Recommendations for the 2018 referendum on proportional representation

The BC government will be conducting a referendum on electoral reform in 2018. Voters will have the opportunity to decide on whether they want to keep the current voting system (First Past the Post) or change to a system of proportional representation. In February 2018, the Federation provided a written submission to the BC government during their consultation process on electoral reform.

Youth and students are traditionally under-represented in municipal, provincial, and federal elections and referenda. This lack of participation gives cause for many politicians, government officials, and other decision-makers to ignore students and youth as an important constituency because they do not fear their impact at the ballot box.

However, the lack of student and youth participation in elections and referenda is not reflective of political apathy or disengagement, as evidenced by the high level of youth and student involvement in volunteerism, community service, and campaigns or initiatives to promote environmentalism, equity, social justice, human rights, and many other public causes. In fact, in the 2015 federal election, students and young people made waves by coming out to the polls in record numbers. In British Columbia alone, those 18-24 years old increased their voter participation by 24%, and youth in BC had the second-highest voter turnout in the country.

Post-secondary students and youth are often highly transient as a population and face many barriers to voting in municipal, provincial, and federal elections and referenda, including the lack of standard forms of identification and proof of residence. We believe if these recommendations are implemented it will increase participation of youth and will result in more political leverage for students on many important issues.

The British Columbia Federation of Students  (BCFS) recommends the following key points:

  • Timing of Referendum: The referendum campaign should not overlap with the fall municipal election campaigns, and instead should occur after the conclusion of those campaigns.
  • Campaign Finance and Third-Party Advertising Regulations: The referendum should be subject to regulations that limit the influence of big money.
  • Ballot Question: The ballot should include a specific question requesting a public mandate to adopt proportional voting that is linked to a transparent public process to choose a specific proportional system.
  • Confirmation Referendum: After two election cycles with a new electoral system, British Columbians should be provided the opportunity to confirm that they support proportional voting.

Read the full submission here: How We Vote: Recommendations from the British Columbia Federation of Students for the 2018 Referendum