Let’s not lose: ranked ballots
Updated: Nov 18, 2020
Written by Sarah Emms-Pilon, Women & Politics and Shawna Lewkowitz, Urban League of London
In 2016, the province adopted Bill 181,The Municipal Election Modernization Act, which gave municipalities the option to move to a ranked ballots system for their elections. As London City Council set to debate this option, groups like Women & Politics and the Urban League of London, did extensive outreach to members and the people of London. We wanted to hear their perspectives and to share with them why City Council should support the move to ranked ballots.
The movement gained support, and City Council ultimately voted to use ranked ballots in the 2018 municipal election, making London the first municipality in Canada to do so. That’s right, we made history right here in London!
By all accounts the ranked ballot system was a success, thanks to the hard work of our City Clerk’s office. When voting for mayor, 68% of Londoners chose to rank their choices, demonstrating that voters understood and participated in the new system.
Fast forward to this week and the provincial government has put forward a Bill to prevent municipalities from using the ranked ballot system for their elections, which essentially strips Londoners of our local democratic rights. There are all kinds of justifications the Ford government is giving for why they have introduced this legislation, but it boils down to meddling in local democracy and telling us how we have to vote.
Ranked ballots are important. They create better opportunities for new voices to enter the political arena, since the ability to rank candidates means that viable candidates aren’t seen only as “the incumbent” and “the challenger,” with anyone outside of those two roles seen as splitting the vote.
This encourages more diverse people to run, which we saw in London with the election of London’s first Black woman councillor, Arielle Kayabaga, who expressed that ranked ballots were a key factor in her decision to run. And, since it forces candidates to campaign differently as they seek to court voters’ second or third votes, it can result in campaigns that are generally more positive and focused more directly on election issues, rather than personal attacks.
Cities should be able to determine what voting system best suits them. Londoners made that choice when our elected Council chose ranked ballots. Our city is a leader, with nearly 70% of voters in the last election voluntarily choosing to rank their ballots. The Ford government shouldn’t be able to strip our community of that opportunity. If you agree, here are a few things you can do: