Vancouver, B.C. – The numbers are in and British Columbia voters are giving a big thumbs up to electoral reform with 65 per cent saying they will vote for BC-STV in the upcoming referendum on May 12. That is the top line result of a major survey conducted by Angus Reid Strategies. Support for a new way of electing our MLAs is particularly strong among younger voters – those 18 to 34 – at 74 per cent.
Now, before people get all wound up on this one, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the poll is over a month old. Second, according to this recap, the poll was partially loaded up by asking people to rank a series of (largely pro-STV) voting system characteristics first. And the fact that STV support is strongest with young voters - who don't usually vote - will also hurt its chances of passing.
If we compare to the last election four years ago, the April Ipsos poll had STV at 53% among decided voters, with their May poll at 57%, and the referendum question drawing 58% support in the end. So there's certainly some growth potential, especially if we assume that people grow fonder of the system as they learn more about it. Add it all up, and the odds probably favour STV passing, but it's hardly a done deal.
And, as for the system itself?
My biggest beef with a lot of the electoral reform ideas out there, like mixed-member, is that you'd have a class of MPs not directly elected and, as a result, not directly accountable to the voters. STV keeps the accountability and principles of FPTP in play, but should produce a more representative outcome.
So while I do like first past the post, there's something to be said for making BC the guinea pig of Canada, and seeing how the system works there.