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Electoral reform probe hears from Yukoners in Whitehorse

Attendees expressed a range of opinions about the future of the territory’s voting system
Juliette Belisle Greetham was among Yukoners gathered at the Gold Rush Inn’s town hall in Whitehorse on Sept. 7 to speak out and hear about electoral reform. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

Juliette Belisle Greetham faced politicians from three political stripes while passionately speaking into the public record about lowering the minimum voting age from 18 to 16 at the special committee on electoral reform hearing this week in Whitehorse.

She was among Yukoners gathered at the Best Western Gold Rush Inn’s town hall for about two hours on the evening of Sept. 7 to speak out and hear about the potential options for the future of the voting system in the territory.

“That is taxation without representation,” she said.

Belisle Greetham, who is a co-leader of the Yukon team for the youth group Vote16 Canada, said education and empowerment are key to solving dysfunction in the electoral system. (See related story, Page 2)

The all-party committee has been given the duty of examining electoral reform and reporting back to the Yukon Legislative Assembly about its findings and recommendations. As part of the process, the committee has invited Yukoners to share their thoughts on whether or not they want to see electoral reform, and what that might look like.

Four broad types of electoral systems are defined on the committee’s website as options: plurality, majority, proportional representation and mixed.

Plurality refers to candidates winning seats by having the highest number of votes in their riding, for example, the current first-past-the-post system.

Majority refers to candidates winning seats by having a majority of votes in their district, for example, alternative vote.

Proportional representation refers to candidates winning as a function of the proportion of votes won by their party in their riding, for example, single transferable vote.

Mixed refers to a portion of seats awarded according to one electoral system, while another portion is awarded according to another system, for example, mixed member proportional.

Twenty participants went up to the microphone in-person while two people participated in a video conference via Zoom to express their opinions about the options.

Daniel Sokolov said he has worked as an election officer across the country. He presented his experience from the frontlines. He expressed concern about the voter’s experience and getting people to return to vote in the future.

He said the most important thing he has learned is to keep it a simple system.

Sokolov stood against a ranked ballot given the complexities of tabulation and that some voters show up without a clue about candidates and political parties. He said a more complicated ballot could leave some voters feeling intimidated and frustrated and physically struggling to fill it out.

He said another issue with ranked voting is that it can be difficult for people to see how their vote was counted and who they supported. Not only does it overwhelm voters, he said, but it also confounds the counting process, which can be difficult without ballot counting machines and protection for staff.

One speaker called the current system a “dog race” and another told the committee they “face a conundrum.”

Sara McPhee-Knowles is a Yukon University instructor with a PhD in public policy who covers this topic in one of her introductory political studies classes.

“Although our current first-past-the-post system is very simple to understand, as a previous person noted, and it makes it very fast to announce results, which we all appreciate on election day, the lack of proportionality is a problem for democracy,” McPhee-Knowles said.

McPhee-Knowles would prefer to see electoral reform bring in either a dual member proportional system or a mixed member proportional system.

“Both of these systems are relatively simple to implement compared to single transferable vote, and they maintain the advantage of geographic representation,” McPhee-Knowles said.

“This is really important in a jurisdiction like the Yukon where we have Whitehorse as a large urban center and many smaller rural ridings who have different needs and concerns.”

Another speaker commented on the range of opinions in the room representing the diversity of the makeup of the territory.

Several attendees called for some form of a citizens’ assembly to deal with the question of electoral reform instead of the committee.

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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