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The deadline for mail-in voting packages in British Columbia’s electoral reform referendum has been extended by a week.

Elections BC says the added time means residents must ensure their ballots are in by Dec. 7.

Chief electoral officer Anton Boegman says the extension is to ensure that voters are not prevented from taking part because of rotating strikes at Canada Post. Voters are encouraged to return their completed ballots in the mail as soon as possible.

The deadline to request a voting package was not changed and remained Friday at midnight. Those needing ballots can visit a Service BC Centre or referendum service office, or request a package by phone or online.

The referendum asks B.C. voters if they support the current first-past-the-post electoral system or if they back a form of proportional representation for the next election, which is set for 2021.

As of Friday, Elections B.C. says about 30 per cent of voting packages had been returned, with the highest number from the Parksville-Qualicum riding, where 29 per cent of ballots had come back. The lowest returns were from Surrey-Green Timbers at 9.7 per cent.

Bill Tieleman of the No Proportional Representation Society of B.C. had urged Elections BC to extend the referendum because of the postal strike.

“I think that another week is long enough,” he said.

“It will help ensure that every voter across the entire province gets their opportunity to vote on this referendum and make sure that we get at least a decent turnout, hopefully that would make it a legitimate process.”

In addition to asking voters which system they support, the ballot also includes a second question that allows voters to rank their preference for three types of proportional representation.

Any move away from the first-past-the-post system would require a vote of 50 per cent plus one in favour.

The three forms of proportional representation are mixed member proportional, rural-urban proportional and dual member proportional.

The Elections BC website says mixed member proportional is used in a number of countries, including Germany and New Zealand, and would see the election of two types of representatives, a district member and a regional member to the legislature. District legislative members would be elected using the first-past-the-post system while regional members would be elected from a party list so that each party’s share of seats matches its share of the provincewide popular vote.

Dual member proportional would see all but the largest rural districts combined so each has two members. Parties running candidates for both seats would list their candidates as either first or second. The first candidate of the party with the most votes in the district would win the first seat and the second seat would be won by a party based on its share of the popular vote provincewide and in the district.

Rural-urban proportional combines two different voting systems, the single transferable vote and mixed member proportional systems with voters in urban and semi-urban districts using the single transferable vote to elect multiple members for their larger electoral district. In rural districts, voters would use the mixed member system to elect district and regional representatives.

Elections BC says provincial results in the rural-urban system are likely to be generally proportional, although it is not used by any other jurisdiction.

— With files from CHNL

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