The referendum on electoral reform is designed to fail.
The side that wants to stick with B.C.’s first-past-the-post electoral system doesn’t really have to do much except sit back and let voter apathy carry the day.
First, the referendum will be done by mail-in ballot. It is almost inevitable that this will ensure a tiny voter turnout for this important vote. Voter turnout numbers have been middling to poor for even big elections such as those for provincial and federal governments in the last 10 years, and numbers dwindle significantly for such things as municipal elections and referendums. And that’s when people just have to head to a voting booth and mark an “x”. Forcing people to make their choice, then head to the post office is almost guaranteed to have the effect of a low turnout.
Second, there will be not one, but two questions asked. The first is straightforward: do you want to stick with the status quo? We’re uncertain what the second is really designed to achieve. It asks voters to choose between three proportional representation systems. Why complicate matters to this degree? It’s likely that only political junkies will fully understand these three systems when they vote — if they vote.
It is even more disappointing that this comes after the federal Liberals reneged on their federal electoral reform promises. Not to mention the two previous votes on the Single Transferable Vote system held in B.C. that were likewise designed to fail, though during the first one the “yes” side, against all odds, nearly carried the day. And those were with single, clear questions on the ballot, in referendums held during provincial elections where a larger voter turnout could be expected.
We’re not holding our breath that we’ll see electoral reform in this province any time soon.