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Liberals approve change requiring members to mark at least two favourites

Members of the British Columbia Liberal Party approved a motion that will force voters in the leadership contest to pick a second choice along with their first on a preferential ballot.

Leadership candidates George Abbott, Mike de Jong and Moira Stilwell spoke in favour of the amendment which said, "Each voter is required to indicate on the ballot at least a first and a second preference." Christy Clark voted in favour of it.

But supporters of Kevin Falcon spoke against the motion.

It passed with 751 votes for and 606 against, needing a simple majority of 50 percent plus one.

The vote is unlikely to be decided by the first votes, said Abbott. As candidates are dropped the second and third votes will become important and the eventual winner needs to be supported by the majority of the party, he said.

Candidate de Jong said the amendment would give the winner legitimacy in the eyes of the press and the public. "It tries to ensure a genuine majority is responsible for electing the leader," he said.

"I think it's very important that we honour the spirit of the preferential ballot," said Stilwell. Ending up with a leader only supported by a minority of the party would be a detriment to "not just the candidate but to the party in the future."

Kevin Falcon supporter Mary Polak was among those who spoke against the motion. "No one should be forced to cast a vote for a contestant they do not support," she said.

Senator Richard Neufeld from Peace River North, who has also endorsed Falcon said he was opposed to the amendment. "I should have the right to say I only want to vote for one person," he said. "Why we have to have number two, I'm not sure."

Another Falcon supporter, John Les, lined up at the opposed microphone but did not get a chance to speak before the debate closed.

Liberal Party members will vote on Feb. 26 to pick a leader to replace Premier Gordon Campbell.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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