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Electoral History of B.C.

Important Dates in B.C. Election History

1871 First general election in province of British Columbia for Legislative Assembly.
1873 Secret ballot introduced (SBC 1873 no.6). Federal MPs disqualified from sitting as provincial MLAs (SBC 1873 no.16). Plebiscite on increase in sessional allowances held – and defeated.
1874 Chinese and native Indians disenfranchised (SBC 1874 no.12).
1875 Provision made for absentee voting for 1875 only (SBC 1875 no.1).
1876 Property qualification for voting dropped (SBC 1876 no.5).
1878 School teachers prohibited from voting or campaigning (SBC 1878 c.22).
1883 Prohibition against school teachers lifted (SBC 1883 c.34).
1886 First Labour candidates.
1890 Election deposit of $200 introduced (SBC 1890 c.15).
1893 Persons residing in a Provincial Home are disqualified from voting (SBC 1893 c.35).
1895 Japanese disenfranchised (SBC 1895 c.20).
1899 Provincial civil servants disenfranchised (SBC 1899 c.25).
1900 Civil servant disenfranchisement repealed (SBC 1900 c.21). First Socialist candidate (William MacClain, Vancouver City).
1903 First general election along federal party lines i.e. Conservatives and Liberals.
1904 Polling day declared a public holiday i.e. electors to have 4 clear hours to vote(SBC 1903-4 c.17).
1906 Election deposit reduced to $100 (SBC 1906 c.19).
1907 Hindus disenfranchised (SBC 1907 c.16).
1916 Life of Legislative Assembly extended to 5 years (SBC 1916 c.14). Clergy no longer prohibited from running and sitting as MLAs (SBC 1916 c.14).
1917 Franchise extended to women (SBC 1917 c.23).
1918 First woman to run (and be elected) – Mary Ellen Smith – in Vancouver by-election held 24 January 1918. First time women voted in provincial election.
1920 Election deposit eliminated (SBC 1920 c.27). Ballots for Vancouver and Victoria to indicate political party or interest of each candidate (SBC 1920 c.27). Absentee voting reintroduced (SBC 1920 c.27). Used in 1920 general election. First election in which practicing clergy ran: Reverend Thomas Menzies (Comox) and Canon Joshua Hinchliffe (Victoria City). Both were elected.
1924 Both Premier (John Oliver) and Leader of the Opposition (William John Bowser) defeated in general election.
1928 First Statement of Votes published.
1929 No longer required to resign seat and run in by-election if appointed to Cabinet after general election (SBC 1929 c. 14).
1931 Doukhobors disenfranchised (SBC 1931 c.21).
1934 Last election of a candidate by acclamation (Thomas King, Columbia by-election).
1939 Persons residing in a Provincial Home are no longer disqualified from voting (SBC 1939 c.16).
1940 All ballots to state political party or interest of candidates (SBC 1939 c.16, eff. 1 April 1940). Public opinion polls (“straw votes”) banned after writ of election issued (SBC 1939 c.16 eff. 1 April 1940). Candidacy in more than one riding prohibited (SBC 1939 c.16 eff. 1 April 1940). Position of Registrar of Voters created (SBC 1939 c.16, eff. 1 April 1940). George M. Phillips appointed 2 April 1940. Returning officers no longer required to proclaim oyez! oyez! oyez! on election day (SBC 1939 c.16, eff. 1 April 1940).
1945 Members of prohibited groups, if otherwise qualified, allowed to vote if they served in either World War (SBC 1945 c.26).
1947 Persons without an adequate knowledge of English or French are disqualified from voting (SBC 1947 c.28). Position of Chief Electoral Officer created (SBC 1947 c.47). Frederick H. Hurley appointed to position in July. Central Registry for voters’ lists established in Victoria.Prohibition against Chinese and Hindus removed (SBC 1947 c.47). Canadian citizenship recognized as qualification in addition to being a British subject (SBC 1947 c.47). Provision made for advance polling (SBC 1947 c.47).
