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Less than a quarter of eligible voters supported Libs: Democracy Watch

According to a report published by Democracy Watch -- a national non-profit that advocates for democratic reform and government accountability -- the BC Liberals won Tuesday's election with the support of 22 per cent of eligible voters.

The number proves one thing for Tyler Sommers, Democracy Watch coordinator: the system is broken. In his opinion, low voter turnout is the direct effect of a loss of faith in the political system.

He figures that people don't vote because they feel no matter what, the winner will be dishonest. If they're assured the winner will be honest, platforms will matter again, he added.

His suggestions? End negative campaigns, and make it easier for voters to file complaints to the Integrity Commissioner -- although voters should first be informed about what constitutes a violation on behalf of representatives, he added.

Sommers also proposes changing the current democratic system to a model that ensures the number of MLAs each party receives matches the popular vote percentages more closely. He suggests a mixed member system -- in which voters cast two votes, one for the party and one for their constituency representative -- and the Best Loser System. That system is used in Mauritius to ensure minorities have representation in congress, but Sommers says it could be applied to B.C. by reserving additional seats for the runner-ups with the highest percentage of votes.

In the past, B.C. has unsuccessfully attempted to switch to the single transferable vote system twice -- once in a 2005 referendum and again in 2009.

Single transferable vote is a system where voters rank candidates in order of preference. The candidates that get the most support are elected and the ones with least support are eliminated so that the second preferences of voters can be taken into account. This system guarantees more parties can receive seats, but it can also make it harder for a single party to obtain a majority.

More recently, Votes BC conducted a study with support from the University of British Columbia in which participants were asked to use three different systems to cast their vote for a simulated provincial election.

The three systems in the study were single transferable vote, first-past-the-post (B.C. and Canada's current system), and proportional representation. Results for this study have not been released, but researchers expect the different systems to have an impact on the results of the simulation.

While another attempt to change B.C.'s electoral system isn't on the horizon yet, one new solution Sommers' organization would like to see is a "none of the above" option on ballots. That would encourage voters to participate in the voting process, while still making their distaste for the available options known, he said.

Aurora Tejeida is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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