London just made history

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London City Council just become the first government in Canada to abandon First-Past-the-Post!

Minutes ago, the City Council of London Ontario voted in favour of switching to a ranked ballot system for their 2018 municipal election.  This unprecedented decision makes London City Council the first and only government, anywhere in Canada, to abandon First-Past-the-Post.

Ranked ballots are a small and simple change that make local elections more fair, inclusive and friendly.  In an age of increasing political cynicism, it’s exciting to see change taking place towards electoral systems that deliver fair results, reduce negativity and encourage more voices to participate. Explore our website to learn more about the benefits of ranked ballots - and myths.  London City staff have also created some fantastic resources for citizens.

Recently introduced legislation in Ontario allows any of the province’s 444 municipalities to use ranked ballots for their local elections, but sadly 443 Councils decided to keep the status quo.  London has now put themselves on the map as the #1 leader of democratic renewal in Canada – a great gift to the country on our 150th birthday!

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London Chamber of Commerce: do your homework

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Today's London Free Press contains a very unusual op-ed from the London Chamber of Commerce.  The piece urges City Council not to proceed with ranked ballots and offers some strange arguments against reform.  Here are some of the most interesting quotes from the piece, penned by Gerry Macartney - Chief Executive and General Manager:

"Will it really cost us about $3.5 million to ramp up the election machinery to accommodate a ranked ballot system? Is that a one-time cost or the same increase every election going forward? And isn’t $3.5 million about a 1.5 per cent hike to my property taxes?"

Umm.. what?  According to London City staff, "It is estimated that a ranked ballot election would cost at least an additional $322,500.  This results in an additional cost of $1.24 per eligible elector".  Macartney seems to have taken the cost estimates from London staff.. and randomly multiplied it by TEN.  I have a hunch that Londoners will one day recover from this tragic $1.24 economic burden.

"The pro side claims it reduces negative campaigning, elects more minorities and more women. Again they may be right, but I have yet to see definitive proof."

Well, clearly he didn't look very far.  There are academic reports written about the increase in campaign civility (like this one), and reports about the impact on diverse representation (like this one).  Shoudn't he have looked for these reports before writing the op-ed, rather than writing about how he didn't bother to look?

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"I am the furthest thing from an expert on this subject, but I do know I don’t have a clear understanding of the benefits or risks of ranked balloting from any reputable, scientifically studied source."

I'm not sure I've ever seen an op-ed begin with the author pointing out that they don't know anything about the topic.  There;s an enormous amount of data and academic reports about the effects of ranked ballots.  For some unclear reason, Macartney chose not to read them, which raises an important question: If you openly admit that you "don't have a clear understanding" of the topic... why are you writing an op-ed about it?

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Atlantic Uprising: How the east coast is leading the way on voting reform

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Cross-posted on Huffington Post


While we've all been distracted by the fallout of Donald Trump's unexpected election as president, another important political story has been unfolding under the radar. At the same time that Hillary Clinton lost the presidency, despite getting three million more votes than Trump, voters in New England (the birthplace of the American Revolution) and Prince Edward Island (the birthplace of Canadian confederation) delivered an unprecedented one-two punch to the archaic and dysfunctional first-past-the-post voting system.

In two referendums, one on each side of the border, residents of Maine voted in favour of switching the entire state over to ranked choice voting (RCV) and two days earlier voters in P.E.I. embraced a system called mixed member proportional (MMP).

Both of these systems offer distinct benefits to voters and offer a glimpse of hope that we can overcome the democratic deficit in both countries. First-past-the-post feeds cynicism and apathy because it distorts election results, pushes out new voices, forces people to vote 'strategically', encourages negative campaigns and produces predominantly white/male governments that do not reflect the diversity of the population. Both RCV and MMP, on the other hand, help to cure some of these problems.

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Ranked ballot consultations coming to London Ontario!

London Ontario has just become ground-zero for democratic reform in Canada. While almost every City Council in the province has put self-interest ahead of public interest by quickly (and quietly) rejecting the opportunity of using ranked ballots for the 2018 election, a handful of young and innovative Councillors in London have pushed for a full public consultation to explore the option.

You can be sure that status-quo defenders will be out in force, spreading lies about ranked ballots and trying to scare residents away from change. Let's make sure that advocates get their message out too, telling voters that ranked ballots are easy to use and easy to implement, producing elections that are more fair and more friendly.

Please share this with anyone you know who lives in London. Thanks!!

