Learn about the 3 models of proportional representation on the ballot

Dual Member Proportional

Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)

Rural-Urban PR
(Also known as “Flexible District PR”)

Dual Member Proportional

Origin

Dual Member Proportional (DMP) is a proportional electoral system that was invented by Sean Graham in 2013 with funding from the University of Alberta.

How it works

Dual member proportional would see two ridings combined into one across the province. The new, larger ridings would then have two MLAs: one primary, one secondary.

One MLA is elected on a First-Past-the-Post basis, while the other is allocated based on province-wide voting results.

Secondary MLAs are transferred half of the First-Past-the-Post votes that their partner won, which is used to prioritize which parties win secondary seats. Those seats are allocated to make the seats proportional to the popular vote.

When an independent candidate places first or second they are automatically elected.

Main Features

  • Larger ridings
  • Mathematical formulas
  • Two MLAs per riding

Discussion and Problem Areas

Two MLAs in each riding means that they will likely be working at cross-purposes, even if they are from the same party. When MLAs are from different parties, they will be competing against each other to represent the community.

The “secondary candidate” title also creates issues of legitimacy. It will be harder for a secondary candidate to say they represent the riding when they were placed there by a formula, not the voters.

This system has never been tested anywhere in the world. It placed third in the PEI Electoral Reform Referendum. It appears to prioritize mathematical equality over working relationships with voters.

Information Decided After the Referendum

  • What the total number of MLAs should be.
  • Whether there should be a number or a range of MLAs.
  • Whether a “reserve” number of seats should be part of the formula.

Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)

Origin

MMP Began in 1949 in postwar Germany as a provisional system of the West German constitution. The Citizens Assembly rejected MMP for the 2005 referendum due to it reducing local representation.

How it works

MLAs in the house are determined by a mathematical formula. MLAs are first elected in their First-Past-the-Post seats. Those seats are then ‘topped up’ in order to make the total amount of seats proportional to the popular vote. Top-up MLAs are appointed off party lists.

Party lists can either be closed, meaning the party determines the order in which MLAs are selected off the list, or open, meaning voters can order the MLAs that they wish to see chosen off the list. In both cases they are appointed by the party. In BC up to 40 percent (or 35 out of 87 MLAs) would be chosen from lists.

Main Features

  • Party lists
  • Larger ridings
  • Mathematical formulas
  • Discussion and Problem Areas

Discussion and Problem Areas

Complex formulas for allocating top-up seats means it is not always clear to voters how their vote results in an MLA being seated in the legislature. Ridings would also have to become larger and be reduced in order to accommodate list candidates. This would make the work of regional MLAs more difficult.

Strategic voting will still occur. The increase in minor parties and rise of coalitions can prompt voters to look to fringe parties when they become tired of a coalition or want to prop it up. The end result is casting a vote and hoping the party leaders can negotiate an effective deal for your coalition.

New Zealand and Germany have both had difficulty forming governments under the MMP system. Germany went 172 days without forming a government because of the difficulty forming a government that excluded the far-right AFD party.

New Zealand similarly had its governing coalition held hostage by the anonymous board members of the far right New Zealand First party until it chose who it would support in a coalition government.

Information Decided After the Referendum

  • Whether lists are open or closed (i.e., determined by the party)

  • Whether voters have one or two votes

  • The exact percentage of list seats

  • Whether to have a set or flexible number of seats

  • The order of candidates on the ballot

  • How to fill vacant seats

  • Rural-Urban PR (Also known as “Flexible District PR”)

Rural-Urban PR

Origin

Rural-Urban PR was invented by Fair Vote Canada and Fair Voting BC. The Federal NDP and Green Parties jointly recommended this system in their report at the Federal Special Parliamentary Committee on Electoral reform.

How it works

It combines Single Transferable Vote (STV) in urban and semi-urban areas with Mixed Member PR in rural areas. Multi-member STV districts are elected using the Droop formula, where last-place candidates are eliminated until a member hits the required amount of votes for election. This elimination continues until the prescribed number of candidates in a multi-member district are elected.

Rural areas use MMP but on a smaller scale. Some First-Past-the-Post ridings would remain.

Main Features

  • Separate electoral systems based on regions
  • Two different ballots
  • Mathematical formulas
  • Larger ridings
  • Discussion and Problem Areas

Discussion and Problem Areas

This is a system that was invented in-house by Fair Vote Canada. It has never been tested anywhere in the world. As a result, too many details are uncertain and voters won’t be certain how this will impact their community.

This system would further segregate rural and urban communities into two separate electoral systems. This means there would be two classes of voter, two tiers of MLAs, and two separate ballots depending on where one lives.

This system could also be subject to a constitutional challenge. While deviations in electoral systems are tolerated on matters such as riding size, this may be a step to far. The Supreme Court of Canada has stated that relative parity of voting power is a prime condition of effective representation. Establishing a separate voting system for rural residents may violate s.3 of the Charter.

Information Decided After the Referendum

  • Ratio of PR seats in rural regions
  • Ballot options for urban seats (open/closed lists)
  • Whether voters have one or two votes
  • Whether losing FPTP candidates can be appointed via party list
  • The order for allocating PR seats
  • Whether to have a set or flexible number of seats
  • How to fill vacant seats
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Prop-Rep is Unstable

Prop-Rep leads to more frequent elections with coalition governments formed in backroom deals.

Prop-Rep is Untested

Two of the three prop-rep systems on the ballot have never been used anywhere in the world before.

Prop-Rep is Unaccountable

Rather than being directly accountable to their constituents, under prop-rep candidates are selected by and accountable to their political party.

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