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Forget about ranked balloting in Ontario, Burlington

Ontario residents who have been debating the use of ranked balloting in Municipal Elections can stand down. With this sentence–Ontario Regulation 310/16 (Ranked Ballot Elections) made under the Act is revoked.—the Doug Ford government has taken ranked balloting off the table. The clause was tucked away in a bill announced today that was aimed at providing some liability protection to Ontario business that are facing lawsuits related to COVID. At a new conference today when he was asked why ranked balloting was cancelled Ford offered this terse reply:

A government statement reads, “the proposed legislation also includes changes to the Municipal Elections Act, 1996 that would remove the option to use ranked ballots for municipal council elections, making the electoral process consistent across municipal, provincial and federal elections.”

This comes as Burlington council had given its approval for staff to initiate a public consultation aimed at finding out how the public feels about ranked balloting for the 2022 municipal election. Council was offered three options to consider—do nothing, hold a referendum, and the public consultation process that was adopted. Depending on the public feedback, council had the authority to switch to ranked ballots without a public vote on the matter, and that appeared to be was Council was contemplating. A staff report had provided a number of reasons why ranked balloting was better.

In a ranked ballot system, voters have the option of selecting up to three candidates, ranking them by preference of their first, second, and third choice. The candidate who achieves the threshold of 50 percent plus one vote is elected. After tabulating the votes, if there is no candidate who meets the determined threshold, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. The ballots that selected the eliminated candidate as the first choice are now redistributed to the remaining candidates, this time using those voters’ second choice candidate. This process is repeated until a candidate who achieves the 50 percent plus one threshold is determined.

Ford’s decision to take ranked balloting off the table will save Burlington taxpayers up to $30,000 to study the issue and up to $200,000 to implement it.

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