2016 Prince Edward Island electoral reform referendum

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2016 Plebiscite on
Democratic Renewal
LocationPrince Edward Island
Date27 October 2016 (2016-10-27) – 7 November 2016 (2016-11-07)
Voting systemInstant-runoff voting
First round
Dual Member Proportional Representation
First-Past-The-Post (the current system)
First-Past-The-Post Plus Leaders
Mixed Member Proportional Representation
Preferential Voting
Final Round
Dual Member Proportional Representation
First-Past-The-Post (the current system)
First-Past-The-Post Plus Leaders
Mixed Member Proportional Representation
Preferential Voting
Website: yourchoicepei.ca

The 2016 Plebiscite on Democratic Renewal[1] was a non-binding[2] referendum on electoral reform held in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island between 27 October – 7 November 2016. This was the second electoral reform referendum to be held in Prince Edward Island, following a vote to maintain the status quo in 2005. The referendum asked which of five voting systems residents would prefer to use in electing members to the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island.[3][4][5] The referendum, after four instant run-off rounds, indicated mixed member proportional representation was the preferred choice with 55.03% support on the final ballot (52.42% of total voters).[6]

Despite a variety of voting options and a long voting period, the final 36.46% turnout was very low by PEI standards.[6] The province regularly gets more than 80% turnout in provincial general elections.[7] Although no defined threshold of minimum turnout had been set, Premier Wade MacLauchlan cited the low turnout as a factor in choosing not to proceed with immediate electoral reform. Instead, a third referendum on the subject was held in 2019.


The official question on the ballot was:

"Rank the following electoral systems in your order of preference, 1 through 5 (with "1st Choice" being your most preferred and "5th choice" being your least preferred). You may choose as many, or as few, of the electoral system options as you want."[8]

The options were listed alphabetically on the ballot as:


The result of the plebiscite was found by using the Preferential Voting system, itself one of the options for elections being considered. Voters were given the opportunity to rank the five options from most preferred to least preferred, although they did not have to rank all five options. If more than half of the voters chose one option as their first choice, that option won; if no option captured a majority of first-choice votes, the winner was determined using instant-runoff voting. The option with the fewest votes was dropped, and those ballots were distributed to the other options based on the second choice on those ballots. This was repeated as necessary until one option had a majority of the votes cast.[9]

Prince Edward Island electoral reform referendum, 2016 (final results)[10] 18,521 votes required to win
Option First preference Second iteration Third iteration Last iteration
Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes %
First-Past-The-Post 11,567 31.22 13,108 35.38 14,466 39.05 15,869 42.84
Mixed Member Proportional Representation 10,757 29.04 11,153 30.11 12,780 34.50 19,418 52.42
Dual Member Proportional Representation 7,951 21.46 8,224 22.20 8,948 24.15 N/A
Preferential Voting 3,944 10.64 4,216 11.38 N/A
First-Past-The-Post + Leaders 2,821 7.61 N/A
Total Remaining Ballots 37,040 100.00 36,701 99.08 36,194 97.72 35,287 95.27
Exhausted Ballots - By Round 0 0 339 0.92 507 1.37 907 2.45
Exhausted Ballots - Cumulative 0 0 339 0.92 846 2.44 1,753 4.73
Total Ballots Cast 37,040 100.00 37,040 100.00 37,040 100.00 37,040 100.00

After four counts, the Mixed Member Proportional Representational option received a majority of the votes, followed by the existing first-past-the-post system.

Voting eligibility and methods[edit]

This plebiscite marked several firsts in Canadian electoral history. Sixteen- and seventeen-year-old PEI residents were permitted to vote on the grounds that they will be aged eighteen (and therefore eligible to vote under normal election rules) in the next provincial election, which would potentially be held using the voting system that wins this plebiscite. As well, plebiscite voters were able to submit their votes online or via touch-tone telephone for the first time in a major Canadian vote. Internet and telephone voting was open from 12:00 noon Saturday 29 October 2016 and ran until 7:00 p.m. on Monday, 7 November 2016.[11] In-person voting was open in polling stations across the province on Friday, 4 November 2016, 4:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m., and Saturday, 5 November 2016, 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.[12]


Premier Wade MacLauchlan said after the vote that he is doubtful the result of the referendum "can be said to constitute a clear expression of the will of Prince Edward Islanders" due to the unusually low turnout.[13] MacLauchlan did commit to discussing the results when the provincial legislature resumed on 15 November 2016; noting the need to examine the urban and rural breakdown of votes, among other issues.[14]

MacLauchlan's government introduced a motion in the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island to hold a second referendum on electoral reform at the next provincial general election, stating that the low turnout for the referendum did not provide a mandate to implement the change and the need for a more specific referendum question with two choices.[15][16] A motion by Green Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker to implement mixed-member proportional representation in line with the referendum results was defeated on 22 November 2016 by a vote of 6–20.[17]

Next referendum scheduled for 2019[edit]

The next Prince Edward Island electoral reform referendum is scheduled to be held on 23 April 2019 simultaneously with the 66th Prince Edward Island general election.


  1. ^ Where members are elected with FPTP as before, but party leaders do not run for seats and are instead assigned an at-large seat if their party receives more than 10% of the popular vote


  1. ^ "Media Release: Voting locations". Is it Time for Change?. Elections Prince Edward Island. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  2. ^ "Voting begins in P.E.I. plebiscite on electoral reform". CBC News. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  3. ^ Roberts, Rob (7 July 2016). "PEI sets voting-reform plebiscite for fall". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  4. ^ McKenna, Peter (21 September 2016). "Electoral reform in P.E.I. redux". Charlottetown, PEI: The Guardian Charlottetown. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  5. ^ Campbell, Kerry (16 April 2016). "P.E.I. electoral reform: 4 unanswered questions about the plebiscite". CBC. Archived from the original on 3 October 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  6. ^ a b Bradley, Susan (8 November 2016). "P.E.I. plebiscite results favour mixed member proportional representation". CBC News. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  7. ^ Yarr, Kevin (7 November 2016). "Voter turnout in electoral reform plebiscite remains low". CBC News. Retrieved 8 November 2016. Voter turnout in provincial general elections is typically above 80 per cent on P.E.I.
  8. ^ "The Ballot". Is it time for change?. Elections Prince Edward Island. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  9. ^ "How will the plebiscite be run?". "Is it time for change?". Elections Prince Edward Island. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
  10. ^ "Elections PEI: Plebiscite Results". www.electionspei.ca. Elections PEI. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  11. ^ "Internet & Telephone Voting". "Is it time for change?". Elections Prince Edward Island. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
  12. ^ "In Person Voting". "Is it time for change?". Elections Prince Edward Island. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
  13. ^ Sinclair, Jesara (8 November 2016). "Premier calls plebiscite results 'debatable,' cites low turnout". CBC News. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
  14. ^ Wright, Teresa (8 November 2016). "'Debatable' vote, says P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan". The Guardian. Charlottetown. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
  15. ^ "Motion No. 80, Democratic renewal: a clear question and a binding vote". www.assembly.pe.ca. Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island.
  16. ^ Wright, Teresa (22 November 2016). "Motion urging P.E.I. government to honour electoral reform vote defeated". The Guardian. Charlottetown. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  17. ^ "Motion No. 54 , Plebiscite on electoral reform". www.assembly.pe.ca. Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island.

External links[edit]