Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform (British Columbia)
The Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform is a group created by the government of British Columbia, Canada to investigate changes to the provincial electoral system. On 25 October 2004, it proposed replacing the province's existing First Past the Post (FPTP) system with a Single Transferable Vote (STV) system: this recommendation was put to the electorate-at-large in a referendum held concurrently with the 2005 provincial election. The referendum required approval by 60% of votes and simple majorities in 60% of the 79 districts in order to pass: final results indicate that the referendum failed with only 57.7% of votes in favour, although it did have majority support in 77 of the 79 electoral districts. Another referendum on adopting the STV system was held and defeated during BC's 2009 provincial election.
During the 2001 provincial election, the Liberal Party promised to create a citizens' assembly to consider changes to the provincial electoral system (as opposed to forming a Royal Commission, as New Zealand did). The recommendation of the assembly would then be put as a referendum. In September 2002,
In December 2002, It was recommended an assembly composed of randomly selected citizens, two from each of the province's 79 electoral districts. The government adopted Gibson's recommendations in law in April 2003.
The BC Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform was composed 160 members, one man and one woman from each of BC’s 79 electoral districts, plus two Aboriginal members. Assembly members were selected by a civic lottery that ensured a gender balance and a fair representation of the province’s age and geographical distribution. Selecting members for the Assembly was a three-stage process:
Stage one began in August 2003 when 15,800 invitations were mailed to randomly identified British Columbians. In order to ensure even geographical representation, 200 invitations were extended in each constituency. Invitees were asked if they were willing to put their names into a draw for future candidacy.
In stage two, the names of respondents expressing interest went into a pool for their constituency. Positive respondents were organized into 79 groups of 20, split evenly between men and women, and reflecting the age distribution of individuals in the constituency. These candidates were then invited to information meetings where they heard presentations about the Assembly and were asked to publicly confirm their eligibility and interest in participating.
At stage three, the names of those who responded positively were sealed into envelopes and entered into a final draw. Two people from each district pool, one man and one woman, were selected by random draw for membership in the Citizens’ Assembly. Selection into the Assembly continued until December 2003. Two additional members, representing First Nations communities, were added after the selection of the original 158.
From January to August 2004, the Assembly went through a "Learning Phase", where the Assembly received experts and held public hearings so that the members can understand the different electoral systems in usage around the world and their various effects on the political process.
Between September and October 2004, the members deliberated over which electoral system to recommend. On October 23, the Assembly decided that if they were to recommend an alternative system, it would be an STV system, over a Mixed Member Proportional system also under consideration. The next day, the Assembly voted in favour of recommending the change from the FPTP system to STV.
On December 10, the Final Report on Electoral Change was presented to the B.C. legislature by the Assembly. It recommended changing the electoral system to a localized version of STV called BC-STV.
M. E. Warren and H. Pearse, eds., Designing Deliberative Democracy: The British Columbia Citizens' Assembly (Cambridge University Press, 2008). ISBN 978-0521885072