Real Power to the People: A Novel Approach To Electoral Reform

Real Power to the People describes a unique experiment in democracy that took place during 2004-2005. In this experiment, the government of British Columbia gave its citizens the power to take control of its electoral reform process and make a final decision. This new approach to electoral reform was implemented through a citizens' assembly of 160 randomly selected, nonpartisan British Columbians and a referendum. The citizens' assembly first studied the different electoral options, listened to the views of their fellow citizens, and recommended a new electoral system for British Columbia. Later, all British Columbians took part in making a final decision on the recommended new system through the referendum. Dr. Herath was directly involved in the process as one of the assembly members. This unique new approach has gathered attention from political pundits all over the world. There are indications that other jurisdictions will adopt it. The Netherlands and Ontario have already begun to do so while there is a growing movement in California to follow suit. The work first introduces the reader to electoral reform in general, the historic context of the new approach, and its implementation. This is followed by an explanation of the six most critical features of the new approach. The work ends with Dr. Herath's conclusions that include five important lessons to be drawn from this first time application of the new approach and its worldwide applicability.

Table of Contents

1 INTRODUCTION

1.1 Democracy and Electoral Reform
1.2 Electoral History of Canada
1.3 Electoral History of British Columbia
1.4 Conventional Approach to Electoral Reform
1.5 Novel Approach to Electoral Reform

2 NEW CALLS FOR ELECTORAL REFORM

3 CREATION OF THE CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY

3.1 Founding Documents:
3.2 Staff Selection
3.3 Member Selection
3.4 Online Resources
3.5 Link to the future
3.6 Ceremonial Opening

4 LEARNING PHASE

4.1 Overview
4.2 Place of electoral systems in democracies
4.3 Nature of electoral systems in democracies
4.4 Five basic families of electoral systems
4.5 Assessing and choosing electoral systems
4.6 Impact of electoral system reform
4.7 Demographics of British Columbia
4.8 Preliminary Statement

5 PUBLIC HEARING PHASE

5.1 Spreading the word
5.2 Hearing format
5.3 What was heard
5.4 Written presentations
5.5 Prince George meeting

6 DELIBERATION PHASE

6.1 Some preparations
6.2 Narrowing down electoral options
6.3 Building best STV & Mixed options
6.4 Choosing the best alternative option
6.5 One more look at the existing electoral system
6.6 Final choice
6.7 Framing a suitable referendum question
6.8 Communicating the Assembly message
6.9 Other Considerations
6.10 Final Report
6.11 Closing down

7 REFERENDUM ON ELECTORAL CHANGE

7.1 Legislative requirement
7.2 Those who took the stand
7.3 Reaching the public
7.4 People’s verdict

8 SOBER REFLECTION

8.1 Assembly mandate
8.2 Assembly composition and member selection
8.3 Assembly process
8.4 Member contribution
8.5 Role of government
8.6 Second Referendum

9 CONCLUSION

9.1 Ongoing need
9.2 No perfect electoral system
9.3 Superiority of the Citizens’ Assembly approach
9.4 Lessons for the future
9.5 Scope of applicability of the new approach
9.6 Summary

LIST OF FIGURES AND TABLES

Figures

Figure 2.1 Votes-to-Seats relationship, 1903 General Election, BC
Figure 2.2 Votes-to-Seats relationship, 2001 General Election, BC
Figure 2.3 Votes-to-Seats relationship, 1909 General Election, BC
Figure 2.4 Votes-to-Seats relationship, 1912 General Election, BC
Figure 3.1 Citizens’ Assembly random selection
Figure 4.1 Different electoral families & systems
Figure 5.1 Inflow of written submissions to the Citizens’ Assembly
Figure 8.1 Citizens’ Assembly decision-making process

Tables

Table 1.1 Historic landmarks in electoral reform in Canada
Table 1.2 Historic landmarks in electoral reform in BC
Table 1.3 Changes in electoral districts and seats in the BC Legislature
Table 4.1 An Alternative Vote election result: Queensland, Australia
Table 4.2 A hypothetical example of Largest Remainder system
Table 4.3 A hypothetical example of d’Hondt highest average system
Table 4.4 Threshold levels of some PR-List countries
Table 4.5 District Magnitudes, Ballot Structures and Electoral Formulae
Table 4.6 Basic features of main electoral families/systems
Table 4.7 Relationship between political cultures & electoral features
Table 5.1 Extent of public participation in recent hearings in BC
Table 5.2 Issues addressed at Citizens’ Assembly public hearings
Table 5.3 Origins of written submissions
Table 5.4 Written submissions by frequently mentioned electoral system
Table 5.5 Electoral systems discussed in longer submissions
Table 5.6 Electoral system preferences in 84 submissions
Table 6.1 Most & least important electoral values of British Columbians
Table 6.2 Group support for each of the distinct electoral features
Table 6.3 Status of key electoral features in different electoral families
Table 6.4 Details of the best STV option for BC
Table 6.5 Details of the best Mixed electoral option for BC
Table 7.1 Summary of referendum opinion polls

 

2008-2013 © R. B. Herath. Serviced by Genesys Design Inc - Surrey's Webdesign Company