Queen’s Park may take ranked balloting system off the table for Burlington

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October 21, 2020 at 9:02 am

Queen’s Park may take ranked balloting system off the table for Burlington

Ranked balloting for elections, a system that Burlington is considering, may no longer be an option.

The Ontario government has introduced a bill that would prevent municipalities from using ranked ballots in the next civic election.

A spokesman for Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark said municipalities should not “experiment” with changes to municipal votes during the pandemic.

The government says this measure will keep the electoral process consistent across municipal, provincial and federal elections.

Earlier this month Burlington council decided to seek public input on whether the voting system should be changed for elections here.

The current voting system simply declares the winner as the person who receives the most votes.

In a ranked ballot system, voters have the option of selecting up to three candidates, ranking them by preference of their first, second, and third choice. The candidate who achieves the threshold of 50 per cent plus one vote is elected. After tabulating the votes, if there is no candidate who meets the 50 per cent plus one threshold, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. The ballots that selected the eliminated candidate as the first choice are now redistributed to the remaining candidates, this time using those voters’ second choice candidate. This process is repeated until a candidate who achieves the 50 per cent plus one threshold is met. Some believe this system better represents the desire of voters. Under the system used historically in Canada, election winners are those who simply receive the most votes.

Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward has shown some support for the ranked balloting system.

With a ranked ballot system, every vote truly counts,” she has said. “Whoever is elected will have received some measure of support from a majority of voters. This has the potential to increase voter confidence in the representation they have on City council, and in turn increase voter turnout. Democracy is a fundamental right in our community and I support continued discussions around changes that can potentially make it better.”

Clark’s spokesman, Adam Wilson, said the bill, which must still be passed by the Ford government, would only affect one of the province’s 444 municipalities that has already switched to the ranked ballot system.

“Our new proposed changes would bring predictability to municipal elections at a time when Ontarians are focused on their health and safety,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath slammed the government for interfering in local municipal elections. 

“This is a classic Doug Ford move,” Horwath said. “On one hand he says he respects municipalities and now he’s turning around and doing something that shows the opposite.”

– With files from The Canadian Press

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