Ranked ballots? “There’s an app for that”

Here at RaBIT, we’re always looking for new ways to make experiencing better democracy more accessible to more Torontonians. That’s why we were so excited when we discovered ElectionBuddy, a web app that brings ranked ballots to your smartphone or desktop. By combining a simple user interface with the ability to vote from anywhere, ElectionBuddy makes it easy to use ranked balloting for anything from choosing the next book for your book club to picking tomorrow night’s movie with a group of friends.

RaBIT recently put ElectionBuddy to the test by partnering with RaBIT supporter Jeff Clayton. Jeff is a teacher at WillowWood School, a private K-12 school in North York. Jeff wanted to teach his students about different types of voting systems by using ranked ballots for the school’s student elections. Check out Jeff’s super-cute and informative video on our YouTube page. As you’ll see, the election was a great success!

“The candidate speeches were really good yesterday, and the kids seem super interested,” Jeff reported during the process. “Every single one mentioned the importance of listening,” he emphasized.

The kids themselves said it was an easy, comfortable, uncomplicated way to run their elections. Walid Dowdie, the head of the school’s English department and the teacher responsible for the student council, told Jeff that the kids felt their votes counted and that, no matter who won, that they still had a stake in the outcome. “It’s nice to know that our president ended up with 53 percent of the vote, versus if she had 32 or 27.”

WillowWood School had to pay a small fee to purchase a K-12 license to use the app from ElectionBuddy for the school year, and given their positive experience engaging the kids in the school elections, it sounds like it was a good investment. In fact, WillowWood is now planning on using the app to help them make a lot of their decision-making more participatory and representative in the year to come. “We’re thinking about using it for Spirit Week… It’s a nice way to actually gauge interest in things,” Mr. Dowdie enthused. “I want to use it for our valedictorian [selection].”

One of the best things about the whole experience was that the app allowed Jeff to use the “show don’t tell” method of teaching his students about elections. By actually using the system for an election and engaging in the process themselves, the kids gained a robust, experiential understanding of how ranked ballots work, including all the wonderful advantages of ranked ballots. We hope they’ll teach their parents too!

But, perhaps most importantly, by using ranked ballots, all “the kids will always feel they have a voice.”

P.S. ElectionBuddy is based in Edmonton and their web app is free to use for up to 20 ballots. In response to one of our requests, they even added a feature we asked for that makes it easier to run informal elections.