Didn’t BC have preferential voting before?

Yes, interestingly enough. From the Elections BC Website:

“Alternative vote used for the first time in general election 12 June 1952. Voting age changed to 19 (SBC 1952 c.3). Doukhobor prohibition removed (SBC 1952 c.3).

“Alternative vote used for second and last time in general election 9 June 1953. First-past-the-post plurality voting system reinstated (SBC 1953II c.5).” — Electoral History of BC; Elections BC

Per a recent University of Victoria paper (Harrison, 2010):

“In 1952, the Liberal and Conservative parties in British Columbia abandoned FPTP in favour of the alternative vote (AV), which allowed voters to rank candidates on their ballots. The Liberals and Conservatives had governed as a coalition from 1941 to 1952, and the adoption of AV was driven by their desire to stay in power. They needed the public to engage with the system for it to have its desired effect, however. Faced with the public’s familiarity with FPTP and two party politics, which encouraged a single vote for a single candidate, the old line parties launched a campaign focused on the democratic fairness of the new voting system. Only AV could ensure candidates were elected by a majority, they said, and it would keep the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), which was supported by a minority of voters, out of office. Many British Columbians used AV to vote the way they always had, ranking a single candidate; others ranked only ideologically similar candidates. Both of these mindsets perpetuated the divided political system and encouraged the abolition of AV and a return to FPTP in 1953.” — The Alternative Vote in British Columbia, Stephen Harrison, 2010, University of Victoria

It was indeed short lived, not to mention that it was apparently motivated in this case more around a desire to gerrymander the election than to achieve electoral fairness.

But, motivations aside, the swiftness with which it came and went and the relatively short time in which it endured suggests that there could have been very little in the way of effective public education to enable voters to become comfortable with and to understand the system and to know how to use it effectively, as well as woefully insufficient time for them to adapt – it was used once, then, slightly less than one year later, once again, and then it was history.

A change of this kind will take much longer to fully settle-in than just one year. It will take at least several elections and a conscientious on-going program of public education.

Times have changed, anyway. And voters’ attitudes, and our level of dissatisfaction with the status quo have also changed. With many new tools for communicating-with, educating, and informing the public about better ways to make these important decisions, the time has come again.

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