Why Ranked Ballots are the Right Reform, Right Now, for Toronto

Rhys Goldstein is a voting systems enthusiast who has developed a number of educational resources on electoral reform. Rhys generally advocates for proportional representation, but believes ranked ballots could significantly improve municipal elections in Toronto. (Thumbnail photo credit: Jérôme Decq)

Not a fan of vote splitting? Then you’ll agree Toronto needs a new voting system. But what type of system should we adopt for our municipal elections? The answer is — at least at the present moment — that we should switch to ranked ballots, even if it doesn’t get us all the way to proportional representation. To understand why, read on…

The Maine Event

Harout Manougian is a former RaBIT Board Member, currently studying at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. In 2012, he was elected as a Trustee to the Toronto District School Board with 18.9% of the total vote. You can follow him on Twitter: @HaroutManougian.

On June 12th, 2018, citizens of the US state of Maine will be the first to use ranked ballots for a major statewide election in US history when they vote in the Democratic and Republican primary elections to select each party’s candidate for the gubernatorial election in November. Simultaneously, Mainers will be asked to vote in a referendum on whether they want to keep the ranked ballot system – despite having already made this decision in another referendum held only two years earlier. Indeed, the continued resistance by those currently in power to eliminating the “spoiler effect” has put the journey towards ranked ballots in Maine through many twists and turns. June 12th will be a pivotal day in that journey.

RaBIT's April Newsletter

Did you know that May 1st is the first day that candidates in the 2018 municipal election can file their nomination papers and start their campaign? That’s right, the 2018 campaign is about to get real. Please see below for 3 updates on how you can contribute to RaBIT’s mission to ensure that this campaign results in a city council that will vote to adopt ranked ballots for the 2022 election.


Watching Democracy In Action

A little while ago, I participated in my first monthly RaBIT meetup - or "RaBIT Gathering", as I like to call it. The meetup started with each participant speaking briefly about why they were there. There was authenticity and enthusiasm all around, so I suggested we contribute our stories to the RaBIT blog and share our positive energy with the rest of the city.

My reason for attending the meetup goes all the way back to March 6th, 2014. This was the day the Ontario Legislature passed second reading of the motion to change the Municipal Elections Act so that Toronto City Council could change our city's voting system.

RaBIT March Newsletter

With spring springing and Easter arriving, we seem to be seeing rabbits (or at least bunnies) everywhere these days... which made us realize that it was time for another RaBITnewsletter. Please see below for three updates on RaBIT’s growing campaign to make sure that 2018 is the pivotal turning point for voting reform in Toronto.

From RaBIT Newbie to Voting Reform Enthusiast

One of the things we want to do with RaBIT’s new blog is to provide regular Torontonians with an opportunity to have their voice heard. This post, written by new RaBIT supporter Lynda Chubak, is the first in what will be a recurring series of such posts.

On February 28, I attended my first RaBIT event, the Ranked Ballots Roadshow. Though I had been loosely following this grassroots initiative for a few years, growing concerns over the slow pace of improvements to the city and a lack of diversity on City Council finally pushed me out the door to learn more.  

I came to hear first-hand how our municipal democracy could be made better. Better for me means at least two things. First, I want change that creates a real possibility that more women and, generally, more people who better reflect Toronto’s diversity will be elected. Second, it should no longer be almost a given that an incumbent candidate will win elections in their ward. New voices should have a fighting chance.

Ranked Ballots Mean Better Choices for Voters

In our first blog post we explained how our current voting system is seriously flawed and how a ranked ballot system would be better. We also mentioned some of the benefits that ranked ballots offer compared to our current system. They include:

  • An end to vote splitting
  • Better choices for voters
  • Less negative campaigning
  • Drastic reductions in strategic voting
  • Election winners that actually have majority support

You can check out a brief overview of these benefits here, but we also wanted to provide a more comprehensive explanation of how ranked ballots help to produce these benefits. So, in this post, we examine how ranked ballots end vote splitting, why that’s a good thing, and explore how this leads to voters getting better choices at the ballot box. In a later post we’ll explain how ranked ballots decrease negative campaigning, drastically reduce strategic voting, and ensure that election winners actually have majority support.

Together, these posts will lay out our “theory of change” for how ranked ballots will improve Toronto’s politics. In other words, these posts will show how using ranked ballots will shift the incentives and systems that currently structure how politics happens in our city for the better.

The Ranked Ballots Roadshow

Guess what? As of today (21 February) we’re only 243 days away from the 2018 Toronto Municipal Election on October 22! While that might seem like a long time right now, before you know it, it’s going to be time to cast your ballot.

Don't worry though, we’re already busy working to make sure that we get the positive message about ranked ballots out to as many people as possible. So keep reading for information on our next big event which is taking place in just a few days on Wednesday, February 28th.

RaBIT is Launching a Blog

We’re one month into 2018 and RaBIT is already busy getting ready to make ranked ballots a hot topic in next fall’s municipal election. Read on for three important updates about how what we’re working on - and how you can help out.

Why We Need Ranked Ballots

RaBIT volunteers often get asked why we want to change a system that some people think is “working just fine”. This is an important question and one we need to be able to answer clearly and persuasively.

Between now and the Toronto elections on October 22nd, we’ll be using this blog to answer that question and to build the case for switching to ranked ballots. Every couple of weeks we’ll be bringing you research, analysis, and first-hand accounts from a diversity of perspectives that clearly demonstrate how switching to ranked ballots will improve our local democracy and help make Toronto a better place to live.

This post is the first in that series and in it, we tackle the big overarching question we just raised: why should Toronto change the way it votes?