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Electoral reform getting lackluster response from public

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Summary

Expert says interest in electoral reform drops off after an election

Previous failed referendums might also be to blame for lack of interest

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – BC could have a new way of electing politicians in a few months, but the upcoming referendum on electoral reform is getting a lackluster response from citizens.

In October, BC will vote on whether to keep the current first-past-the-post system, or change to one of three forms of proportional representation. The issue garnered support during the provincial election and was one of the NDP government’s main platform promises.

“The day after an election, roughly 40 per cent of the voting population suddenly cares about electoral reform because they don’t like the outcome of the election, and then it declines sharply over time,” Quest University political science professor Doug Munroe said. “Add to that that it’s not a simple topic… most people just don’t care about it that much to really get into it at that level of detail.”

Pairing the referendum will civic elections may help increase voter turn out, according to Munroe, but people still need to understand what they are voting for.

“We traditionally assume it’s a market place of ideas… What really needs to happen is for those who are interested in this, who want to see a particular result, to get organized and campaign, but we haven’t seen a while lot of that,” he said.

He says the complexity of the issue means the question will have to be clear and simple for people to not only understand their options, but find a reason to support one.

Previous failed referendums may also be playing a role in the delayed excitement.

“Another problem may be that we only came out of a similar referendum nine years ago, which did not result in change, possibly creating a sense of futility in those who otherwise would get excited,” SFU political science professor Anke Kessler said, adding campaign ads haven’t started yet.

Last Wednesday, B.C. Attorney-General David Eby released his plan for the referendum, which includes asking voters two questions. The first is asking whether someone wants to keep the current system or a proportional representation voting system. If the voter chooses to change, they will be asked to select from a list of three systems: dual member, mixed member and rural urban.

Munroe says, people in BC may not yet know the difference between the three alternative options being presented, adding to the lack of ability to support one.

In the coming weeks, NEWS 1130 will delve into each of these options to help voters better understand their options.