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“First We Take Vancouver, then We Take Eugene”

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Image: Catherine Helen Spence, an early supporter of Pro-Rep who travelled from Australia to present the idea of STV in Toronto.

As part of a concerted effort to rapidly increase this blog’s British Columbia content, here’s a guest post from Jameson Quinn, friend of the blog and board member of the Center for Election Science

Starting Monday, British Columbia will be voting on whether to change their voting method to proportional representation (pro-rep, because “PR” isn’t google-friendly).

Here’s a blog post I wrote on on the context in the University College London Constitution Unit blog. Short version: BC has considered reform before, after crazy election results in 1996 and 2001, but major parties scuttled the chances. Now, with a Green/New Democrat coalition backing it, reform is more likely to succeed. And thanks to thoughtful work by activists, it may actually be more thorough reform, not just “slap a coat of proportionality onto the existing system and call it a day”.

Here’s another blog post on the options on the ballot. Short version: if pro-rep passes, voters choose 1 of 3 specific systems. All three are cutting-edge and better than the average pro-rep system internationally. DMP has great ballot simplicity and I like the mechanics, but relatively narrow voter choice is its biggest flaw. MMP could be best of the three if post-election committee follows a Bavarian model when setting the details, but could be worst of the three if they follow a more common Welsh model. RUP is a hybrid with good features, but it’s tough to explain.

The “no” campaign has been consistently dishonest. Though most of their energy comes from the Liberal party (the right-most of the three biggest BC parties, who would probably get majorities far more rarely under pro-rep than under the current choose-one system), their front-man is an ex-NDP politician/lobbyist. Here’s a twitter thread where I showed that every argument in their last dozen tweets was at least highly misleading.

I think that a win for pro-rep in BC would be only the first of many in North America. Ontario, Quebec, muni Toronto, Prince Edward Island, and Canada at large all have strong pro-rep movements making real headway. In the US, rep Don Beyer’s (D-VA) “Fair Representation Act” is a good first draft; though it’s clearly not politically viable in its current form, I think that it could be with a better-designed, less-disruptive pro-rep method. And on single-winner reform, the US is taking the lead; with STAR voting on the ballot in Lane County, OR; Approval Voting on that of Fargo, ND; and of course Ranked Choice Voting making headway and earning endorsements after passing in Maine in 2016.

David Faris thinks that it’s time for the left to fight dirty. I say, no; instead, we will be strongest if we are guided by the beauty of our weapons. Proportional representation in particular, and voting reform in general, are weapons whose power lies in their adherence to (small-d) democratic ideals, and thus their ability to undermine undemocratic dirty tricks.

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