A top-up approach has been recommended by many voting reform processes in Canada. Typically most seats are assigned to single member ridings and the balance are top-up seats used to compensate for any disproportionality. A two-part ballot is typically used.

How Top-Up Systems Work

The most common top-up system is called Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) and variants of it are used in Germany, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales. A recent variant (Dual Member Proportional) was proposed for use in Prince Edward Island.

MMP is a two-tier voting system in which approximately half to two-thirds of the seats are in single member ridings, much they way they are with our current system. If BC were to elect our 85 MLAs using MMP, approximately 50 of the seats would likely be in this first tier.

The remaining 35 or so seats would be arranged in a second tier, likely grouped by regions of the province (e.g., Vancouver Island, Interior, Fraser Valley, Greater Vancouver, etc) to ensure that all regions would keep the same number of MLAs that they have now. If desired, the groupings could be done at a smaller scale – e.g., a Northern region might see the current 8 seats from the North Coast across to the Peace River area turned into five new single-seat ridings, with three top-up seats.

North MMP
Example of how MMP might work in BC’s north – the 8 existing seats might be replaced by five constituency seats (yellow ovals) and three top-up seats (red oval). The background of the map shows the population distribution from Stats Canada. The boundaries in yellow are intended to suggest where the bulk of the population in each new single member riding might live, but would, of course, be extended to cover all parts of the province covered by existing ridings.  The set of MLAs elected would more closely reflect how voters voted.

The Ballot

One or Two Ballots: Parties would nominate one candidate per riding, much the way they do now. These candidates would be listed on a ‘constituency’ ballot that would look identical to the ballots we currently use.

North MMP Constituency Ballot
Example constituency ballot for a hypothetical ‘Prince George East’ riding.

Optionally, there could be a second ‘regional’ ballot listing all candidates running in all the ridings in the region (listing the riding names is optional), and additional candidates who are not running in the constituency contests could opt to be listed solely on the regional ballot.

North MMP Regional Ballot
Example regional ballot for a possible North region MMP model. Candidates would be listed in columns by party and in rows by riding. Showing the riding names is optional, but would help voters identify nearby candidates.

Voters would typically be asked to mark an ‘X’ beside their preferred constituency candidate, and (if a regional ballot is provided) to mark an ‘X’ beside their preferred regional candidate.

Counting Constituency Ballots: Counting these ballots would be done the same way as we do now – the candidate with the most votes would win the constituency seat.

Counting Regional Ballots: The ballots would likely be counted using the ‘open-list’ approach described on the Multi-Member page – the total number of ballots cast for candidates of each party would be added up, and then the number of seats each party deserves would be determined based on their candidates’ share of the popular vote (taking into account the number of seats each party has already won at the constituency level).  The regional seats would be awarded to those candidates with the most votes from each party.  If only a single ballot is used, then the party shares would be based on the party affiliations of the candidates named on the constituency ballots across the region, and the top-up candidates elected would be the top-scoring candidates not elected in the constituency contests.

With MMP models, the final group of candidates elected would broadly represent the diversity within each region and the MLAs would be the individual candidates most supported by the voters either at the constituency level or amongst each party’s candidates at the regional level.