It has been so much fun observing the current political zoo in the United States that we tend to forget what is going on in our own backyard. Sure, we knew about the move by the Ontario government to allow municipalities in the province to move to ranked balloting but we were not aware that Bill 181 included transferable voting. It is typical of the Wynne Liberals that when they open a can of worms, they dump it on someone else.
To-date, cursory research has turned up no municipality boasting that it will be the first to choose ranked balloting in the province. Not even Toronto is partaking in the opportunity—and that was the city that asked for it. Toronto councillors changed their minds.
And here is the province looking silly because nobody wants the change.
But with more than 400 different municipalities in the province, surely there are at least a few who want to do something different. They can hardly all be too conservative to try a different system? And there are a few organizations such as Fair Vote that want to push them into change.
These organizations think that ranked voting is fair. They think we should only elect the blandest of candidates—or at least the ones voters know the least about. In a single-member ward for example, people are expected to number their choices one, two and three (or more if there are more candidates). Since most voters know at least one candidate, they can be vague about who should be numbers two, three, etc.
But the problem is how these votes are counted. If nobody gets a majority, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is dropped and their second choice votes are added to the other candidates. This process can continue until one candidate wins a majority of the votes. And that is why we refer to it as a method where the losers are the choosers. It only works in situations where every voter knows all the candidates—such as a party leadership vote.
The transferable voting that was also approved applies in multi-member wards where you have to select two or more people to elect. In this system, the votes remain on the table as you transfer the excess votes from the winning candidate to the second, third or fourth candidate as required. It can be more than a little complicated.
What really amuses us is that what the Ontario government has approved is old and outmoded systems that are easily manipulated. We stopped using them because it was too easy to cheat.
Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry
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