When losers are choosers.

Somebody needs to rap knuckles around Toronto. People who should know better keep coming up with really dumb ideas and nobody tells them to stop being stupid. Once again the gremlins are trying to screw up the way people vote. It is so bad that even Mayor John Tory wants to get in on the act and support preferential balloting.

Preferential voting is a no-brainer for dumb voters. Can you imagine the simplicity of lining up maybe four candidates for councillor in your ward and marking the ballot: 1, 2, 3 and 4? That is when ‘1’ represents the candidate you want and ‘4’ is the one you least want. It is like a beauty contest. The voter might feel happier about voting this way. What is wrong is the way the ballots are counted. That is when the voters are screwed.

Take a look at a current example of the problem: The Ontario Progressive Conservatives are using a preferential ballot in May to choose their new leader. The Tories are going to mark their ballots 1, 2 and 3 for Christine Elliott, Patrick Brown and Monte McNaughton. If Elliott gets 45 per cent of the first votes, Brown gets 40 per cent and McNaughton gets the remaining 15 per cent, you would assume that Elliott will easily get enough second votes from the McNaughton voters to win. Wrong. Most second votes from McNaughton will go to Brown. Brown is second choice of the Right-to-Life people supporting McNaughton. Elliott could lose because of it.

And that is the problem with preferential balloting. When losers are the choosers, the voters are the real losers. This is not the same as a run-off election. You are letting the losers be the choosers.

What a preferential ballot most often produces over time is a dumbing down of the elected body. It is like always choosing the second best chromosomes in a genetics experiment. If you keep doing it, eventually you produce a monster.

And it is particularly sad to hear people say that Toronto City Council should have the same ethnic composition as the population of Toronto. If you are choosing politicians by their ethnicity, sex or colour, you are headed for more trouble than you expect.

Preferential ballots can never replace run-off voting. If you want to be sure that the ultimate winner has the majority of the votes, you have to allow the voters to rethink their decision.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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