P.E.I. electoral reform committee proposes ranked ballot

P.E.I.'s Special Committee on Democratic Renewal has delivered its recommendations with regards to a plebiscite on electoral reform set to take place this fall.

Electronic voting also recommended for fall plebicite

Islanders will will vote in a plebicite on electoral reform in the fall. (CBC)

P.E.I.'s Special Committee on Democratic Renewal has delivered its recommendations with regards to a plebiscite on electoral reform set to take place this fall.

The committee is proposing the following format be used: 

Rank the following electoral system options in your order of preference, 1 through 5 (with "1" being your most preferred):

  • Dual Member Proportional Representation
  • First-past-the-post (the current system)
  • First-past-the-post Plus Leaders
  • Mixed Member Proportional Representation
  • Preferential Voting

The committee has also recommended that electronic voting be used for the plebiscite "to maximize both access and convenience for the electorate."

The ranked ballot is designed to try to assure the winning option has majority support.

If, after the first vote count, no single option has more than 50 per cent of the votes, the option with the fewest votes is removed from the counting.

All the ballots which were cast in favour of that option are redistributed based on what those voters indicated to be their second preference, and all the votes are counted again.

This continues until one option has the support of 50 per cent plus one of the voters.

What each option means:

Here is a brief explanation of each option, according to the committee's report:

Dual Member Proportional Representation: Calls for a transformation of single-member districts into dual-member districts. Districts would be amalgamated to accommodate this. At the ballot box, voters would still mark a single X on the ballot, but the vote cast would be for two ranked candidates running under the same party banner. The first seat is assigned by plurality, and the second seat is assigned to achieve a proportional result at the provincial level. This means that the first listed candidate on the ballot wins a seat in the same manner as the current first-past-the-post system. The most popular candidate in every district joins the legislature. The second seat for each district is allocated to make the province-wide outcome of an election proportional.

First-past-the-post (current system): Voters indicate their support for one of the candidates, and the seat is awarded to the person who receives the most votes.

First-past-the-post Plus Leaders: Based on the current electoral system, with the addition of seats awarded to leaders of political parties that receive a certain threshold in the popular vote (recommended at 10 per cent). This means the popular vote would count toward electing party leaders. Their constituencies would be the entire province, and they would not run in a local district.

Mixed Member Proportional Representation: Combines elements of the current electoral system with proportional representation. It is a hybrid system that presents voters with a double ballot: one vote from a list of candidates in a single-member district, and one vote for a political party, and those seats are filled by candidates presented on a list for a political party. The second vote allocates seats to parties by attempting to compensate for any disproportionate results in the first-past-the-post constituency elections.

Preferential Voting: Sometimes referred to as alternative voting, this may be employed as a method of filling single seat constituencies. The ballot structure differs from first-past-the-post in that voters express their preferences by ranking the candidates on the ballot. They write a "1" beside their first choice, "2" beside their second, and so on. To win a seat, a candidate must receive the majority of votes cast (50 per cent plus one). If no majority exists after the first count, the lowest placed candidate is eliminated and that candidate's votes are redistributed in accordance with the second preferences on that ballot. This continues until a candidate receives a majority.

With files from Shane Ross