Friday, October 2, 2015

Yesterday's vote against ranked ballots was Council looking out for itself

Why yesterday's vote against ranked ballots was all about Council looking out for itself, and not Torontonians

We're taking a break from Ford posts to provide some insights on yesterday's vote by Toronto City Council on voter reform. Council voted "yes" to ask the province to kill off the proposed option for ranked ballots in Ontario municipal elections.

Council voted 25-18 Thursday night to ask the province not to allow ranked choice voting, after rookie Councillor Justin Di Ciano introduced a motion calling for the reversal, saying that voting method is too “confusing.”
So were they acting in the best interests of Torontonians, or themselves? Logic dictates that a councillor with a slim margin of victory or a low overall share of the vote would be against a ranked ballot, because it increases the chance of a second-place finisher overtaking them on the instant runoff. A councillor with >50% of the vote likely wouldn't care either way, since they would win on the first ballot. Someone close to the 50% mark probably shouldn't be too concerned either.

So let's look at the vote. In this chart, we've mapped out the 2014 share of popular vote for each councillor, sorted by how they just voted on ranked ballots (click to enlarge):

Note: The motion was "Yes" to oppose ranked ballots, we've reversed the categories above to make it clearer

A few items to note: First off, only 25% of councillors with less than 50% of the vote support ranked ballots (surprise!). Councillors with 50% or more of the vote share were slightly in favour of ranked ballots. The average share of vote by the ranked supporters was 60%, while the average share for the status quo was 53%. Sorting by margin of victory (% of total votes more than the second place finisher) showed a similar distribution.

Comparing against 2010 results is also very instructive. Councillors who saw their share of the vote drop between 2010 and 2014 were less likely to support ranked ballots, and newcomers were much less likely:

  • Support grew by 10% or more 2010-2014: 50% support ranked ballots (t=14)
  • Support grew by less than 10% or shrank 2010-2014: 43% support ranked ballots (t=21)
  • New candidate in 2014: 25% support ranked ballots (t=8) 

Was October 1st, 2015, a great victory for democracy in the City of Toronto? Not particularly.

You can learn more about the ranked ballot initiative and why it's such a good idea over at

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