Your ballot could look different in the 2018 municipal election, with the possibility of ranked choice voting for the City of London, Ontario.
Engage London staff held open houses that had interactive demonstrations for Londoners to learn about ranked choice voting.
What is ranked choice voting?
Ranked-choice voting allows voters to pick their top three candidates. The candidate with 50% plus one of the vote wins. However, if no one has that the first time, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated, and the ballots with the next choice are counted. The process continues until a winner is declared.
For now, London uses the-first-past-the-post voting system, which declares the candidate with the most votes as the winner.
The London North Optimist Community Centre, Medway Community Centre, Stronach Community Centre, and Earl Nichols Arena Meeting Room held open houses on the topic.
Those who attended the open houses saw the differences between the two ballots. One represents first past the post and the other represents ranked choice voting.
Londoners participated in a simulator, where they sorted through ballots, to see how ranked choice voting works.
There was also a video explaining the type of voting.
Video via CityofLondonOntario on Youtube
Linda Rowe, deputy city clerk, explained that London will educate the public and listen to their feedback before city council votes and makes a final decision.
“Once council has that information in terms of public feedback, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of each method and make their determination how to proceed,” she said at the London North Optimist Community Centre.
What are Londoners saying?
Rowe said it’s too early to determine the overall consensus of Londoners.
“I think people are doing their best to educate themselves and will go from there,” she said.
Some Londoners leaving gave their two cents on the matter.
The open house impressed Doug Fairbarn. “I thought they did an extremely clear job of how it works, especially the little simulation that they ran.”
He also supports ranked choice voting. “The ranked ballot can give a better representation of the feelings of the public.”
Bill Brock said that he would rather see the City of London take the time to consider their voting options after the 2018 election. He expressed concern over having similar councilors on board as a result ranked choice voting in the next election. “I want 14 individuals. I don’t want 14 like-minded people.”
What are the advantages and disadvantages in ranked choice voting?
Posters listing pros and cons of ranked choice voting were on display at the open house.
Rowe said there could a decrease in both negative campaigning and strategic voting. She added that the system may encourage more candidates to stay in the race without worrying about the possibility of split voting between similar candidates.
She added the “winning candidate may better reflect the will of the community.”
However, she said that there is no proof or tested method of using ranked voting ballots in an Ontario election and that bringing more technology and designing new ballots will be more costly.
Rowe added declaring election results may take longer. “Traditionally, we try to have the results ready for the 11 o’clock news. It’s doubtful that will happen,” she said.
Advanced polls will bring touchscreen tablets with electronic ballots to the 2018 election. Vote by mail and paper ballot options will still be available.
Rowe said that if London decides to use the ranked choice voting it would be the first municipality in Ontario to do so. Cornwall is also looking into ranked choice voting.
London City Hall will host a ranked choice voting public participation meeting on April 22 starting at 11 a.m. City Council will vote on ranked choice voting May 1st. For more information, visit the London Votes website.