Have you received a ballot for British Columbia's referendum on election reform, despite the rotating strike at Canada Post? Great. Now for the important part: figuring out which voting system you support.

Despite the best intentions of the people designing the ballot, I've heard a lot of voters express confusion about their options, especially the second part of the referendum. Many are unaware that you don't have to answer the second question at all, and that a ballot can be sent in with just the first question answered.

To address this confusion, there's a survey to help you figure out which system works best for you.

It’s simple, because the only questions you have to answer are about your own preferences in a voting system.

Go to: referendumguide.ca (and first, answer the math question to prove you're not a robot).

The questionnaire from includes roughly 20 questions about what you prefer in an electoral system.

You answer the questions, and then you click a button, and it lays out for you which system is most compatible with your values – and even ranks them in order of your personal preference.

That's all there is to it!

All you have to do then is use this information to answer the two questions on the referendum ballot, follow the step-by-step instructions, and send the package in.

Screenshot of ballot from ReferendumGuide.ca. Voters can opt only to answer the first question.

Each proportional system gives you the same outcome

In practical terms, if you’re in favour of proportional representation, it doesn't matter all that much which system you select, because the basic principles embodied in each of the three systems are the same.

Every system: a) gives you a proportional outcome; b) guarantees a local elected representative; c) in most cases also gives you a regional representative (not a parachuted-in MLA) so you have a choice of who to go to when you want to discuss a political matter; d) assures that no party which gets less than five per cent of the total vote gets top-up candidates (to eliminate splintering into tiny parties with disproportionate power); e) results in either no increase in candidates, or a maximum of eight more; and f) includes the proviso that there will be a chance to keep or reject ProRep after two more elections.

Frankly, the only reason why there are choices in this referendum is the fact that in the 93,000 answers to the original survey asking what people wanted with respect to proportional representation (more than the response to any other previous survey in the province), many said they didn't want a single system rammed down their throats. They said they wanted to have choices!

Now this very reasonable request has resulted in earnest confusion everywhere, and given a gift of a major talking point to those opposed to any change.

I am frankly biased towards proportional representation, because it is a system that gives more power to voters, and pushes politicians to work harder, especially in terms of cooperating with one another. It pushes them to find solutions that address differences, rather than wasting time mired in unproductive hyper-partisanship.

Did you know that while the previous political party was in power, every single bill they introduced was passed, and every single bill introduced by the two opposition parties – and the single independent MLA – was thrown out? These power plays under our current winner-take-all system are unhelpful to democracy, and contribute to voter apathy.

It’s time for us to grow up and learn to do what everyone does in his or her own family – discuss, plan together, and work for the best solution for everyone, not just for one party's self-interest.

Please vote at this critical turning point for politics in B.C..

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Comments

Referendumguide.ca is a terrific exercise. @Fairvotecomoxvalley has been directing people to the site and they find it hugely helpful. Rather than give a lot of dry information, it asks you what matters to YOU in a voting system. Answering those questions results in an answer to which system most closely matches your values. It even works for first-past-the-post adherents! #pr4bc #bcpoli

Getting info about the referendum guide out there is excellent, but I do wish Mr. Bell would have cited the creator of the guide, Jamie Deith, who lives in the Comox Valley and who generously developed the guide and made it widely available so that all people in BC could figure out if they support our current electoral system or a more proportional one. My son-in-law answered the values-related questions in the guide and found it reaffirmed his support of first past the post. My answers to the same questions affirmed my support of Pro Rep. The guide is neutral in it's design which makes it a valuable tool. Thanks Jamie!

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