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Learn more about municipal ranked ballots here:

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Hands off! This is no job for politicians.

sm_hummers4mayor_poster.jpgMy second-favorite political poster of all time is from the 1982 Hummer Sisters' mayoral campaign in Toronto.  Their slogan, "This is no job for politicians", is just as relevent today as it was 35 years ago - especially when it comes to my favorite topic: democratic renewal.

Politicians, of all stripes, have shown us that they cannot be trusted with decisions related to electoral reform.  Rigged referendums, misinformation and broken promises all take us further away from our goal of proportional government. Politicians are in a conflict-of-interest when it comes to voting reform, because they are the ones who won under the current system.  If one system got you elected.... why would you change it?

So I say "Hands Off!".  It's time for us to reclaim this important policy file and put it into the hands of regular people.

Does that mean we should use referendums instead?  No, not necessarily.  But it could.  The devil is in the details.  The problem with referendums, especially on a complex topic, is that many voters might not be informed enough to make a decision that is in their own interest.  This is especially true when the referendum process is rigged with an intentional lack of education funding (as we saw in Ontario's referendum).  But even with proper education, a referendum is still a non-deliberative process.  

So how we do create a deliberative process, without politicians?  The answer is called a Citizens Assembly or Citizens Reference Panel.  Pioneered in Canada, starting with BC's 2004 Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, it's a really innovative process that removes partisan conflict-of-interest (..and partisan games, partisan bickering, partisan infantile behaviour, etc...) and replaces it with a randomly-selected non-partisan panel of regular citizens.  Just like a jury! 

The Reference Panel goes through three stages:

1) Education.  They learn about an issue, intensively and in-depth.

2) Consultation:  They hear advice and suggestions from experts, advocates and the public.

3) Deliberation:  They go through a facilitated discussion, weighing all the options.

4) Decision: They produce a concrete recommendation.

This is precisely what the 2016 All-Party Committee on Electoral Reform (ERRE) was supposed to do.  Except for one problem: the Committee was comprised of politicians.

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Fair elections proposed for Vancouver City Council

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Vancouver's Independent Election Taskforce presented their final report today calling for Proportional Representation for City Council elections and recommending a randomly-selected Citizens Assembly to design the new system.  

The report covers five core recommendations:

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PEI votes for fair elections

votingforpr.jpg150 years after Canada was conceived in Charlottetown, the residents of Prince Edward Island have delivered a blow to Canada's archaic First-Past-the-Post voting system.  How fitting that the birthplace of confederation would now lead Canada towards democratic renewal!

Voters were asked to express their preference for five different voting systems:

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YES on 5: A big moment for Ranked Ballots!

Yes_on_Five.pngWhile most eyes will be on the Trump/Clinton showdown this Tuesday night, many of us will be watching another vote just as closely.  Residents of Maine will be voting on six "ballot initiatives" (referendums), one of which would switch ALL of their state elections to ranked ballots.  The change would include their elections for U.S. senators, U.S. representatives, the governor, state senators, and state representatives.

It's fair to say that this would be the biggest step forward for electoral reform, anywhere in North America, in over a century.

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Ranked ballots are here! (including STV!)

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The province of Ontario has just released their regulations for municipal ranked ballots!  For the first time, we can see all the details of single-member Ranked Choice Voting as well as multi-member STV (Single Transferable Vote - a proportional system).

This is a huge step forward for Canada's voting reform movement.  For the first time in over half a century, legislation has been adopted that breaks the First-Past-The-Post monopoly in Canada. We are currently the only OECD country that uses FPTP exclusively, but these new regulations open the door to reform.

For those who are tired of distorted results, negative campaigns, lack of choice, strategic voting and low voter engagement, this is big news.

The only question now is: Who will lead?

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Maryam Monsef's Eight Principles

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Canada's Liberal government has promised to get rid of First-Past-the-Post.  But what should they replace it with?  Ranked Choice Voting? Mixed Member Proportional? Single Transferable Vote?  And more importantly, what process should they use to figure that out? Public consultation? A Citizens' Assembly? A referendum?

All these questions have fallen into the lap of Mayram Monsef, Canada's new Minister for Democratic Institutions.  At a recent event in Ottawa, Minister Monsef gave us a peek at how she's planning to approach this difficult topic.  There's a great article on iPolitics that summarises the "Eight Principles" that the Minister put forward.  Below is a word-for-word transcript of her presentation, including a few links we've added to the text. Enjoy!

 

Mayram Monsef, April 14 2016, iVote Symposium  (VIDEO available here)

"Let me tell you a little bit about what I’ve been up to as your Minister for Democratic Institutions.  Much like the promise I made to the people of Peterborough–Kawartha that I would do politics differently, that same principle and that same way of doing politics differently is something that I’ve brought to my mandate here.

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