Can we find a compromise on electoral reform? Maybe

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
February 6, 2018 - 5:00am Updated: February 6, 2018 - 1:44pm
Image Credit: CFJC Today

KAMLOOPS — The B.C. Liberals may have unintentionally found a compromise to the debate on electoral reform. In electing a new party leader last weekend, they used a preferential voting system, with members ranking the candidates.

The candidate with the lowest number of votes was eliminated as ballots were counted, and the second choices for those who supported that candidate were distributed to those remaining, and so on.

It’s called the preferential or ranked ballot. It’s been used once in a B.C. general election. I mentioned yesterday the ascendancy of Social Credit to power in 1952. That was achieved with a single transferable vote system identical to what the BC Liberals just used in their leadership election.

It’s an enhancement of First Past the Post (or Single Member Plurality) in that it assures that the winner obtains a majority from among those who vote. The problem in 1952 was that the count was done manually and it took weeks to declare winners. That’s why it was promptly scrapped.

With today’s modern technology, the counting can be done in a couple of hours.

The preferential, ranked, transferable or alternative voting system — whatever you prefer to call it — is straight-forward in its pure form. An adulterated version of it has been included on the government’s list of options on its electoral reform survey website, except that it’s been mucked around with in an attempt to turn it into a proportional representation option.

Instead of leaving it alone, whoever put together the list threw in quotas and multiple-MLA electoral districts, similar to the BC-STV system that was defeated in two previous referendums.

It doesn’t have to be so complicated.

If we must have this rigged referendum on so-called electoral reform, then at least give true transferable voting a chance. There’s an

opportunity here for the BC Liberals, NDP and Greens to find common ground on a system that will achieve what change advocates are so anxious about — avoiding what they insist on calling “wasted” votes while achieving majority consensus, and retaining simplicity.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.