1948 Mennonites and Hutterites no longer ineligible to vote (SBC 1948 c.20).
1949 Indians and Japanese prohibition removed (SBC 1949 c.19).
1949 Advance polls and “section 80” voting used for first time in general election 15 June 1949. Frank Calder, Nishga Indian, ran and was elected to Legislature in general election 15 June 1949.
1952 Alternative vote used for first time in general election 12 June 1952. Voting age changed to 19 (SBC 1952 c.3).Doukhobor prohibition removed (SBC 1952 c.3).
1953 Alternative vote used for second and last time in general election 9 June 1953. First-past-the-post pluralilty voting system reinstated (SBC 1953II c.5).
1956 First Chinese Canadian to run for seat in Canadian legislature (Douglas Jung, PC, Vancouver Centre by-election).
1974 Candidates for public office required to file a written disclosure of financial and business interests (SBC 1974, c.114 s.13).
1975 First general election in which disclosure statements filed by the candidates (SBC 1974 c.73).
1977 Liquor sales allowed on election day (SBC 1977 c.10 s.5).
1979 Blind voters able to mark own ballots by means of templates.
1982 Prohibition against public opinion polls repealed (SBC 1982 c.48). Persons without an adequate knowledge of English or French are no longer disqualified from voting (SBC 1982 c.48).
1984 Permanent Electoral Commission established (SBC 1984 c.12).
1985 “British subject” dropped as qualification to vote (SBC 1985 c.5). Persons detained in a provincial mental health facility or other mental institution by court authority are disqualified from voting (SBC 1985 c.5).
1986 Out-of-province absentee voting allowed (B.C. Reg 221/86). First Indo-Canadian to win a seat in a Canadian legislature (Moe Sihota, Esquimalt).
1988 Persons who have been convicted of an indictable offence and have been released on probation or parole and are not in custody are no longer disqualified from voting (SBC 1988 c.2). Royal Commission on Electoral Boundaries recommends the number of electoral districts be increased to 75 from 52 and the 17 multi-member member ridings be eliminated thus increasing the number of seats from 69 to 75.
1991 Royal Commission on Electoral Boundaries (Fisher) recommendations are implemented in the 1991 general election held with 75 single-member electoral districts. This was the first British Columbia general election held without multi-member electoral districts. First woman becomes Premier (Rita Johnston, Surrey-Newton); elected by Government Caucus following resignation of Premier William Vander Zalm. Voters in the general election approve a referendum providing a mechanism to recall sitting Members and to bring citizen initiatives before the Legislature or to province-wide referendum.
1992 Elections Amendment Act (SBC 1992 c.72) lowers the voting age to 18 from 19 and eases restrictions on voting day registration.
1995 First comprehensive revision of Election Act (SBC 1995 c.51) since 1920 is adopted. Elections BC becomes an independent office of the Legislature. The Recall and Initiative Act (SBC 1994 c.56) comes into force providing a mechanism to recall sitting Members and to bring citizen initiatives before the Legislature or to province-wide referendum. British Columbia is the only jurisdiction in Canada with recall legislation. Persons imprisoned in a penal institution serving a sentence of less than 2 years are no longer disqualified from voting (SBC 1995 c.51). Persons detained in a provincial mental health facility or other mental institution by court authority are no longer disqualified from voting (SBC 1995 c.51). Chief Electoral Officer and the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer are disqualified from voting (SBC 1995 c.51).
1996 Chief Electoral Officer is unanimously recommended by a multi-party Special Committee of the Legislature (Robert A. Patterson), and appointed as an officer of the Legislature.
1997 First petitions to recall sitting MLAs are authorized under the Recall and Initiative Act. These are ultimately unsuccessful, failing to gather the required number of signatures set by the Act. The first Commission is appointed under the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act (SBC 1989 c.65) chaired by Josiah Wood. Subsequent Commissions to be appointed in the first Session of the Legislature after every second general election to make recommendations on electoral boundary changes.
