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Submission MORRISON-1638 (Online)

Submission By Doug Morrison
AddressGaribaldi Highlands, BC,
CategoryElectoral system change
A way of designing an MMP system with individual ridings but without adding any more MLAs to the current 79 members, and without increasing the size of rural ridings, while maintaining parliamentary stability. [2 pages]

Submission Content
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 done:

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 individuals.

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, here's how:

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 the legislature.

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? Of course.

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.

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