Does ranked choice voting give us proportional results?

Answer

No. The Ranked Ballot Initiative is proposing a small and simple change that does not replace our "winner take all" system.

Proportional elections are used all across the world and are the best way to ensure fair results. Proponents of voting reform have long advocated for proportional models at the federal and provincial levels.

At the municipal level in Toronto, however, we don't have official parties, so most proportional models don't apply (including any "list" system, such as Mixed Member Proportional). The only proportional model that could be used in Toronto is a multimember ward model, such as STV (Single Transferable Vote). Wards would be clustered into much larger wards, with multiple Councillors representing the area. For example, we could have 9 wards, each with 5 members – instead of our current 44 wards with 1 Councillor each.

These wards would provide an element of proportionality (where a group representing 20% of the vote could win one seat out of five). But there are also drawbacks – such as the size of the wards. Each ward would have over 300,000 voters, making it impossible for a candidate to knock on every door or run a small, independent campaign. The financial cost of running a campaign in a large ward could become an obstacle, reducing choice and diversity.

We shouldn't close the door on proportional municipal government. But it needs a lot of thorough discussion to ensure that the change would be a step forward not backwards. In the meantime, ranked choice/instant runoff voting is small and easy change we should implement as soon as possible. It's easy to explain, it's commonly used, it has broad-based multi-partisan support, and it would greatly improve our elections and our political culture.