1999 Recommendations of the Electoral Boundaries Commission are implemented by amendments to the Electoral Districts Act (SBC 1999 c.31) increasing the number of seats from 75 to 79. First postal enumeration replaces the door-to-door canvassing process.
2000 First Indo-Canadian becomes Premier (Ujjal Dosanjh, Vancouver-Kensington); elected by Party convention following resignation of Premier Glen Clark.Supreme Court of British Columbia upholds a challenge to the Election Act limits on third party spending and publication of polling data: 9 February 2000. Sections 235, 236, 237 and 238 of the Election Act are ruled to contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to be of no force and effect. Requirements for third party advertisers to register and to file financial disclosure reports remains in effect.
2001 Constitution (Fixed Election Dates) Amendment Act (SBC 2001 c.36) – to come into force by regulation – provides for fixed dates for general elections: second Tuesday in May in the fourth calendar year following the general voting day for the most recently held general election. The next provincial general election is to be held on May 17, 2005.
2002 Charitable organizations are not allowed to make political contributions (Bill 59).
2002 The first referendum conducted entirely by mail-in ballot is held (Treaty Negotiations Referendum). Voting packages are mailed to all registered voters automatically, and to previously unregistered voters upon request.
2003 Amendment to the Election Act removes the requirement to conduct a general enumeration in May 2004, a full year before the general election in May 2005. Persons imprisoned in a penal institution serving a sentence longer than 2 years are no longer disqualified from voting (Bill 66).
2004 The Election Act is amended (section 39.1) to allow Elections BC to use the federal voters list to update and add voters to the provincial voters list (Bill 54). Provincial voters can register, update or confirm their voter registration online 24 hours a day on Elections BC’s website. British Columbia is the first jurisdiction in North America to offer fully automated Internet voter registration.
2005 British Columbia voters vote on two separate ballots at the May 17, 2005 election; one to choose their elected representatives in the Legislature, the other to decide whether or not the province should adopt the BC-STV electoral system as recommended by the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. The referendum requires a double threshold of 60% of the popular vote and majority support in 60% of the constituencies. The result is a narrow miss of the first threshold – 57.69% of voter support – while the second threshold is greatly surpassed with 97% of the constituencies voting in favour of adopting the single transferable vote system. On September 12, 2005 the Speech from the Throne announces government’s intent to hold another referendum on electoral reform to decide on the future of BC-STV.
2006 On December 13, 2005, a three-member Electoral Boundaries Commission is appointed under the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act. For the first time, commissioners will make recommendations for boundaries under the current single member plurality (SMP) electoral system and the BC single transferable vote (BC-STV) system designed by the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform.
2008 Recommendations of the Electoral Boundaries Commission are implemented by amendments to the Electoral Districts Act (SBC 2008 c. 14), increasing the number of seats from 79 to 85. Amendments to the Election Act introduce a series of provisions including: a requirement for voters to provide identification; permitting voter registration by telephone; re-introducing door-to-door enumerations for fixed-date general elections; extending advance voting hours to 12 hours per day; establishing election expenses limits for political parties and candidates during the 60 days before the start of a campaign period for a fixed-date general election, and establishing spending limits for third-party election advertising sponsors.
2009 In conjunction with the general election, British Columbia voters again vote to decide whether or not the province should adopt the BC-STV electoral system. The referendum requires the same double threshold as in 2005. This time neither threshold is reached – BC-STV achieves 39.09% of voter support, and only receives a majority of support in eight electoral districts – and the referendum fails.
2010 The first successful initiative petition is conducted. More than 10% of registered voters in every electoral district sign a petition to end the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). The Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives refers the matter to the Chief Electoral Officer for an initiative vote in September 2011. The requirement to hold an initiative vote is later replaced with a requirement to conduct a mail-based referendum in the summer of 2011.
2011 A referendum on the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) is conducted by mail-in ballot. Voting packages are mailed to all registered voters automatically, and to previously unregistered voters upon request.