A simply transformative view of the single-transferable vote: Looking through a gendered lens at electoral reform in British Columbia
In 2009, British Columbians voted for the second time on the adoption of a new electoral system, the single-transferable vote (STV), as proposed by the Province's own Citizens' Assembly on electoral reform. The failure of the BC-STV to pass in this referendum generated much discussion on electoral reform, yet little research attention has been devoted to the role of gender in this process. This paper highlights the connections that can be drawn between the BC-STV and feminist studies, analyzing how electoral reform may influence gender parity in the Province's legislative assembly and how gender, in turn, influenced BC's electoral reform deliberations. The first section argues that electoral reform would have significantly improved gender parity in BC's legislative assembly. This conclusion is based upon an analysis of BC’s political culture in connection with three theoretical advantages of the STV system: its use of multi-member districts, its compatibility with affirmative action initiatives, and its susceptibility to the so-called “contagion effect.” The second section of this paper explores how gender dynamics influenced the ability of various “gendered actors” to influence the BC Citizens’ Assembly (BCCA). Female participants, feminist activists, and male staff members each enjoyed differing levels of influence that can be traced back to pre-existing gender inequalities. This work thereby demonstrates that an application of feminist theory can significantly enrich the study of electoral reform movements, both in British Columbia and elsewhere.
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University of Victoria