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Newsletter - #16
28th September, 2004 : Vancouver (Internal)
Building electoral system contenders
Members of the Citizens' Assembly began this past weekend to design "ideal models" of potential new electoral systems that they think could suit BC.
After designing these alternative systems, the members will pick the best, then compare it to the current "First Past the Post" system. October 23-24, they expect to decide which system – current or new – to recommend.
This past weekend, members brainstormed a Single Transferable Vote (STV) model. When they next meet, October 16-17, they will focus on engineering a mixed system model. But, as chair Jack Blaney put it, "Nothing is decided until everything is decided."
STV aims to make the legislature more "proportional", with each party's share of seats roughly reflecting its share of the popular vote. If STV were adopted, electoral districts would be combined to create larger ridings with two or more MLAs per riding.
STV uses the preferential ballot which allows voters to vote for more than one candidate by ranking candidates on the ballot according to their preference – 1, 2, 3, and so on. Ballots are counted in a way that ensures the candidates with the highest preferences are elected.
Members said candidate names on the ballot should be grouped in random order under party labels. And the random order should rotate – meaning there would be multiple versions of each ballot – so no candidate would always get a favoured spot on the list. (This is called Robson Rotation.)
Assembly members favoured no more than 3 MLAs for Northern and remote ridings, and as many as seven in dense urban areas. Riding boundaries would have to be redrawn by a provincial boundaries commission.
Some Northern Assembly members expressed concern about their already large ridings becoming even bigger, and said this could further weaken local representation by MLAs. Other members suggested that having two or more MLAs could actually improve local representation, as voters would have more regional members to call about concerns and issues.
One proposal was for a hybrid system, using STV in populated multi-member ridings, and Alternative Vote (AV) in single-member rural ridings. There were concerns, however, that this might "create two classes of voters".
Members decided that, when a seat became vacant, byelections, like regular elections, would use the preferential ballot to elect a candidate to that seat (AV).
If, in late October, members do recommend a new electoral system, it will be the subject of a referendum for all BC voters in the May 2005 provincial election. If voters approve a change, it would go into effect for the 2009 election. However, if the Assembly opts to stay with the current system, there would be no referendum.
Deliberation meetings continue
The Assembly’s schedule of future meetings is:
These meetings are held at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, 580 West Hastings St., Vancouver. All plenary sessions are open to the public, but seating is limited. Saturday meetings usually run from 8:30am to 5pm with breaks. Sunday sessions are usually held from 8:30am to 12:30pm.
British Columbians’ views online
Over 1500 submissions to the Assembly are posted on the website Decision-making critical path
Attached is a document entitled “10 Decisions” which evolved from and replaces the earlier “Critical Path”. It outlines the process Assembly members expect to use in coming to a recommendation by December.