Make our elections more fair and friendly! Support Ranked Choice Voting as an alternative to the City of Ottawa's current voting system.
The City of Ottawa’s current voting system is no longer serving the diverse needs of our communities.
One of the most fundamental values of our society is the privilege of choosing our civic leaders in periodic, free and fair elections. Under our current First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system, however, this aspect is cheapened—strategic voting, vote splitting, negative campaigning, winning without a true majority, and a lack of candidate diversity are all major issues that weaken our democracy. To solve these problems, many major cities around the world have switched to Ranked Choice Voting: a system that ensures that the winner receives a true majority of votes.
This petition calls upon all of Ottawa’s mayoral and city councillor candidates to support a change to the way the City of Ottawa elects its official to a Ranked Choice Voting system.
Within our current voting system, voters are asked to select the candidate they wish to win the election. The candidate with the most votes wins. There are five related problems with our current system.
1) Strategic Voting
Voters are often forced to “vote against” a certain candidate that they do not like by strategically voting for a less preferable candidate. As a result, voters are not able to express their true democratic choice, because they think their preferred candidate might not win and do not want to waste their vote.
2) Vote Splitting
Because voters may select only one candidate under the FPTP system, media discussions often centre on how candidates are trying to ‘steal’ votes from one another rather than on platform or policy ideas. Voters are also forced into a position where they have to strategically vote because they do not want to ‘split’ the vote between two similar candidates.
3) Negative Campaigning
Since candidates do not need to achieve a true majority of the votes in order to win an election, candidates may spend more time discrediting their opponents rather than defining their own platforms and policies.
4) No True Majority
It is entirely possible for a candidate to win an election with less than fifty percent of the vote. That is, candidates become civic leaders without the expressed support of the majority.
5) Lack of Candidate and Policy Diversity
Many lesser-known candidates under our current system are dissuaded from running because the system is biased against them (i.e only mainstream candidates can possibly win, and new candidates simply lead to vote splitting) thus narrowing the pool of candidates and ideas. This often discourages members of underrepresented groups, such as women, visible minorities, and youth, from becoming candidates. Elections are about new ideas as much as about who wins them.
The problems listed above are not unsolvable. Many of the issues can either be resolved or improved when Ottawa switches to a Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) system, also known as Instant Run-off Voting, or Ranked Ballots. RCV is not a new idea—many municipalities across the US and UK use ranked ballots, including San Francisco, Minneapolis, as well as London, England. In addition, every major federal political party also uses RCV to select its leadership.
The RCV system is as easy as 1-2-3: voters rank multiple candidates on their ballots in order of preference. On election day, first choice votes are added up, just like our current system. If a candidate wins 50% or more of the vote, they are declared the winner. However, if no candidates receive more than 50%, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated from the race and a second round of counting is automatically initiated. For voters whose preferred candidate was eliminated from the race, their vote is automatically transferred to their second choice. This counting process is repeated until one candidate receives 50% or more of the vote (to try RCV yourself, check out this online voting simulator).
RCV solves the five problems found within our current voting system. Winners of a RCV election are guaranteed to have received at least 50% of the votes. Since voters are able to rank their candidates, they do not need to strategically vote and are able to freely select their true democratic choice. Furthermore, since candidates are inclined to appeal to a greater number of people in order to capture second choice votes, campaigns will be more focused on policy and substance rather than negative attack tactics. Finally, RCV encourages a greater diversity of candidates to run because RCV ends vote splitting.
For all of the above and reasons, we believe that the RCV system is the most fair and democratic way of conducting our municipal elections. (To understand why proportional systems of voting do not work for the City of Ottawa, please click here)
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