A Catalog of Proportional Systems for BC

In choosing one or more proportional voting systems to appear opposite First Past the Post (FPTP) on the upcoming BC referendum on electoral reform, one must sooner or later consider concrete options. This document enumerates eight possible systems and provides a one-page description of each.

Download the full catalog of voting systems (PDF, 12 pages)

The eight selected systems are listed in the table below. Five are forms of Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) that would result in a two-tier legislature consisting of district MLAs and regional MLAs (Systems 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7); the other three maintain a single tier of local MLAs but associate them with multi-member districts. Six of the models use a single-vote ballot (Systems 1 to 6), one introduces a 2nd vote (System 7), and one employs a ranked ballot (System 8). Four of the options entail competition among candidates of the same party (Systems 5 to 8).

System Name Number of Regions Tiers Ballot Intra-Party Competition
1 Closed-List MMP with FPTP ballot 4 to 8 2 1-vote no
2 List-Free MMP with FPTP ballot 4 to 8 2 1-vote no
3 List-Free MMP with secondary candidates 4 to 8 2 1-vote no
4 Dual Member Proportional 1 to 5 1 1-vote no
5 List-Free MMP with rankable candidates 4 to 8 2 1-vote yes
6 Dual Member Proportional with rankable candidates 1 to 5 1 1-vote yes
7 Open-List MMP with Bavarian metrics 7 to 8 2 2-vote yes
8 Single Transferable Vote 16 to 22 1 ranked yes

By submitting eight options for consideration, one of my objectives is to steer decision-makers away from inadvertently introducing ticket-splitting tactics into provincial elections. These tactics emerge under certain two-vote MMP models which exclude district votes from the calculations that allocate compensatory seats to parties. Under such systems, many British Columbians would have to endure appeals to give their district votes to a large party and their regional votes to a small party. These appeals would be based on the expectation that the small party could not win at the district level, whereas the large party may win so many district seats that it receives no regional seats. The eight selected systems minimize or avoid tactical considerations of this nature while collectively offering a diverse set of possibilities for voting and representation.

The system descriptions are followed by a discussion, a glossary, and recommended reading.

The catalog was prepared with contributions and editorial assistance from Charles Cares. Click the link near the top of this post to download the PDF.

2 Comments

  1. Rhys, this is excellent. But I am curious.. In constructing your catalog, you have ruled out list PR with moderate district size (EG M=~4 as in your STV case). What is your rationale for this?

    (I too would exclude or deprecate list PR. In my case it would be because of its awkward tension between proportionality and district magnitude, with both of them ending up having to be fudged. But I would also exclude or deprecate STV, for the same reason.)

    At a more mundane level, I don’t understand the ‘Regions’ column in your summary table.

    1. Hi Chris,

      In constructing your catalog, you have ruled out list PR with moderate district size (EG M=~4 as in your STV case). What is your rationale for this?

      In my opinion, List PR only works well if you can ensure a proportional outcome. This means you need about twice as many seats as competitive parties in each district. BC has 3 competitive parties, but there could be 4 with proportional representation. So you need at least 8 seats per district, which may not go over well in BC’s referendum.

      List PR with only 4 seats per district might perpetuate tactical voting. For example, suppose your favourite party is polling at 7% in your district. They won’t win any seats, so voting for them will have no effect. Suppose your 2nd favourite party is polling at 27%. Chances are they will win exactly 1 seat, no more and no fewer, so voting for them will again have little effect. Suppose your 3rd favourite party is polling at 17%. They may or may not get a seat, so this is the party you should vote for if you want to maximize your influence. But this is your 3rd choice!

      Parties will also realize that additional votes are worth less in certain districts, so they will be less accountable to potential supporters in those districts.

      (I too would exclude or deprecate list PR. In my case it would be because of its awkward tension between proportionality and district magnitude, with both of them ending up having to be fudged. But I would also exclude or deprecate STV, for the same reason.)

      Actually STV should work much better than List PR in 4-seat districts. You generally don’t need to think about voting tactically, as your vote will automatically transfer to where it is most beneficial. Also, one or more seats in every district will be hard to predict, so most parties have at least some motivation to pursue support across the province.

      Of course there are other advantages and disadvantages of STV. For me, the bottom line is that it was the consensus model of the randomly selected members of the BC Citizen’s Assembly.

      At a more mundane level, I don’t understand the ‘Regions’ column in your summary table.

      I just changed the column heading from “Regions” to “Number of Regions”. The entry “4 to 8”, as an example, means that BC would be divided into 4-8 regions. Election results would only be proportional within each region, not province-wide. In List PR and STV, regions and districts are the same thing. For MMP and DMP, there are multiple districts within each region.

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