A person mails their electoral reform referendum ballot after a rally in Vancouver on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. electoral reform option designed by University of Alberta student

“That to me was a significant problem. Regardless of where someone lives, their vote should matter,” Sean Graham said from Edmonton.

The first time he was old enough to vote in an election, Sean Graham says he realized the system was flawed.

His hometown riding in northern Alberta was a secure seat for a party that he didn’t support, so voting for anyone else under the first-past-the-post system felt like a wasted ballot.

“That to me was a significant problem. Regardless of where someone lives, their vote should matter,” Graham said from Edmonton.

Only a few years later as an undergraduate student at the University of Alberta, Graham crafted a pitch for a new electoral system. That model is now being considered by voters in British Columbia, where a provincewide referendum on electoral reform is underway.

“It is the first Canadian-developed proportional representation system to be put to a province-wide vote, so I’m very proud to have my work have that status. Certainly it has gained traction more than I thought, though I was hopeful because I do think it addresses the concerns quite well,” he said.

The first question on the ballot asks voters to choose between the existing first-past-the-post voting system and proportional representation, a form of voting where the parties gain seats in proportion to the number of votes that are cast for them.

The second question asks voters to rank three forms of proportional representation: Rural-urban proportional, mixed member proportional and Graham’s model, dual member proportional.

Elections BC is accepting ballots by mail or in person until Nov. 30.

Read more: Elections BC keeps eye on Canada Post dispute, but no change in Nov. 30 deadline

Read more: Horgan says he voted yes on proportional representation

Graham said he developed the model as a grant-funded independent research project that was supervised by a professor, while he was pursuing double majors in political science and physics.

“I thought it would be helpful to come up with a system that not only addressed the issue of rural inclusion better but also retained more of what people like about first-past-the-post,” he said.

This isn’t the first time a province is considering it. When the government of Prince Edward Island put out a white paper looking for proportional representation proposals, Graham said he realized dual-member proportional met each of its requirements and submitted it. It was one of five options on the ballot in a non-binding plebiscite on electoral reform in that province in 2016, however, mixed-member proportional won the most votes.

Another referendum question asking P.E.I. voters to decide between first-past-the-post and mixed member proportional is expected to be on the ballot in the next general election.

Graham said he submitted the model to the B.C. government through a similar process.

In dual member proportional, most electoral districts are combined with a neighbouring district and have two representatives in the legislature, although large rural districts continue to have one member. In two-member districts, a voter can vote for one candidate or a pair of candidates who may or may not be from the same party. The first seat in a district is won by the candidate with the most votes, while the second goes to the parties so that each party’s share of seats roughly matches its share of the popular vote.

Mixed member proportional is used in a number of countries, including Germany and New Zealand. Rural-urban proportional is a hybrid of mixed member and single transferable vote, which is used in Ireland and Australia, and was designed by Fair Vote Canada.

Some have criticized dual member proportional because it has not been tested elsewhere in the world.

“I find that a bit strange in some ways. The argument against proportional representation in the past has often been that it’s imported from other countries, so now that we have a uniquely Canadian invention on the ballot and they’re still not happy with that, I find that a bit surprising,” Graham said.

Dual member is largely modeled on mixed member proportional, he said, but he designed it to address the unique needs of Canada.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC VOTES 2020: Voter registration closes Saturday, Sept. 26

Voters can still register or update their information when they vote, but it will take longer

“I should be in school” — Quesnel alternate school students protest classroom removals

McNaughton Centre students took to the streets to protest on Sept. 24

Quesnel council eager to work with Barkerville Gold Mines

Councillors recently heard an update on the Cariboo Gold Project proposed underground mine

VIDEO: Cariboo-Chilcotin rally aims to stop antlerless moose hunt

Cow Moose Sign Project supported by First Nations, guide outfitters, ranchers

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Money laundering inquiry delayed over of B.C. election: commissioner

Austin Cullen says the hearings will start again on Oct. 26

Most Read