BC-PR: building a made-in-BC form of proportional representation

In my last post I discussed Rural-Urban Proportional Representation (RU-PR) and it’s many advantages. It’s a newer system, proposed by respected former Elections Canada head, Jean-Pierre Kingsley. I think it may well be the best system yet proposed. Perhaps its only flaw is that some people might argue it’s difficult to explain. I personally think electoral reformers are up to the challenge of explaining it, but its likely not everyone will agree with me.

Is there an alternative form of RU-PR that maintains those advantages, while mitigating that perceived disadvantage? I think there is, and for the lack of a better name I’m going to call it “BC-PR” for the time being.

If first the advantage of RU-PR is the small rural ridings, then we can borrow a feature of MMP to do that, and keep the rural ridings elected under first-past-the-post (FPTP).

If the second advantage of RU-PR is the proportionality of the urban ridings (and how that helps keep the number of elected officials selected as top-up candidates very small), then the single non-transferable vote (SNTV) can do that.

These changes make sense. AV and STV are cousins; both are ranked ballots, the only difference is whether it’s a single-member riding or a multi-member riding. Similarly, FPTP and SNTV are cousins that differ only by whether it’s a single-member riding or a multi-member riding. So RU-PR uses AV and STV, while BC-PR uses FPTP and SNTV, makes sense in each case.

As we did with RU-PR, we overlay a small number of “top-up” seats with BC-PR. This makes up for the non-proportionality of the rural ridings. 10% would probably suffice.

Finally, rather than the parties selecting “top-up” candidates in advance of the election that people would be selected off of, let’s use the “best runner-up” MMP system as pioneered in the region of Baden Wurttemberg in Germany. This way the order that candidates would be selected for the top-up seats would be generated by the election results, with people who were very close to winning but didn’t quite make it. I think voters would prefer this as all elected officials would have a riding they represented, even the so-called “top up” representatives.

Ultimately, BC-PR is the exact same system as RU-PR, except the constituency seats have been shifted from AV-STV to FPTP-SNTV. This gives us similar results for the ridings, but creates a system that’s far easier to explain to your grandmother. If we think that we can explain RU-PR to our collective grandmothers, then let’s go with that. If we think that’s going to be a challenge, then I think BC-PR is the better way to go.

There are permutations to any system. Whether it’s MMP, STV, or even FPTP, there are different ways to implement it. A future post will explore different ways BC-PR could be customized.


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