EDITORIAL – The voodoo math of proportional representation


An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

I TOOK a few minutes Sunday to fill in the survey on B.C. electoral reform.

The survey results will, no doubt, provide the NDP and Greens with what they want — ammunition for a stacked-deck referendum ballot in which the current First Past the Post system doesn’t have a chance.

For example, one question asks us to select the election values that are most important to us. The choices lean heavily to proportional representation.

The first one offered is “a Legislative Assembly in which the share of seats each party holds is fairly similar to the share of the votes it receives across the province.”

Another is “A voting system that allows a voter to rank a political party’s candidates,” and another, almost identical to the first: “A Legislative Assembly in which the share of seats each party holds closely matches the share of the votes it receives across the province.”

I found only two of the 12 “values” that match my own: “Single-party majority governments where it is clear who is accountable for decisions.” And “a voting system that is easy to understand.”

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, advocates for change continue to scratch out voodoo mathematics on their political chalk boards, demanding to know why, as they love to put it, “a party with 30 per cent of the vote gets 100 per cent of the power.”

What they ignore is that FPTP puts power into the hands of local communities. The supposed inequity of the current system is actually the opposite — each riding picks the candidate it likes best, not what somebody else thinks is fair.

The survey does accomplish one thing, though — it tries to outline the differences between various versions of PR, and leaves the reader with glazed eyes and a boggled mind, convinced that proportional representation is just too damn confusing.

By the time you finish trying to sort out STV from MMP, List PR and MMM, and all their assorted iterations and mumbo jumbo, you want to forget the whole thing.

Which is exactly what we should do.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear twice daily Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on and CFJC Today. Contact him at

About Mel Rothenburger (7764 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

11 Comments on EDITORIAL – The voodoo math of proportional representation

  1. One time as an editor you would have encouraged debate. So why now haven’t you published Gisela Ruckert’s response to this pontification? A little too lucid maybe?

  2. Mel I think you may be throwing the baby out with the bath water in dissing all proportional representation because the government survey only offers complicated solutions. I too filled out the survey and although I strongly support a voting system with better proportional representation, I was frustrated that only a few very complicated options were presented. No option was offered to move to a simple instant runoff sytem where instead of voters selecting 1 candidate they rank their candidates. Lower ranked candidates are dropped off and people’s second choice is factored. Candidate who gets over 50% wins the riding. No changes in riding boundaries, voters continue to pick their MLA, no loss of regional or local representation, not much more complicated than our current system. Results are candidates that more accurately reflect their consituents.

  3. Mel; I think you,re beginning to lose it a bit.I THINK IT,S TIME YOU SPENT MORE TIME WORKING ON THE OLD CORNBINDER.

  4. Perhaps if we had proportional representation the current drug/homelessness/social crises would’ve been handled better from the on-set. The future is worrisome indeed and we cannot trust to continue with past axioms nor the rhetoric of feeble editorials.

  5. Ken McClelland // November 27, 2017 at 6:46 AM // Reply


  6. The iterations and mumbo jumbo are sure head scratchers and un-helpful but the the concept of proportional representation, with local candidates is the right thing to do.
    I understand, as we age we tend to forgo all them complications but on a second thought, it is the right thing to do to embrace betterment even if a tad complicated.

  7. David Johnson // November 27, 2017 at 4:59 AM // Reply

    Then sir, with respect, we agree to disagree.

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