Premier calls plebiscite results 'debatable,' cites low turnout

P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan said the results of a provincial plebiscite on electoral reform cast doubts on whether the winning option received a "clear majority" of the vote.

Wade MacLauchlan questions whether results show 'clear majority'

Premier Wade MacLauchlan said the final results of the plebiscite will be discussed in the legislature. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan said the results of a provincial plebiscite on electoral reform cast doubts on whether the winning option received a "clear majority" of the vote.

The final vote was 52.4 per cent in favour of mixed member proportional representation (MMP) and 42.8 per cent in favour of first past the post.

Low voter turnout

Voter turnout was at 36.4 per cent.

"Notwithstanding unprecedented measures taken to encourage voter turnout and to facilitate voting, just under 36.5 per cent of registered voters cast a ballot during the ten-day plebiscite voting period," said MacLauchlan in a statement.

"On the other hand, 63.5 per cent of registered voters did not participate."

MacLauchlan pointed out Islanders typically have high voter turnout rates in provincial elections — often over 80 per cent.

Support came in 4th round

The vote was conducted on a ranked ballot, in which Islanders were asked to rank their choices in order of preference.

MMP was declared the winner in the fourth round of vote counting, something else MacLauchlan cited in his statement.

"During the first three rounds of counting, first past the post (the current system) received the highest number of votes. By the fourth and final round of counting, the support for MMP represented 19 per cent of eligible voters, or fewer than one in five," he said.

"It is doubtful whether these results can be said to constitute a clear expression of the will of Prince Edward Islanders."

Results to be discussed in legislature

The premier is committing to "fully deliberate" the results in the House, which starts its fall sitting Tuesday.

"The plebiscite was an exercise on representative democracy and bringing this discussion to the floor of the Assembly underscores this endeavour," he said.

Full plebscite results

Because the ballots were ranked, the winning choice had to receive 50 per cent plus one of the total vote.

This required four rounds of counting. In each round, the option with the least number of votes was excluded, and the votes from those ballots were redistributed to the next choice.

MMP received 52.42 per cent of the final vote. First past the post received 42.84 per cent. 4.74 per cent of ballots were exhausted, meaning the voter didn't make a fourth choice.

First round of counting
First past the post11,567
Mixed member proportional representation10,757
Dual member proportional representation7,951
Preferential voting3,944
First past the post plus leaders (excluded)2,821
Second round of counting
First past the post13,108
Mixed member proportional representation11,153
Dual member proportional representation8,224
Preferential voting (excluded)4,216
Third round of counting
First past the post14,466
Mixed member proportional representation12,780
Dual member proportional representation (excluded)8,948
Fourth round of counting
Mixed member proportional representation19,418
First past the post15,869

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