Saturday, June 13, 2015

Ontario Municipal Elections Act Review - Ranked Ballots!

The following is a cut-and-paste of my comments on the Ranked Ballots part of the Ontario municipal elections act review.
As you can tell, I am excited by the possibility as I believe ranked ballots for either single or multi member districts is the best option for municipalities.  This is a system that fixes the flaws in the antiquated first-past-the-post system which creates the concept of "vote splitting" and encourages negative campaigning (and thus more negative and less effective government).
It also doesn't encourage political parties to form at the municipal level, a flaw that some of the so-called "proportional" systems would encourage. Whenever we hear the word "proportional" we need to ask "proportional to what".  If it is proportional to the support a voter has for a political party, this grants more power to political parties in the system. Additional power to political parties has its own harmful effects which we also need to be minimizing.
I have an additional concern, which is that we need to avoid allowing incumbent politicians having undue influence on whether a municipality modernizes to a ranked ballot.  We already saw incumbent politicians sabotaging referendum in Ontario and BC.  Incumbent politicians who were dependent on flaws in the current system to win will oppose (publicly, or subversively) modernization that would close that loophole.

What are your thoughts on using ranked ballots for Ontario municipal elections?I am excited. It is something I have been dreaming of since I first became aware of the fact that Canada was so far behind the rest of the world, and that it was our antiquated voting system that caused "vote splitting" and the negative campaigning.
Should municipalities be able to use ranked ballots for certain offices and not others? For example, only for mayor?No. It should be usable for any single or multi-member position.
Should public consultation by a municipality be required before implementing ranked ballots or before changing from ranked ballots back to the current system?No. This would allow the incumbents of that municipality who might be dependent on the legacy system to sabotage the consultation.
What form should that consultation take?If there must be a consultation or referendum, then the incumbent politicians should have little or no say in the process. Education around the system needs to be independently funded, so that incumbents cant sabotage the process through under-funding education.
Unlike the current system, ranked ballots can involve multiple rounds of counting before all the seats to be elected have been won.
How much information would you want about election results? For example, where there have been multiple rounds of counting would you want to see the results of each round of counting or just the final results?I would personally want access to full anonymised data. This isn't different than what I would want for the current system, but am unaware that level of data being released.
There are a number of other important decisions that the province will need to consider when determining how ranked ballots could work in Ontario. Throughout this review we will be consulting with Ontarians, municipalities and experts on ranked ballots to help us make these decisions.
Are there other ideas you wish to share on ranked ballots that you would like us to consider?Suggest to municipalities that implementation be gradual. For instance, move to a ranked ballot for existing positions first before moving towards creating multi-member positions which didn't already exist. Change is hard for people, and it would be unfortunate if a too large change caused people to want to go backward.

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