AG Report, Recommendations On Electoral Reform Referendum

Victoria – David Eby, Attorney General, has released a report detailing the results of the citizen engagement on electoral reform, which informed his 18 recommendations to cabinet for how the fall 2018 referendum should be structured.

The public engagement ran for 14 weeks, ending Feb. 28, 2018, and drew 180,000 visits to the “How We Vote” website, with a record 91,725 questionnaires completed. Another 1,101 questionnaires were completed by a panel selected to represent B.C.’s demographic mix to provide a base for comparison to the website respondents. Substantive written submissions were received by 46 organizations and 208 individuals.

The report released Wednesday contains a comprehensive breakdown of results, and analysis of the recommendations by the Attorney General.

Summary of Electoral Reform Report – Recommendations to cabinet

Referendum Ballot Questions

Recommendation: That the referendum ballot questions be as follows:

  • Which should British Columbia use for elections to the Legislative Assembly? (Vote for only one.):
    •  The current First Past the Post voting system
    •  A proportional representation voting system
  • If British Columbia adopts a proportional representation voting system, which of the following voting systems do you prefer? (Vote for the voting systems you wish to support by ranking them in order of preference. You may choose to support one, two or all three of the systems.)
    •  Dual Member Proportional (DMP)
    •  Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)
    •  Rural-Urban PR

Recommendation: That voters be permitted to:

  • vote for either question or both questions as they wish; and
  • indicate support for one, two or all three of the proportional representation voting systems in the second question.

Recommendation: Votes for the second question should be counted as follows:

  • if no voting system receives more than 50% of first-choice votes, then the system that receives the fewest first-choice votes is dropped from further consideration;
  • the second choices of the voters who voted for the system that has been dropped are redistributed to the other two systems;
  • whichever of the two remaining systems has the most votes at that point would be the system that is adopted.

Matters for Post-Referendum Deliberation and Implementation

Recommendation: That, if the result of the referendum is the adoption of a proportional representation voting system, an all-party legislative committee consider and make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly on any matters necessary for the design and implementation of the chosen voting system that are not described in the recommended models in this report.

Recommendation: That the legislative committee be required to report no later than March 31, 2019, and that it be constituted during the Fall 2018 legislative session in order to begin its work immediately if the result of the referendum is to adopt a proportional representation voting system.

Referendum Voting Period

Recommendation: That the referendum voting period (the period during which ballot packages are to be distributed and returned) be Oct. 22, 2018 to Nov. 30, 2018.

Referendum Campaign Period

Recommendation: That the referendum campaign period (the period during which referendum advertising is regulated) begin on July 1, 2018, and end at the end of the referendum voting period.

Referendum Campaign Advertising and Financing

Recommendation: That referendum advertising sponsors be subject to an expenses limit of $200,000 during the referendum campaign period.

Recommendation: That referendum advertising sponsors be regulated in a manner similar to election advertising sponsors under Parts 10.1 and 11 of the Election Act, including but not limited to restrictions on the source and amounts of permissible sponsorship contributions, a requirement to register in advance of conducting referendum advertising, and a requirement to file post-referendum reports.

Recommendation: That provincial political parties be subject to the same referendum campaign rules as other referendum advertising sponsors, except that any contributions raised by political parties for referendum activities be treated as political contributions under the Election Act.

Designated Referendum Proponent and Opponent Groups

Recommendation: That there be one designated group to advocate on behalf of retaining the current First Past the Post voting system, and one designated group to advocate on behalf of proportional representation.
Recommendation: That the Chief Electoral Officer select the designated groups using a process and selection criteria similar to the 2009 referendum on electoral reform.
Recommendation: That each group be provided with $500,000 in public funding for the purpose of stimulating public interest and debate about the choices on the referendum ballot.
Recommendation: That the designated groups’ use of public funding be regulated in a manner similar to the 2009 referendum on electoral reform, including restrictions on use and repayment of any unused funds.
Recommendation: That the overall expenses limit for each designated group be the sum of their public funding plus the amount of the expenses limit established for referendum advertising sponsors, and that any funds the designated groups raise outside of the public funding amounts be subject to the same rules as for other referendum advertising sponsors.

Public Education

Recommendation: That the Chief Electoral Officer be responsible for providing neutral and factual information to voters about the referendum, including informing voters about the voting systems appearing on the referendum ballot.

Subsequent Referendum

Recommendation: That, if the result of the 2018 referendum is the adoption of a proportional representation voting system, a second referendum be held after two provincial general elections in which the proportional representation voting system is used on whether to keep that voting system or revert to the First Past the Post voting system.

Indigenous Representation

Recommendation: That, regardless of the outcome of the referendum, a legislative committee be appointed to examine ways to improve the representation of Indigenous people in the British Columbia Legislature, including issues of accessibility and inclusion and the issue of creating one or more designated seats for Indigenous people in the Legislative Assembly.

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