In the BC Liberal leadership race, every member’s vote counts

Click to play video: 'Closing statements of the final BC Liberal leadership debate'
Closing statements of the final BC Liberal leadership debate
Hear the closing remarks from the six candidates running to be BC Liberal leader – Jan 24, 2018

BC Liberals across the province are voting to select a new party leader this week. There are six candidates on the ballot: Mike de Jong, Michael Lee, Todd Stone, Sam Sullivan, Dianne Watts and Andrew Wilkinson.

Voting kicked off on Thursday morning. No official numbers have been released by the BC Liberals, but the party has an estimated 60,000 members. About half those members have been signed up during the leadership campaign.

Here’s how the voting process works:

Must register to vote

Members must first register to vote, then they can mark their preference on an online ballot.

Voters aren’t just picking their favourite candidate: it’s a preferential ballot.

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“It’s a preferential ballot meaning that you only vote once and you have the opportunity to rank your choices,” Mike McDonald. longtime party member and former chief of staff to Christy Clark, said in a blog post.

“There are six candidates. There is no downside to filling out your ballot from one to six — it doesn’t hurt your preferred candidate.

“In fact, it ensures your vote will count right through to the final ballot if your preferred candidate is eliminated.”

Voting open until Saturday at 5 p.m.

Computers will start counting when the polls close on Saturday at 5 p.m. The candidate with the fewest votes on the first ballot will be eliminated from the race.

The computer will then factor in the second choice for those candidates and those votes will be distributed to the remaining five. This process continues until one candidate has 50 per cent or more of the points.

“This is going to be decided by the people who choose a second, third and fourth choice or it could be selected by people who only choose one,” said Stephen Carter, a senior Mike de Jong campaign strategist.

“People who choose one candidate have a high probability that their vote won’t count.”

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Click to play video: 'Winners and losers in Liberal leadership debate'
Winners and losers in Liberal leadership debate

But not every vote is equal. That’s because of the point system. Every riding in the province is worth 100 points. So even if there are thousands of members in one Surrey riding and a few hundred in a Vancouver Island riding, they’re all still worth the same.

That means it’s more valuable for campaigns to focus on ridings with fewer members because it’s often easier to rally fewer people to vote than it is to bring out thousands.

READ MORE: BC Liberal candidates square off in final leadership debate

“From day one, our campaign has been focused on attracting new members and engaging with existing members in ridings across the province,” said Todd Stone campaign spokesperson Stephen Smart.

“After the first day of voting we are very pleased by the broad support Todd is seeing in ridings right across British Columbia.”

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Although the system may seem confusing, it does make for exciting politics. The consensus from most of the leadership campaigns is that Dianne Watts will be in first place after the first ballot.

But after that, anything can happen.

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