Electoral reform has its day
It’s Election Day in Ontario.
Every single municipality in the province holds their election on the same day—everyone is going to the ballot box today, and I’m excited to see how things shake out not just in my own city, but in various other towns and cities across the province.
Of course, this is not an ordinary Election Day, especially not in London, Ontario, where I live. Today is the first time a municipality in Canada will be electing its mayor and city council using some kind of system other than first-past-the-post. Here in London, we’ll be using ranked ballots, and all eyes are on us to see if this experiment in electoral reform can be replicated elsewhere.
It’s no secret that I’ve been a vocal advocate of electoral reform. Ranked ballots may not be the best form of voting, but it’s far better than the first-past-the-post system we currently have. I was part of the team that pushed for electoral reform in London, and I’m extremely proud that today, all that work in advocacy and community education that so many volunteers put in, will become a reality.
In preparation for this momentous day, I wanted to share a few pieces in major media that have highlighted electoral reform in London—including the positives and negatives—and how we’re setting an example for the rest of the country.
In a matter of days, Canada’s boldest experiment in democratic reform will produce its first set of results.
Those who advocated for the historic move away from first-past-the-post voting hope it won’t also be its last.
On Monday, London, Ont., will be the first Canadian city in recent history to elect representatives using ranked ballots, in which voters mark their top three choices rather than just one, allowing an instant runoff in which losing candidates are eliminated and votes redistributed until someone has a majority. And once it’s over, the spin battle will begin — about whether that system deserves to be adopted elsewhere, or whether it’s enough of a bust that it shouldn’t even be used again here.
This is what makes London’s vote, in particular, such a landmark. Opponents of electoral reform have until now had unchallenged possession of the status quo in Canada: any other system could be presented as some ghastly foreign invention, unsuited to Canadian circumstances. Lacking personal familiarity with the alternatives, voters have too easily been misled with wild caricatures bearing no resemblance to how these systems actually work.
As of Monday, however, we will have a working model of reform on Canadian soil.
(London City Clerk) Saunders’ team has been in close contact with Minneapolis, Minnesota, which has run ranked ballot elections three times.
There, voter turnout has gone up and the composition of city council has changed, said Minneapolis City Clerk Casey Carl.
“We elected our first Latina councillor, our first Asian-American, our first Somali-African-American, and the age range has changed. My council has 13 members, the youngest is 23 and the oldest is 63, so four decades between them,” Carl said.
“People don’t want to get into a jabbing match. You don’t want to create enemies. That’s one of the reasons people like the ranked ballot — they say it leads to more conciliatory political interactions,” Woolstencroft said.
London is the first city in Canada to ditch first-past-the-post in favour of a preferential voting system that allows voters to rank first-, second- and third-choice candidates. Ranked ballots are advantage for candidates who can secure broad support. And in a close race, that’s crucial to inching over the threshold to win: 50 per cent plus one vote.
Happy Election Day, my friends! See you at the polls.