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Opinion  

Not all votes created equal

By Dermod Travis

Elections have two key components: the race and the mechanics – the legislative process and administration of the vote.

The race gets the media coverage, not so much the mechanics, even though it can have far more impact on the results than many might imagine.

The number of registered voters didn't get much attention during the campaign. In April, there were 3,156,991. Notable because it's 19,464 voters less than there were in 2013. 

Using data provided by Elections Canada, roughly 40,000 voters were purged from the list in 2016, according to Elections B.C.

"In December 2016, we processed a file of records of voters whose address on the (national list) changed from within B.C. to outside B.C. 

"We removed approximately 40,000 voters. We believe this process, which was not performed in the lead-up to the 2013 general election, improved the overall accuracy of the voters list."

Something else of note about the race was how remarkably efficient the B.C. Liberal party's vote was.

The party only needed 170,234 votes – 21 per cent of their 796,672 total – to lock up 20 ridings, nearly half of their seats. The Liberals put 10 into their column with 69,857 votes. 

After every other election, B.C.'s electoral boundaries commission goes into action to ensure the electoral map meets a relative parity between riding size and number of voters.

According to its 2007 report, “B.C. is among the group of jurisdictions that gives their commissions the greatest latitude, adopting a plus or minus 25 percent deviation limit.” 

In 2014, the commission was given its marching orders by the B.C. government: two new seats could be added to the existing 85, but 17 hand-picked ridings had to be protected.

At the end of the day, the 17 first-class ridings had an average of 25,382 voters and the 70 second-class an average of 38,935.

Stitkine has the lowest number of voters at 13,240 and Vernon-Monashee the highest with 47,373. Vernon-Monashee would need three MLAs to come close to matching the weight of Stitkine's clout in the legislature.

Using the April voters list, the 25 per cent rule would see Nelson-Creston with 27,338 registered voters on one end, Parksville-Qualicum (44,743) on the other and 68 in between.

Seventeen ridings overshoot the 25 per cent deviation, but only 10 are among the 17 “protected” ridings.

Since land mass is part of the special circumstances test, let's see how much it mattered in the government's selection. The 17 first-class ridings range from 2,437 to 196,446 square kilometres, but nine other ridings are within that range. Can't be size. 

Perhaps it's the number of voters? The 17 range from 13,240 to 42,054 voters, but 54 ridings fit within that spread. Can't be voters. 

How did the 17 ridings vote? Thirteen went for the Liberals – representing 30 per cent of their total seats – and four went to the NDP.

Under the Liberals, the number of protected ridings has nearly tripled from six in 2001 to 17 today.

– Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC.



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