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What you should know about proportional representation

Dr. Terry Kading, Associate Professor of Political Science.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Thompson Rivers University
August 10, 2018 - 5:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - If the proportional representation voting system wins the majority of votes in this fall's electoral referendum, there are a few changes you might notice, according to a Thompson Rivers University associate professor.

Terry Kading teaches political science at TRU and gave an explanatory speech on proportional representation on Thursday, Aug. 9. A referendum on electoral reform in October in B.C. will give voters an opportunity cast a ballot for the proportional representation voting system of their choice.

The current system is called first-past-the-post which is also referred to as Single Member Plurality. This system allows people to vote for one candidate only and whichever candidate gets the most votes wins and will represent their district in the legislature, Kading explained.

Some take issue with the current system, as candidates are able to win a seat with less than 50 per cent of votes. For example, in the last federal election in 2015, the Liberal Party of Canada won 55 per cent of the seats but they only won 39 per cent of the votes, meaning that more than half of voters wanted another party to win, Kading says.

With proportional representation, the number of votes equals the number of seats. Some of the obvious changes B.C. voters would see with this voting system would be smaller parties, receiving more recognition, such as the Green Party.

"It appears that way from past historical trends," he says. "In a proportional system, the Green Party would end up with more seats."

Kading says some may see proportional representation as more fair than the current system.

Within proportional representation, there are three different types of voting systems: dual member, mixed member proportional and rural-urban proportional system.

In a mixed-member proportional system, a person gets two votes. 

"You get to vote for a party then you also get to vote for a candidate," he says, adding that they don't have to be from the same party.

In the rural-urban system, rural ridings use mixed-member proportional and urban ridings use a system called single transferable vote. Under this system, multiple candidates are elected from a single riding, and then voters rank those candidates by preference until a candidate wins a seat.

In a dual-member proportional system, each riding will nominate two candidates and a voter will vote for the politician or party of their choice. In this system, seats are won by a candidate receiving the most votes in their district and then second seats are allocated based on province-wide voting results and the individual district results.

The electoral reform referendum will take place from Oct. 22 to Nov. 30 through postal ballot.

For more information on proportional representation and it's different systems, go here.

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