Tom Fletcher chides the Green Party for shifting policy priorities as their party’s position changed from when it held single-seat, officially “independent” party status going into the 2017 election, to holding a three-seat balance of power after the election and thence to being granted official party status. Fletcher can’t be blamed for being confused as to what exactly the Greens’ policy priority is; but, as a researcher of journalistic truth and accuracy, he shouldn’t be as confused about “voting systems” as he appears to be in his year-end column.
Just because the government couldn’t seem to get it right on its official electoral reform website doesn’t mean Fletcher is also entitled to confuse voting systems with electoral systems. In so doing, he appears to have missed an important and potentially controversial issue that might seriously compromise the upcoming referendum.
To be well-informed for the referendum, every voter should know that “voting system” refers to how a voter’s intention is registered, whether by hand-marking a paper ballot, pushing a button, or voting online. The referendum will not be about which “voting system” we want, as Fletcher incorrectly repeats, it will be about which “electoral system” we want — that is, how we want votes translated into parliamentary seats, whether by way of the current single-member-plurality (“first-past-the-post”) or some form of proportional representation yet to be announced. (So far as we’ve been told, ranked ballot systems appear to have been disqualified.)
The distinction wouldn’t normally be of critical importance; however, the voting system proposed for the referendum on electoral systems is a mail-in system (like the HST referendum several years ago) which, because of its inescapable veracity and fraud problems, may present opportunity for whomever might be unhappy with the result to challenge its legitimacy in court, the probability of nullifying the exercise being greater the closer either side comes to the 50 per cent threshold — and very likely if the result is very close, say, 49.9 per cent to 50.1 per cent of votes counted.
Voters are confused enough about electoral systems without also being confused about the difference between voting and electoral systems. If Fletcher hadn’t also been as confused, he might have realized the proposed referendum voting system, combined with the proposed simple-majority threshold, should be as controversial as the pros and cons of the various electoral systems under debate.
The mail-in voting system and the 50 per cent referendum threshold are incompatible: one or the other should be replaced with a better alternative, say, a paper ballot marked at a designated voting place (where voter ID can be verified and voting is safely secreted from coercion) or (and) a supermajority threshold such as the 60 per cent required in the STV Referenda. This important voting system issue should not be confused with the referendum question on electoral systems.
Premier Horgan has said this will be B.C.’s last go-round with the electoral system debate, meaning the referendum’s legitimacy must be beyond reproach so its result is seen as fair, decisive and final.