A person mails their electoral reform referendum ballot after a rally in Vancouver on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. electoral reform option designed by University of Alberta student

“That to me was a significant problem. Regardless of where someone lives, their vote should matter,” Sean Graham said from Edmonton.

The first time he was old enough to vote in an election, Sean Graham says he realized the system was flawed.

His hometown riding in northern Alberta was a secure seat for a party that he didn’t support, so voting for anyone else under the first-past-the-post system felt like a wasted ballot.

“That to me was a significant problem. Regardless of where someone lives, their vote should matter,” Graham said from Edmonton.

Only a few years later as an undergraduate student at the University of Alberta, Graham crafted a pitch for a new electoral system. That model is now being considered by voters in British Columbia, where a provincewide referendum on electoral reform is underway.

“It is the first Canadian-developed proportional representation system to be put to a province-wide vote, so I’m very proud to have my work have that status. Certainly it has gained traction more than I thought, though I was hopeful because I do think it addresses the concerns quite well,” he said.

The first question on the ballot asks voters to choose between the existing first-past-the-post voting system and proportional representation, a form of voting where the parties gain seats in proportion to the number of votes that are cast for them.

The second question asks voters to rank three forms of proportional representation: Rural-urban proportional, mixed member proportional and Graham’s model, dual member proportional.

Elections BC is accepting ballots by mail or in person until Nov. 30.

Read more: Elections BC keeps eye on Canada Post dispute, but no change in Nov. 30 deadline

Read more: Horgan says he voted yes on proportional representation

Graham said he developed the model as a grant-funded independent research project that was supervised by a professor, while he was pursuing double majors in political science and physics.

“I thought it would be helpful to come up with a system that not only addressed the issue of rural inclusion better but also retained more of what people like about first-past-the-post,” he said.

This isn’t the first time a province is considering it. When the government of Prince Edward Island put out a white paper looking for proportional representation proposals, Graham said he realized dual-member proportional met each of its requirements and submitted it. It was one of five options on the ballot in a non-binding plebiscite on electoral reform in that province in 2016, however, mixed-member proportional won the most votes.

Another referendum question asking P.E.I. voters to decide between first-past-the-post and mixed member proportional is expected to be on the ballot in the next general election.

Graham said he submitted the model to the B.C. government through a similar process.

In dual member proportional, most electoral districts are combined with a neighbouring district and have two representatives in the legislature, although large rural districts continue to have one member. In two-member districts, a voter can vote for one candidate or a pair of candidates who may or may not be from the same party. The first seat in a district is won by the candidate with the most votes, while the second goes to the parties so that each party’s share of seats roughly matches its share of the popular vote.

Mixed member proportional is used in a number of countries, including Germany and New Zealand. Rural-urban proportional is a hybrid of mixed member and single transferable vote, which is used in Ireland and Australia, and was designed by Fair Vote Canada.

Some have criticized dual member proportional because it has not been tested elsewhere in the world.

“I find that a bit strange in some ways. The argument against proportional representation in the past has often been that it’s imported from other countries, so now that we have a uniquely Canadian invention on the ballot and they’re still not happy with that, I find that a bit surprising,” Graham said.

Dual member is largely modeled on mixed member proportional, he said, but he designed it to address the unique needs of Canada.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Practical fashion: Local designers make supplies for Nelson dentists

Surgical caps and gowns have been in short supply for dentists during the pandemic

Search effort underway for man missing around Slocan River

The man was reportedly swimming near Winlaw yesterday

Kootenay doctor among 82 physicians, dentists calling on province for mandatory mask rule

Open letter says masks should be worn in indoor public spaces, public transportation or in crowds

Structures not threatened by wildfires burning in the Arrow and Kootenay Lakes region

Official says more lightning-caused fires could occur in region over next 36 hours

Harrop-Procter Co-op restores Mill Lake trail

A shelter destroyed by wildfire in 2017 will also be rebuilt

B.C. would not send students back to school if there was ‘overwhelming risk’: Horgan

Plan has left many parents across the province worried about their children’s safety

Face masks will be mandatory for customers at all Walmart locations

Requirement goes into effect on Wednesday, Aug. 12 across Canada

Masks to be mandatory on BC Transit, TransLink starting Aug. 24

Both BC Transit and TransLink made the announcement in separate press releases on Thursday

Penticton homes evacuated due to wildfire northwest of city

Emergency vehicles are at the scene near Sage Mesa, evacuation centre set up in Penticton

British Columbians worried as end of COVID-19 rental supplement looms

Single mom struggles as supplement was her saving grace

Three screening officers at Vancouver airport test positive for COVID-19

The public is not believed to be at risk of exposure

Arson suspected in several wildfires lit near Kootenay town

RCMP making progress in arson investigation of Marsh Creek fires

VIDEO: B.C. conservation officers free not-so-wily coyote with head stuck in jar

Poor pup was found with a glass jar stuck on its head in Maple Ridge

‘Do our lives count for less?’: COVID-19 exposes cracks in disability aid

In July, Parliament approved a $600 payment for people with disabilities facing additional expenses during COVID-19

Most Read