What is a voting system?
A voting system is how we elect representatives to a legislature. In provincial elections, the voting system elects Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). The Legislative Assembly (legislature) is where provincial laws are made.
There are many different voting systems. Each one has different rules about how voters cast their ballot, how votes are counted, and how votes translate into seats in the legislature.
The voting systems on the referendum ballot are:
- First Past the Post (FPTP)
- Dual Member Proportional (DMP)
- Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)
- Rural-Urban Proportional (RUP)
What is First Past the Post (FPTP)?
First Past the Post (FPTP) is British Columbia’s current voting system. In FPTP the province is divided into electoral districts and each district is represented by one Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). Voters mark their ballot for one candidate. The candidate with the most votes in the district wins and represents the district in the legislature.
The number of seats a party gets in the legislature equals the number of districts its candidates win. This system tends to elect candidates from large parties and result in single-party majority governments.
FPTP is used in a number of countries at the national or sub-national level, including Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
What is proportional representation?
Proportional representation is when the share of seats a political party wins in the Legislative Assembly is about the same as the party’s share of the popular vote. So, if a party receives 40 percent of the popular vote, they are likely to have about 40 percent of the seats in the legislature. There are many different voting systems that are designed to produce proportional results.
Each party’s share of the vote roughly matches their share of seats in the legislature.
Dual Member Proportional (DMP), Mixed Member Proportional (MMP), and Rural-Urban Proportional (RUP) are the proportional voting systems on the referendum ballot. These systems are designed so that a party’s share of seats in the legislature is close to its share of the vote.
Characteristics of proportional voting systems:
- Results are largely proportional at the provincial level
- Voters normally elect and are represented by more than one MLA in their electoral district or region
- Districts are usually larger than in First Past the Post
- Candidates are elected in different ways depending on the voting system
- Smaller parties are more likely to be represented in the legislature than in First Past the Post, so the legislature is likely to have more parties
- Coalitions or agreements between parties are usually needed before a government can be formed
Whether you prefer First Past the Post or a proportional system depends on what’s important to you. No voting system is perfect – otherwise everyone would use the same system! Every voting system requires trade-offs between competing priorities.
Neutral information from Elections BC will help you understand the characteristics of First Past the Post and the proposed proportional systems, but the decision about which system is best is up to you. Get information from all sides in the debate to help make your decision.
|First Past the Post||Proportional representation systems|
|Representation||Each electoral district has one MLA||Voters normally elect and are represented by more than one MLA in their district or region|
|Electoral district size||Districts are smaller than in proportional systems||Districts are larger than in First Past the Post|
|Number of MLAs||Same as currently (87)||Between 87 and 95|