The man who made music history as Nirvana’s bassist says the May 12 referendum on single transferable vote offers British Columbians a unique opportunity.
“This is an opportunity, a rare opportunity, for British Columbia voters to impact American politics,” Krist Novoselic told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview from his Washington home. “If you vote yes for single transferable vote, that’s the shot heard around the continent, OK? I’m serious. People can say, ”˜They passed it in British Columbia. They’re using it in British Columbia.’”
Novoselic, 43, described his transition from musician to political activist. He is the chair of Maryland-based FairVote and has been an avid supporter of proportional voting since he began studying various electoral systems a decade or so ago. He also had a political stripe from his days of standing up for musicians and younger music fans who he said were not getting fair access to live venues and bands.
“Where there’d be a lot of enthusiasm for people who would want to participate in a benefit concert, or they’d want to testify at the local council meeting, there wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm for voting, which is basically the interface between the citizen and their government,” Novoselic said. “I was on-line, in 1996 and 1997, and I was browsing on-line and did some searches and I discovered proportional voting, preferential ballot, rank-choice voting, single transferable vote, and that there was a history of it in the United States and in Canada.”
It was this search that led to Novoselic’s belief that “one of the biggest barriers to participation is the single-member district”. Currently, both Washington state and B.C. use the single-member plurality system, often referred to as first-past-the-post or winner-takes-all.
Voters will end its use in B.C. if 60 percent or more of them vote yes on May 12. Unlike a plurality system, STV involves a preferential ballot, which Novoselic said is more democratic and will suit B.C.
“Well, first of all British Columbians need to decide whether the system will meet their needs and values, and I think it does,” Novoselic said. “It’s a diverse province, it’s a progressive province, and there are also some problems with first-past-the-post, where you have some strong minor parties, and that makes these distortions in the legislature that doesn’t reflect the true majority or doesn’t reflect the true makeup of British Columbia. So single transferable vote is a more accurate reflection of the will of the voters. It’s not just a proportional voting system; it’s a full representation system. So, if you have a five-member riding—or however many you have—the minority in that district won’t be shut out.”
Novoselic said that, after talking to the Straight, he was heading on up to the Canadian border and into town.
On May 1, Novoselic will join Shoni Field, spokesperson for British Columbians for BC-STV, at a forum on STV at UBC Robson Square, starting at 7:30 p.m.