Electoral reform: Time to vote

Published on November 2, 2016

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, a mere 9.56 per cent of registered Island voters had cast a ballot in the plebiscite on electoral reform. That’s not good enough.

With so much at stake, we would think voter turnout at this point in the 10-day voting window would be higher. This isn’t just a chance to replace a failing electoral system. It’s a chance to create a government structure that not only better represents Islanders, but one that also better reacts to the needs of the population. This plebiscite is an opportunity for everyday Islanders to have input in future governance.

The good news is that it’s not too late. There are still five days to have your opinion heard. Another encouraging factor is that so far only online and telephone polling has occurred. In-person voting – the kind most citizens are accustomed to – will start tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 4, from 4 -9 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 5, from 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. at 22 polling stations across P.E.I. Islanders have a long tradition of voter engagement and perhaps it will take in-person voting to boost these numbers. We hope so.

For those still not aware of what choices they have, here are brief summaries of each followed by a web address to visit on the Internet to learn more:

1.)   Dual member proportional: A system where two local MLAs are elected per district. http://www.yourchoicepei.ca/dual-member-proportional-1

2.)   First Past The Post: The same electoral system as is currently in place in Prince Edward Island. http://www.yourchoicepei.ca/first-past-the-post-1

3.)   First Past the Post Plus Leaders: A similar electoral system to what is currently in place, however it features the addition of seats awarded to leaders of the province’s political parties. http://www.yourchoicepei.ca/first-past-the-post-plus-leaders-1

4.)   Mixed Member Proportional: An electoral system that blends principles of First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) with the principles of proportionality to achieve a legislature in which a party's share of the seats generally reflects their share of the provincewide party support. http://www.yourchoicepei.ca/mixed-member-proportional-1

5.)   Preferential voting: A system where voters rank all the candidates on a single ballot according to preference. For example: if there are 4 candidates running in your district, you rank them 1 through 4 according to preference. http://www.yourchoicepei.ca/preferential-voting-1

The most important thing in this process is that Islanders are heard.

It’s bad enough that it appears some decision-makers in this province seem to hold dear the current First Past The Post system with no real desire for change. They have already watered down the “change” choices by having a one versus four format, thus splitting the “change” votes to the point where it is unlikely there will be any clear winner coming from among the group. If there is not at least a clear response in terms of the number of Islanders wanting some sort of transformation to the system, the business of government inaction will continue. And, in all likelihood, so too will the trend of Islanders, who feel their votes don’t matter, not voting.

That’s the worst change of all.