Making democracy healthy

WRITING ON THE WALL by Joseph Roberts

On May 12, a referendum fwill be held across BC offering voters the opportunity to replace our current first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system with the far more democratic single transferable vote (STV). In order for STV to supplant FPTP, however, more than 60 percent of the total provincial vote is required as well as a second majority of ridings in BC. Progress was made in the 2005 referendum where the majority of ridings supported STV, plus 58 percent of the total vote chose STV, falling just two percent short of the 60 percent required to pass. This time around, let’s make history and unanimously support the much fairer STV system. We the people will be better served by the more democratic STV system because it shifts the power from the status quo backroom party bosses to the citizens themselves. We encourage you to get involved and help ensure a healthy democracy.

In the FPTP voting system, many – if not the majority – of people’s votes count for nothing. The corrosive effect of winner takes all steals representation from voters who did not choose the first-past-the-post front-runner. FPTP has resulted in fewer voters participating in BC elections because they get zero representation from their vote. But it does not have to be this way. No two electoral systems in the world are identical and with the huge variety to choose from, there are many better ways of counting votes than BC’s current FPTP. Here’s why: with FPTP, the individual in the riding with more votes than any one other becomes the MLA but then everyone else loses. For instance, if there are 10 names on the ballot and the “first past the post” leader gets 10 percent of the total riding’s vote – whereas the other nine people on the ballot come close but each gets slightly less than 10 percent of the vote, say between 9 and 10 percent with a small portion of spoilt ballots – the winner gets in with 10 percent. And because there is only one MLA per riding, approximately 90 percent of the votes cast amount for nothing! The majority of voters who did not vote for the one FPTP winner are left unrepresented. It even worse when you consider many have given up on voting at all.

After numerous elections based on the FPTP system, BC voters are disillusioned. Voter apathy is at an all time low with people’s votes essentially being rendered useless if they did not vote for the FPTP winner. The overly simplistic FPTP inevitably results in unfair representation and the forming of governments that do not proportionally represent the wishes of the people, thereby making a mockery of democracy.

For generations, responsible, intelligent and concerned citizens have worked hard to offer an alternative to FPTP. This edition of Common Ground is dedicated to those individuals as well as to the people in the Citizens’ Assembly who volunteered their time and energy to study, compare, research and choose a fairer and more proportionally representative electoral system. Help make history in BC’s May 12 referendum during the provincial election. Your vote for BC-STV is a vote towards putting an end to an electoral system that has not accurately reflected the voice of the people. (For more information about STV, please see our feature article on page 10 and visit www.stv.bc).

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