Unopened referendum voting packages collecting in a “return to sender” basket in a B.C. apartment building lobby. (Twitter)

Lack of public response threatens B.C. referendum credibility

Of the few who have voted, poll finds most rejected proportional representation

Premier John Horgan is promoting B.C.’s electoral reform options as a way to improve voter participation, but a lack of returned ballots raises doubts about the credibility of the result.

More than two weeks into the mail-in voting period, and a day after Horgan’s televised debate with B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson over the three types of proportional representation being offered, only 3.7 per cent of ballots had been returned to Elections B.C.

Courtenay-Comox and Boundary-Similkameen voters had the highest response at 11 per cent by Friday, but Delta North, Maple Ridge-Mission and others had returned only a handful of ballots. A grand total of 14 Surrey-White Rock ballots were received, out of more than 42,000 mailed out to that constituency starting in late October.

Out of 3.3 million voting packages mailed out province-wide, just over 120,000 had been returned by Friday.

READ MORE: Horgan, Wilkinson square off in TV debate

WATCH VIDEO: Deadline for voting only two weeks away

In the debate, Horgan said proportional representation will appeal to those “tuned out and turned off” by the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system that gives big majorities to one party or another in many regions of B.C.

“We have seen voter turnout go down election after election after election,” Horgan said. “The best way to invigorate our system is to encourage people to participate and you do that by giving them options, giving them choices.”

In fact, turnout in the latest provincial election was up, from 57 per cent of registered voters in the 2013 election to 61 per cent in the 2017 election that resulted in an NDP minority government. And according to Elections B.C. statistics, the largest increase in participation was among voters under age 45.

The lowest turnout in B.C. general elections was in 2009, where just over 50 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots, re-electing the Gordon Campbell government and rejecting for a second time a proposed “single transferable vote” method of proportional representation.

In last week’s debate, Wilkinson called the current three choices “a dog’s breakfast” that few people understand, and referred to unopened ballot packages landing in recycling bins or returned to the sender.

According to the latest public opinion poll, those who did mail in their ballots right away have been more likely to decline the choices offered by the NDP government. Insights West surveyed more than 800 B.C. residents, finding a virtual tie between FPTP and some form of proportional representation, 41 per cent to 42.

But among respondents who had already voted, 58 per cent said they chose to stick with the existing system.

Horgan pointed to recent provincial election results as demonstrating the unfairness of FPTP.

“In Quebec, 37 per cent of the vote made 100 per cent of the power,” Horgan said. “In Ontario, 40 per cent of the vote, 100 per cent of the power.”

Wilkinson used most of his time in the brief TV debate to press Horgan to explain how the options would work, particularly in larger, multi-member constituencies that would result.

“You’re asking us to change to something where we don’t know where the boundaries will be,” Wilkinson told Horgan. “We don’t know how many votes we get, we don’t know how many MLAs we’re going to have, and particularly we don’t know how these votes are going to be redistributed around the province.”

Completed ballots must be received by Elections B.C. by 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 30, meaning they should be in the mail by Monday, Nov. 26.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureProportional representation

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

Just Posted

Plane crashes into Nelson supermarket parking lot

Pilot and passenger have minor injuries

Trail invited to ‘Climb’

70,000-kilometre hiking challenge to support people living with dementia

Shady dealings invade B.C. rental market, online sales

Advisory from the Better Business Bureau

Adrian Dix: It’s time to renew the fight to stop the spread

We must recommit to using our COVID sense to keep us safe, stop the spread and save lives

Phase three presents new opportunities for Kootenay tourism

Message from MLA Michelle Mungall and MLA Katrine Conroy

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

All inquiry recommendations implemented after fatal Port Hardy RCMP shooting: Ministry

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. cleared the RCMP officers involved of wrongdoing

Leave your deets when dining: Restaurants taking personal info to trace COVID-19

Health officials say indoor dining presents a higher risk

Most Read