Ranked Ballot Initiative Launching in Guelph

After last fall’s round of municipal elections in Ontario, Premier Kathleen Wynne promised to look into the idea of incorporating ranked ballots into the process for the 2018 vote. The idea generated a lot of interest, most prominently from Toronto Mayor John Tory, who recently pressed Wynne to move forward with legislation to approve a new ranked ballot system for Canada’s biggest city. Never one to shy away from progressive thinking and new ideas, concerned Guelphites are now jumping on to the debate and are looking to make ranked ballots a reality for the Royal City in 2018.

On April 23, a new advocacy group called 123Guelph will begin to make its push for ranked ballots for the next election.

“What we’re asking for right now is for City Council to join the movement asking the province for the right to adopt Ranked Ballots to elect representatives,” said Kevin Bowan, a representative for 123Guelph in a press release.

“We’re very hopeful that legislation allowing for Ranked Ballots will be passed in the next few years,” he added. “But it is imperative that Guelph add its voice to keep the pressure on the province.”

As the name implies, ranked ballots will allow voters to list the given candidates for a given position in order of preference. Or, as this Toronto Star put it:

In a ranked-ballot system, voters cast ballots for preferred candidates — 1 for their favourite, 2 for their second choice, 3 for their third and so on — instead of for just one candidate.

If no one receives 50 per cent of the No. 1 votes, an instant run-off is held so the last-place candidate drops off the ballot and their second choice votes are allocated to the surviving candidates.

The process continues until a candidate wins a simple majority of 50 per cent plus one.

Many advocates for electoral reform believe it will encourage more involvement in the democratic process and less vote splitting.

“There are many ways to elect local leaders that can produce vastly superior results to what we have now,” said Bowan. “Our group is a supporter of ranked ballots, where you rank your preferred candidates on the ballot instead of choosing just one. This reduces wasted votes, eliminates strategic voting, creates more positive, issue­based campaigns and creates a result where the winner has the support of a majority of voters.”

But will the current make up of Guelph City Council, whom were all elected in the first past the post (FPTP) system that currently all levels of government use, throw their support behind 123Guelph’s initiative?

“Our mayor has publicly stated on a number of occasions that he’s open to having a conversation on any issue,” Bowman said. “We hope he’ll join us in this one. There’s absolutely no downside, which is why this is a great opportunity to score a win for local democracy in a way that benefits us all.”

The last time election reform was attempted in Ontario was in the 2007 referendum on mixed member proportional (MMP) representation that accompanied the provincial election. Voters rejected that ballot measure by a margin of 63 per cent to 37. Of course ranked ballots are bit easier to get one’s mind around than MMP, so it should make for an easier appeal.

Here are the vital stats for the event:

WHAT: ​Public conversation and official launch of 123Guelph’s campaign for Ranked Ballots.

WHO: ​Dave Meslin, community organizer on local democracy, will be the keynote speaker. The event will be hosted by Andy Best, editor of the Guelph Citizen and co­chair of the Open Government Leadership Task Force.

WHEN: ​Thursday, April 23rd at 7pm.

WHERE: ​Guelph City Hall, Room 112.

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