Ranked ballots is a system of voting used for elections where a voter gets to pick more than one candidate and gets to give an order of preference for their choices (for example, a first, second, and third choice). This type of election is also called “instant runoff,” “alternative vote,” or “preferential ballots.” Read more on ranked ballots here.
The voters’ choices are counted until there is a candidate with more than 50% of the votes. First choices are counted first, and if a candidate has 50% of the votes or more, they’re the winner. If there’s no candidate with 50% or more, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated and everyone who voted for them has their second choice votes applied to the remaining candidates. These steps are taken again and again, until someone has over 50% of the votes. Read more about how they work here.
Our current system in Toronto is called “first past the post,” where each voter gets one vote, those votes are counted, and whoever got the most votes is the winner. This means that someone can “win” by getting 20% of the votes, and all the votes for other candidates aren’t represented in City Council.
RaBIT wants to change how Torontonians elect our officials by using ranked ballots, instead of holding first-past-the-post elections. We want voters to be able to have more than one choice for their councillors, school trustees, and mayor, and to have more people’s votes counted in the win by those elected in a real majority, not just the person who got the most votes.
There are some really great reasons to adopt ranked ballots:
- More people’s voices are truly represented by the candidates who get elected
- People are elected with true majorities of over 50% of votes, not just the most votes
- No more strategic voting: people can vote for their real favourite candidate
- More positive election campaigns as candidates need to court the second and third choices of their opponents’ voters
- With less negativity, more diverse candidates run for election and more diverse people get elected
They’re used in elections around the world: Australia, the UK, numerous cities across the United States including Minneapolis and New York.
And right here at home, all of our major political parties use them to elect their leaders at the provincial and federal level.
Instant runoff refers to using a ranking system on a ballot and then going through the elimination process right away and reallocating voters’ second choice votes to other candidates, rather than having multiple rounds of elections to accomplish the same thing. The opposite of instant runoff, multi-round elections, would mean having several rounds of elections, several rounds of voting and visiting polling stations, and would be very expensive! It’s also unnecessary with modern vote-counting technology that allows us to accomplish the same thing quickly, in one step.
Ranked ballots on their own do not provide proportional representation. Proportional elections are used all around the world and are the best way to ensure fair results; proponents for electoral reform have been advocating for proportional models at the provincial and federal levels for a long time.
However, at the municipal level in Toronto, we don’t have officially have political parties, so most models don’t apply, including any “list” system like Mixed Member Proportional.
RaBIT is not against proportional representation, however, ranked ballots are a smaller, easier-to-execute change that we can make quickly and soon. Once we have ranked ballots in place, we can look further down the road at other electoral reforms, if we want. For now, we believe this small change can have a big impact.
We’re not against proportional representation for the City of Toronto’s elections. However, it needs a lot of discussion to make sure it would be a step forwards, towards better, more fair elections and improvement in our democracy, not a step backward.
In the meantime, ranked ballots are a small change we can make now that will improve our elections quickly: ranked choice and instant runoff are easy to explain, commonly used, and have broad-based support across the political spectrum. This is a way to improve our elections and political culture right away.
Not necessarily. Since we have political parties at the provincial and federal level, there are more options to explore, including proportional representation. Ranked ballots wouldn’t solve the problem of distorted results at the provincial and federal levels, and, in fact, could compound the problem.
We can fix our system here in Toronto, but not without your support! RaBIT is a grassroots, community-based advocacy group and that means every little bit of support helps:
- Did you know that the Ontario government has banned municipalities from choosing to use ranked ballots? Learn about our Restore Local Choice campaign and help us get the Ontario government to allow municipalities to choose ranked ballots if they want.
- Tell Toronto’s elected officials that ranked ballots are a good idea for our city: sign our petition in support of ranked ballots in Toronto.
- Donate to RaBIT
- Join the conversation and spread the word in Twitter and on Facebook
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