In last year’s Provincial Elections Kathleen Wynne promised to give municipalities the choice of ditching first-past-the-post and changing to the ranked ballot.*

In an interview with the Toronto Star today, the Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, Ted McMeekin, says he is to consult municipalities in the fall with a view to introducing legislation in Spring 2016.

The Premier wants the new system to be in place for the 2018 elections.

I want to see it happen too.

There are still big unanswered questions about how we get from a-to-b but the direction of travel is clear. First-past-the-post can produce spectacularly bizarre results especially when there are lots of candidates in the race. In last year’s election in Toronto, the successful candidate in Ward 16 (Eglinton-Lawrence) got 17.4% of the vote.

This is unusual but it happens more often than you would think. And of course, there are lots of first-past-the-post elections where the successful candidate gets less than 50% of the vote. The ranked ballot ensures that the winner always gets more than 50%. With that comes a measure of legitimacy.

The Ranked Ballot and Newmarket

However, here in Newmarket the ranked ballot may not make much of a difference. In last year’s election most of the incumbents were home and dry – either because of their own sterling qualities or because the opposition was less than stellar.

The ranked ballot wouldn’t help a polarising figure who is uniquely unpopular. As I tap this out, I immediately think of Maddie Di Muccio, the Ward 6 incumbent, who got 785 votes (24.6%) while her challenger attracted 2115 votes (66.5%).

By contrast, the ranked ballot may well have made a difference in Ward 3 (Twinney 45.9%; Woodhouse 37.8%; Madsen 16.2%) or in Ward 5 (Sponga 46.7%; Heckbert 30.9% and Martin 20.3%). Who knows? That said, it is clear that giving voters the opportunity to express a preference can change voting behaviour.

And candidates, too, will have to think about how their views play with voters whose first preference is for someone else. In some wards, securing lots of second preference votes is likely to be a winning strategy.

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* also known as “preferential voting” or “the alternative vote”.


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