It is always good to hear from loyal readers. And from some readers who enjoy arguing. One of the frequent arguments is over different types of voting. In more than 4,000 commentaries posted in Babel-on-the-Bay over the past ten years, I get the most comments about this aspect of our Canadian politics. The archived Democracy Papers on voting systems, from 2007, still draw daily interest from countries around the world.
One of my regular readers is true to his home town of London, Ontario. He wrote the other day to tell me, once again, how well preferential voting works for that city.
As much as I like and admire Ontario’s London and have visited the city many times on business, political activities and to see friends, I hardly think the city has had enough experience with preferential voting.
Let me explain a situation where preferential voting at the municipal level would have been a disaster. This is real: We had a situation in the mayoralty race in a city of similar size to London. The candidates included the incumbent mayor, a recently defeated member of the legislature, a previous, likeable mayor, two councillors hoping for a crack at the mayoralty and three other candidates in the ‘also ran’ category. The reality in that race was that nobody had much chance of getting 50 per cent of the vote.
The danger under preferential voting was that the candidate with the most second choice votes would be the winner.
The candidate I was helping was one of the councillors. He lacked the experience of the other four serious contenders. His campaign chair asked me to run the ground game for him. This involved analyzing areas of high turn-out to send the candidate to canvas, selecting polls for canvassers and for literature drops and then recording results for election day action, as well as analyzing the reports.
After a hot summer of canvassing, I knew my candidate would win handily under first-past-the-post rules. He did with 39 per cent of the vote.
But under preferential voting, my candidate might have lost. The former, likeable, mayor would have gathered most of the second-choice votes. If he had run a stronger campaign, under preferential voting, he would have been more of a threat to my candidate.
Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry
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