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

There has been COVID-19 exposures at two elementary schools in District 42. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 24 additional COVID-19 cases

This includes three school exposures in Kelowna

City Hall in Cranbrook.
Housing study identifies shifting demographics in Cranbrook

Gaps in Cranbrook’s housing stock include shifting demographics and a mismatch of… Continue reading

File photo
Two arrested near Creston after allegedly fleeing U.S. border agents in Idaho

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

With classrooms equipped with specialty broadcast equipment, College of the Rockies faculty members like Kevil Szol, Electrician instructor, are able to create virtual classrooms for their students. (COTR file)
College of the Rockies to continue virtual classes during winter semester

A full slate of programs are offered online, blended with face to face learning

Neighbourly Northern Flicker and friend drop by for a visit. Miriam Saville photo
Urban wildlife Part V: The East Kootenay birds of autumn

The work of local photographers printed in the pages of the East Kootenay Advertiser over the spring, summer and fall of 2020. Part V.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Most Read