REBOOT Ottawa’s democracy! The Ranked Ballot Ottawa initiative

REBOOT Ottawa’s democracy! The Ranked Ballot Ottawa initiative
Posted on August 2, 2013 | Gregory Laxton | Written on August 2, 2013
Letter type:

Dear Ottawans,

This spring, Toronto City Council voted to request permission from the province to introduce a ranked ballot voting system. This vote represents a great success for the Ranked Ballot Initiative of Toronto (RaBIT), a grassroots project to make municipal voting more fair, diverse, inclusive and friendly.

I propose a similar initiative for the City of Ottawa to capitalize on RaBIT’s success and momentum. Premier Kathleen Wynne is on record saying she will not stand in the way of Toronto City Council’s desire for reform. The relevant laws are expected to be changed this fall. All Ontario municipalities will then have the option to choose ranked ballots.

The Ranked Ballot Ottawa (REBOOT) initiative supports this small, simple move to a ranked ballot voting system for Ottawa’s mayor, city council and school boards. In a ranked ballot system, voters are able to rank the candidates on the ballot in order of preference. Ranking your ballot is as easy as 1,2,3!

A ranked ballot voting system would:

  • Ensure majority rule. Our current ‘first past the post’ plurality system frequently elects candidates who have not won majority support. Ranked ballot voting ensures that no one can win with less than 50% of the vote.
  • Eliminate ‘vote splitting’ and strategic voting. A ranked ballot means voters don’t have to worry that a vote for their most favoured candidate will hand the election to their most disliked candidate. The choice to indicate your second and third choices means you can always vote with your heart. Nobody has to vote against what they most dislike—instead, they can vote for what they most want.
  • Promote voter choice. Ranked ballot voting allows many candidates to run without fear of splitting the vote. This means more choices for voters.
  • Cultivate more positive campaigns. Our current system provides an incentive for negative campaigning because candidates can win with a relatively small base by polarizing support. Ranked ballot voting provides an incentive for positive campaigning because smart candidates will strive to be the second choice of other candidates’ supporters.

Toronto expects to implement ranked ballots for mayoral elections in 2018 and for council elections in 2022. Ottawa, too, deserves a REBOOT of municipal democracy. Now is the time to make the same change in Ottawa. Please spread the word—I look forward to your comments.

Want to know more about the advantages of a ranked ballot? Watch Steve Paikin’s interview with RaBIT’s Dave Meslin on The Agenda below, or check out RaBIT's web site at

Follow the Ranked Ballot Ottawa initiative on Twitter @REBOOTOttawa


About The Author

glaxton's picture

Gregory Laxton is an IT professional and a speaker for democratic renewal issues. He served as a policy analyst with the Ontario government's Democratic Renewal Secretariat. He holds a BA in International Studies and... More


Great idea :) Let's support REBOOT so we can take advantage of the new fall provincial legislation--and work in concert with our fellow Ontarians in Toronto toward a ranked ballot for Ottawa, too. We still have time to change the Ottawa legislation in order to implement a ranked ballot for the 2018 elections! Look forward to seeing more on REBOOT soon.

Jamie Brougham

This is a great step forward to having some good democratic reform. I'll be amazed if it happens because status-quo is very difficult to change. As good as it is that the change happens for the reasons outlined, will be that change like this happened at all. If they can make it happen, the process should be copied across the country.
Good luck, and while I'm skeptical, I hope it happens!

Espoir Manirambona

Although a ranked ballot makes sense for mayoral elections. I feel that a city council should represent, as much as possible, all voters and that a proportional representation system like Single Transferable Vote for example makes a lot more sense if we're trying to maximize representation. Without PR, you still get some of the same issues as FPTP, under representation of women, visible minorities, and ultimately many voters will not get their first choice candidate to represent them. We can do better with STV.