No ranked ballots for 2018 Waterloo Region municipal elections

Waterloo Region will not move to a ranked ballot system in time for the 2018 municipal election, according to regional Coun. Sean Strickland.

There will be no change to how residents elect municipal politicians in 2018, according to a Region of Waterloo staff report. 

Recent changes to Ontario's Municipal Act allow municipalities to use ranked ballots as an alternative to the current first-past-the-post system. 

But making that happen is a complicated process, Coun. Sean Strickland told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris on CBC K-W on Tuesday. 

"Because we're a two-tier system, we would need all municipalities to agree to proceed to a ranked ballot. And as of last night, [the City of] Waterloo actually decided not to proceed with a ranked ballot for 2018."

"It is dead in the water, in Region of Waterloo," said Strickland.

'Little confidence' by staff

As well as having all seven member municipalities on board, a bylaw changing the voting system to a ranked ballot would have to be in place a year and a half beforehand – by May 1, 2017.

(Sean Strickland)

Public consultations would have to be held before that legislation is approved and new voting equipment procured.

"At this point staff is not aware of any Ontario municipalities that will be undertaking ranked ballots for the 2018 municipal election," wrote staff. 

"There is little confidence in how it will work at the municipal level."

Public education before any change

The other key to any move to a ranked ballot system is making sure the electorate has a good understanding of what to do at the polls. 

In a ranked ballot, voters rank the candidates — first choice, second choice and so on. If no candidate emerges with a majority after the first count, the lowest-ranked candidate comes off the ballot, and their votes are redistributed according to the second choices cast. This continues until one candidate achieves a majority of 50 per cent plus one vote.

Proponents have said this system reduces vote splitting, strategic voting and negative campaigning.

According to the staff report, some municipalities are considering adding a question to the 2018 ballot, asking voters if they would like to move to ranked ballots in future elections.