The province of Ontario is introducing the option of using ranked ballots in municipal elections. Congratulations, Ontario, great move!
We support the use of ranked ballots to elect a mayor and a municipal councillor. Too often these positions are won with a plurality of far less than 50% of the votes. The more unpopular a candidate, the greater the number of candidates who are inspired to seek the position, which in turn makes it more likely that the unpopular candidate will be (re-)elected. Ranked ballots corrects that problem.
Some people support ranked ballots at the municipal level but not at the federal level or vice-versa. To those, we’re glad we agree on some things, and we respect your engagement. But why do we believe ranked ballots are good for all levels of government?
We see the figure of over 50% of the votes as one that gives legitimacy to a representative. Some say the absence of strong political parties municipally and their presence in the House of Commons changes the legitimacy equation. It’s true that there are those for whom parties themselves are such a strong source of legitimacy that even a minimum threshold of 5% of the voters confers legitimacy to some MPs. But others do not and we prefer to allow both points of view.
The advantage of ranked ballots is that individual voters can base their vote on the candidate or on the party, their intention can be to seek power or to seek representation, to elect someone or defeat someone, or to participate in electing or defeating a group, and they can change those criteria from election to election. As the Trailer Park Boys’ Jim Lahey says (explicit language), do you vote for the best person in your riding, or do you vote for the federal party that most reflects your values? Legitimacy of election results should not depend on agreeing to one concept or another of the role of parties. For us, 50% of the votes is what provides legitimacy.
Federal elections eliminate one of the drawbacks of ranked ballots in municipal elections, that voters may not be familiar with enough of the candidates to rank them knowledgeably. The presence of federal parties make this ranking easier since there is effective communication of many factors that voters find relevant.
Congratulations Ontario. Now let’s get ranked ballots for federal elections.