Regional Council Candidates on Single Transferable Vote

Dear Fair Vote Canada supporters in Waterloo Region,

Monday October 27 are local elections.

Although we are primarily focused on our 2015 Make Every Vote Count federal campaign, Fair Vote Canada supports proportional representation at all levels of government. When you vote municipally, provincially, or federally, your sincere vote should count, and the results should reflect the diversity of how we voted.

As you may be aware, the Ontario government may be introducing legislation to allow “ranked ballots” for local elections.

“Ranked ballots” are not a voting system. They are a tool that can be used in a variety of proportional systems, or in winner-take-all systems. When applied to a multi-member election (where we are voting to elect more than one person), such as the election for our Waterloo Regional Council, this is called STV – Single Transferable Vote – a proportional electoral system.

When applied to a single winner election, ranked ballots are known as “Instant Run-Off Voting”, a winner-take-all system which replicates almost all the problems of first-past-the-post. While FVC has no problem with using run-off voting to elect a mayor, we do not support it for the election of a representative body, such as a city council.

Currently, our Regional Council is elected by “block voting”, which is like first-past-the-post on steroids. Candidates representing a similar ideology or point of view can easily sweep every seat, creating an unrepresentative Regional Council.

Fair Vote Canada Waterloo sent the letter below to our Waterloo Regional Council candidates, asking if they would support applying ranked ballots to the election of Waterloo Regional Council – STV.

Below that are the responses we received.

We hope you will participate in our local elections on Monday and thank you for supporting Fair Vote Canada.

Sincerely,

Sharon Sommerville, FVC Waterloo Region Co-chair
Anita Nickerson, FVC Action Coordinator

October 21, 2014

Dear Regional Candidate,

Fair Vote Canada is a national, non-profit, grassroots citizens’ campaign for the introduction of proportional voting systems at every level of government. You can find out more at ww.fairvote.ca.

As you may have heard, the Ontario provincial government is preparing to introduce legislation which would allow cities to choose the option of using ranked ballots for their local elections.

When ranked ballots are applied to a multi-member election (rather than to elect a single person), such as Waterloo Regional Council, this is known as Single Transferable Vote (STV), a proportional electoral system.

Many cities around the world, from Europe to New Zealand, use STV. STV makes most votes count, and helps voters elect a council which better reflects how they voted and the rich diversity of the community.

STV is a proportional system that can be used with or without parties. Here is a short video showing how STV can be used to elect a board. Our local Grand River Car Share elects its board this way.

In practice, STV is easy for voters to use – they just rank their choices.

The benefits of proportional systems over winner-take-all systems is well documented.

Our question to you, and to all regional candidates, is:

Would you support Waterloo Regional Council taking advantage of the new legislation allowing ranked ballots to implement Single Transferable Vote to elect Regional Council?

We will publish and share the results of this survey with our local supporters before the municipal election.

Thank you in advance for your response, and we thank each of you for running for Regional Council.

Sincerely,

Sharon Sommerville

Co-chair, Fair Vote Canada Waterloo Region

Anita Nickerson
Fair Vote Canada Action Coordinator

Jane Mitchell: Added 25 October 2014
Sorry to take so long to reply. Since I am always second on the ballot, and wouldn’t have my seat except for this minor form of ranking, my answer is yes! But hopefully it won’t be too confusing.
Karen Scian: Added 25 October 2014
Absolutely – I believe that ranked ballots would be a great tool to improve democratic representation in Waterloo Region.
Cameron Dearlove: Added 25 October 2014
As a long-time supporter of more proportional electoral systems (and FVC), I would be a big supporter of going to the STV system at the Regional level. I think that having the discussion around STV would be a great opportunity to have a citizen-led discussion about how we elect our local governments, and how we are represented. This has been a part of my platform since before the recent discussion around STV popped up. You can read my ideas on a citizen-led review here: Your Voice – Making Regional Government Work For You – #30DaysForABetterWR

Thanks for the question and for your leadership on making our governments more representative!

Gregory Burns: Added 25 October 2014
Thanks for contacting me regarding the ranked ballot. I am always in favour of re-evaluating how we do things, and never take the answer “because we have always done it that way” as adequate.

Would I support Waterloo Regional Council taking advantage of the new legislation allowing ranked ballots to implement Single Transferable Vote to elect Regional Council?

If elected I would support implementing ranked ballots in all Regional races. It allows our current democratic systems simply to be supplemented to allow voters to truly vote regarding their preference without the fear of splitting the vote. I have in fact been part of a movement within engineering student groups to move all elections from simple first-past-the-post to STV.

Tom Galloway:
We will see how the final legislation looks but I would support a ranked ballot system as it typically is defined. First past the post does not always produce the result most might desire.
FVC followed up:
What do you mean ‘as typically defined?’
Tom Galloway:
I don’t think I could support runoffs.
 
Fair Vote then explained that we support STV PR and not run-offs – and the difference – and Tom Galloway responded “Anita, I am good with that.”
Karen Redman:
I would support ranked ballots for Regional council elections.
Sean Strickland:
Thanks for the letter. I am interested in and supportive of ways to encourage more people to participate in democracy, especially local elections. In principle I support a ranked ballot approach (STV) but would need to learn more. I also think we should have interest voting, phone voting, mail in ballots and elections running over 2 to 3 days to increased turnout.
Elizabeth Clarke:
Thanks for your email. In answer to your question, I would certainly support Waterloo Regional Council taking advantage of new legislation allowing ranked ballots to implement Single Transferable Vote to elect Regional Council. I believe that such a change would increase civic engagement generally, and would increase the engagement and thus the representation of diverse groups in municipal decision making.
Ed Korschewitz:
I’m in favour of any system that improves voter turnout and hence democracy.
Karl Kiefer:
“I believe that there are certainly some large challenges and issues hampering our democracy with regard to voter turnouts and civic engagement. My son is in the process of applying to study for his phD in political science and we often discuss ways in which we can meet these challenges and quell voter apathy. I believe that a multi-member electoral system has the potential to have a positive impact on our democracy at the local level.

However, like any other issue, I believe that the most prominent portion of a policy decision should be informed with public opinion. Therefore, if there is a strong public appetite for this type of change in our region and local communities then I will do my utmost to work with the folks at your organization, the public, my colleagues at all levels of government and all other stakeholders to make such changes a reality.

I also believe that a multi-member system could have possibly taken root much earlier if it weren’t for a lack-luster education and information campaign that preceded a past provincial election referendum question surrounding proportional representation. Nonetheless, if elected, it would be my duty to provide a platform for the voices of residents of Cambridge and the Region of Waterloo, which includes participating in discussions that are the core of how we make decisions.”

Thanks again for reaching out and providing me with an opportunity to share my opinion on this important issue.