Minto not interested in ranked ballots

The Town of Minto will not be moving to ranked ballots for the next municipal election in 2018.

The Municipal Elections Modernization Act, which received Royal Assent last June, allows municipalities to consider using a ranked ballot system.

In a staff report presented to Minto council on Nov. 1, CAO Bill White and deputy clerk Annilene McRobb recommended against moving to the new system.

White noted council passed a resolution opposing ranked ballots during the commenting period on the legislation in May of 2015.

White told council municipalities considering the system were directed to consider the potential cost, the availability of technology and the impact on local election administration.

“We’ve looked at that on your behalf and our recommendation is not to go with ranked ballots,” said White.

He added the cost to implement the system would be considerable.

“Say your election is $30,000 … it will be at least $15,000 to $18,000 to lease the technology to do a ranked ballot system each time,” he explained. “Then you would have to change the process to make sure people put numbers down instead of checkmarks and Xs,” he added.

“Anything that can be confusing, will be confusing,” said White. The report points out an increase in spoiled ballots might be expected under a ranked ballot system.

“I don’t think this will help the election, I think it will hurt it,” stated White.

“I don’t think too many municipalities at all will be doing it.”

The report notes a ranked ballot system would preclude the use of community volunteers to count ballots.

“There is  something democratic about  60 community members counting ballots by hand within view of the candidates’ scrutineers.

“With electronic tabulation, community scrutiny is not part of the process. If a ranked ballot results in a  candidate with the most first place votes losing to a candidate with more second place votes it will be very difficult to fully demonstrate that to the electorate. Essentially we would all need to accept the electronic results.”

Councillor Judy Dirkson agreed community involvement is a key element in local democracy. “It gives our public an opportunity to be an important part of our election,” she said.

Mayor George Bridge agreed, “It gets them involved in the process, which I think is the biggest thing.”

The report states that Minto doesn’t experience the type of concerns that generally lead to the consideration of ranked balloting.

“Minto has not had a problem with turnout, so people seem to vote even if they think their candidate may not win. Campaigns are rarely negative in Minto and seldom do candidates ‘drop out’ of the race, even if they feel the vote might be split.”

The report continues, “Even the federal government has ‘backed off’ on election reform on the basis that it is no longer needed due to public satisfaction with the government.

“Staff believes there is  satisfaction with the way municipal elections are currently run and does not support a ranked ballot in 2018.”

Council accepted the report and confirmed Minto will not use ranked ballots in 2018.

White said staff will report to council next year on changes to the act that will impact the 2018 election, along with other matters related to the process.