The conversation continues in London, ON

While many Londoners were spending their Saturday enjoying the day off and the spring weather, some took the day to voice their opinions on ranked choice voting.

The Corporate Services Committee held a special meeting regarding this issue and the public participation portion lasted an hour.

In case you didn’t catch my last article, in ranked choice voting, voters select three candidates. The candidate with at least 50% or more of the vote wins. Ballots are recounted until one candidate achieves the majority.

Londoners learning about ranked choice voting
The difference between the old and the new. Photo by Emily Stewart

In comparison, voters select one candidate in the first past the post election method. When the winner has more votes than other candidates… they win. This is the system we currently operate on.

City Clerk Cathy Saunders said the estimated budget for the 2018 municipal election is $1.9 million, compared to $1.3 million in 2014.

What was said after the open houses

Londoners were encouraged to fill out a ranked ballots feedback survey. The survey results were mixed. According to a city staff survey, 56% of Londoners who voted prefer to select three candidates, while 44% prefer one.

47% were in favour of ranked ballots, whereas 46% were against, and 7% were unsure.

Public opinion

Many people, including community organization representatives,  support ranked ballots.

Sameer Vasta, the membership coordinator for the Urban League of London, said the organization would like to see a one-year pilot of ranked choice voting.

City divided on ranked choice ballots.
Sameer Vesta speaking his piece. Photo by Emily Stewart

“It is critical that those who are elected to council, those who are chosen to lead, are representative of the diversity in our city. It has been shown that time and time again the first past the post system does not ensure that kind of representation,” Vasta said.

Women and Politics also felt that ranked balloting encourages more diversity. “While there is no extensive data, there is data that shows there is a positive correlation with more women and more racialized candidates,” board member Anne-Marie Sánchez said, “If we want the extensive data, we need more communities to use ranked ballots.”

However, not everyone supports ranked choice voting.

Elizabeth Michaels acknowledged the option is “tempting,” but has some issues. “[The ballots] are unable to be interpreted properly,” she said, “If you insert or remove a candidate who doesn’t win at all, it’ll actually change who the winner is, and that shouldn’t be happening.”

Sooner or later?

Council will make a decision on ranked ballots for the 2018 election without a Corporate Services Committee recommendation.

Saunders said city staff recommended council does not move forward with ranked ballots for the 2018 election.

“We are not opposed to ranked ballot process, but as we are the ones who will have to run the election we’re not confident that the technology will be in place and fully tested in 2018 election,” she explained.

Saunders also said staff must guarantee the software is ready. “There has never been a test within an Ontario municipal election system for ranked ballots.”

Ward 13 Councillor Tanya Park supports ranked choice voting and has since her 2014 campaign. “I think it’s one of the best ways to make sure we have a really broad spectrum of candidates in the next election so people get the representation around the horseshoe that they want and need.”

Mayor Matt Brown acknowledged everyone’s points that either agreed or disagreed with ranked ballots. He added the timing will be the bulk of the discussion during the upcoming meeting.

“It’s not a question of should we introduce ranked ballots or not. The question is when? Can we do this in 2018 or should we wait until 2022?” Mayor Brown said.

Council makes their final decision on May 1. At 5 p.m. Visit the London Votes website for more information.

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