawing
boundary maps. This is easily done, mostly in densely populated
urban areas, by enlarging boundaries with some perhaps up to double
the constituents than at present. Current geographically large
rural ridings would not be significantly changed.
All constituency MLAs would be elected by preferential
alternative ballot, involving transfer of votes until a candidate
obtained more than 50% of the votes, much better than our current
plurality first-past-the-post system.
MLAs in geographically small ridings with large populations
could still serve voters well. But you say, wouldn't those voters
be democratically under-represented, as some are even now? No,
Constituency MLAs in highly populated ridings would carry
proportionately higher voting power in the legislature with a
system of fractional voting power. For example, an MLA in a riding
with 40% more constituents than the average would have 1.4 votes in
At the same time, an MLA in a sparsely populated geographically
large riding with only 80% of the average number of constituents
would still have the same salary as other MLAs, greater resources
to serve people, but only 0.8 votes in the legislature.
(The 20 proportional MLAs would each carry fractional voting
power of around 1.0, depending on the precise party shares of the
proportional vote. Also recall that if proportional MLAs were not
elected on a separate ballot, they would be elected on the first
vote used in constituencies, before possible transfer, thus
favoring minority party proportional MLAs.)
Would legislative votes be complicated by fractional
representation? Not much, as anyone with a pocket calculator could
add fractional votes in a matter of minutes, and legislative
computers could do the tally in a millisecond.
Would there be objections by those who presently enjoy a voting
advantage, and might see their influence wane slightly by a
democratic system of weighted voting power according to population?
Any group of voters might wish to have greater voting power
based on their resources, wealth, intelligence, blue eyes or any
other discriminator. However, for those who believe in the
fundamental democratic principle of one person - one vote of equal
value, it's clear that this would be a fair system.
A Mixed Member Proportional system along these lines would
improve proportionality, increase exposure of minority party views,
and would still maintain reasonably stable, mostly majority
governments when they deserved it. I’m hoping the
Citizens Assembly will agree.