Rural–urban proportional representation

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Example of a ballot under rural–urban proportional for a voter who lives in an urban or semi-urban area with multi-member STV ridings

Rural–urban proportional representation (RUP), also called Flexible District PR,[1] is a hybrid-proportional system designed by Fair Vote Canada with the intention of meeting the challenges of Canada's geography.[2][3] Rural–urban proportional uses the single transferable vote (STV) for urban ridings and mixed-member proportional representation (MMP) for rural ridings.[4][5] Sweden, Denmark and Iceland use similar voting models.[2]

Rural–urban proportional has been proposed as one of three possible systems to be adopted in British Columbia should voters decide to adopt a proportional voting system in a 2018 referendum in the province.[6][7] Rural–urban proportional is the only proportional voting system proposed in BC's 2018 electoral reform referendum to include an approach used in Canada before: Alberta and Manitoba used multi-member STV in major cities to elect provincial members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) for 30 years.[8]

A major advantage of rural–urban proportional over other proportional voting systems is that it requires creating far fewer party seats to achieve proportionality over other approaches, such as pure mixed-member proportional (MMP) or dual-member proportional (DMP). Additionally in comparison to these systems, rural–urban proportional's hybrid approach benefits rural areas by preventing rural ridings from growing too large.


Rural-urban proportional was devised in response to a suggestion made by former Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley to the House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform on July 7, 2016. He proposed the idea of having proportional multi-member ridings of 4–5 representatives in urban areas while maintaining small single member ridings in rural areas.[3][9]

Usage in Canada[edit]

Rural–urban proportional is the only proportional voting system proposed in BC's 2018 electoral reform referendum to include a voting system used in Canada before: Alberta and Manitoba used multi-member STV in major cities to elect provincial members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) for 30 years.[8] This approach produced proportional outcomes in the cities where STV was used, but not in rural areas, which used STV's non-proportional single-member equivalent, the alternative vote (AV), in single-member ridings.[10] As a result, the overall election results under this system were not proportional. Rural–urban proportional uses STV for cities and semi-urban areas, but uses single-member ridings in rural regions, giving those regions top-up seats to ensure proportional outcomes province-wide.[2]

Comparison to other proportional systems[edit]

A major advantage of rural–urban proportional is that it requires creating far fewer party seats to achieve proportionality than MMP. Under rural–urban PR, no more than 10–15% of seats – versus 40% of seats under MMP – would need to become top-up party seats to achieve proportionality, because the results from the urban and semi-urban areas would already be proportional owing to their voting having been conducted using STV.[2][11]

For rural areas, rural–urban proportional is advantageous because existing first-past-the-post rural ridings would only need to grow 15% larger to facilitate extra regional top-up seats under it, compared to 67% larger under MMP or double in size under DMP. The regional top-up seats would ensure the voting results in rural areas would be proportionally distributed.[2] The hybrid approach to representation taken by rural–urban proportional, reflects lessons learned from previous failed attempts, in British Columbia and other Canadian jurisdictions, to pass electoral reform.[12][13]

Design and operation[edit]

Rural–urban PR is a hybrid of two electoral options for achieving proportional representation: MMP and STV.[14] Urban areas use the single transferable vote for elections while rural areas use the mixed-member proportional system.[15]

In urban and semi-urban areas using STV, existing small urban ridings would join together to form larger multi-member ridings that elect 3–7 MLAs via ranked ballot. The candidates elected would reflect the popular vote of the voters in these larger, multi-member ridings. The use of a ranked ballot permits a high degree of voter choice by permitting voters to rank preferences for multiple candidates. For urban and semi-urban voters, this makes rural–urban PR very similar to BC-STV.[16]

In rural ridings using MMP, voters would have two votes: one to elect their local MLA, and another that would be used to elect a regional MLA to ensure the proportionality of overall results in rural regions. Their first vote on the ballot would be used to elect a local MLA in an identical fashion to the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system: the candidate with the most votes would be elected. The second vote would be used in either an open list or closed list system in which voters select either a candidate or party to represent them at a regional level. These regional MLAs are used as "top-ups" so that overall proportionality is achieved in rural regional areas, given the lack of proportionality that results from simple FPTP. To protect local representation, top-up MLAs will be elected using regional, rather than province-wide, party lists.

Because urban and semi-urban multi-member ridings will return already-proportional results owing to the use of STV, only a small number of additional MLAs (around 10–15%) would be required to act as top-ups in rural regions using MMP to ensure the proportionality of the province-wide results. In addition, no region will lose ridings under any of the three proposed electoral systems in the 2018 electoral reform referendum.


Rural–urban proportional is endorsed by Fair Vote Canada.[2] Fair Voting BC gave rural-urban proportional its highest ranking in its scorecard of proportional voting systems.[17] During the federal government's consultation on electoral reform at the federal level in 2016,[3] both the New Democratic Party of Canada and Green Party of Canada recommended Canada adopt either RUP or MMP.[18]


  1. ^ "Rural-Urban Proportional for BC". Fair Vote Canada. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Fair Vote Canada (2018). "Rural–Urban Proportional". Fair Vote Canada. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Special Committee on Electoral Reform (December 1, 2016). Strengthening Democracy in Canada: Principles, Process and Public Engagement for Electoral Reform (Report). Parliament of Canada. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  4. ^ McElroy, Justin (June 2, 2018). "Know your voting systems: three types of electoral reform on B.C.'s ballot". CBC News. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  5. ^ Zussman, Richard (May 30, 2018). "British Columbians will vote on our electoral system — Here are the 4 options". Global News. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  6. ^ McElroy, Justin (May 30, 2018). "B.C. to choose between 4 systems for electoral reform referendum". CBC News. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  7. ^ Eby, David (May 30, 2018). "How We Vote 2018 Electoral Reform Referendum: Report and Recommendations of the Attorney General" (PDF). Government of British Columbia. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  8. ^ a b Pilon, Dennis (August 2007). The Politics of Voting: Reforming Canada's Electoral System. Emond Publishing. pp. 81–82.
  9. ^ Jean-Pierre Kingsley (July 7, 2016). "In Committee from the House of Commons, Special Committee on Electoral Reform". Cable Public Affairs Channel. p. 37:24. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Dias, Megan (July 3, 2018). "BC's Options for Proportional Representation Explained". The Tyee. Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  12. ^ Field, Shoni; Schreck, David (April 28, 2009). "Should BC Change the Way We Elect? Hear from Both Sides". The Tyee. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  13. ^ Dupuis, Braden (July 5, 2018). "Electoral reform campaign underway". Pique Newsmagazine. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Rural-Urban Proportional (RUP)". Elections BC. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  16. ^ "Rural–urban Proporiotnal: Proportional representation tailored for BC's geography". Fair Vote Canada. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  17. ^ Fair Voting BC. "Scorecard". Fair Voting BC. Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  18. ^ Wherry, Aaron; Tasker, John Paul (December 1, 2016). "Minister 'disappointed' as electoral reform committee recommends referendum on proportional representation". CBC News. Retrieved June 25, 2018.

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