London election features historic ranked-choice ballot

November 4, 2018 by  

The October 21 municipal election in London, Ontario was significant not just in electing a new mayor for the South Ontario city, but also in the way it was conducted.

For the first time in Canadian history, an election was held using a ranked-choice ballot, instead of the first-past-the-post system typical in Canadian and American votes. London voters were not asked to simply mark off their preferred candidate, but instead to rank a first, second, and third choice. The electoral experiment has drawn interest from across the country.

In the new system, if no candidate wins an absolute majority (51%), the second- and third-place votes of losing candidates are applied to make sure that the elected mayor or councillor has the approval of a majority of voters.

The London Free Press found that reactions to the new method were mixed. Proponents of the system say that it will avoid situations where a candidate wins without receiving a majority of the vote (common in Canada’s multiparty democracy) and allow voters to support minor candidates without fears of wasting their vote. Others fear that the new ballot could be confusing to voters.

For most Londoners, the election season looked pretty similar. Candidates still got the word out through lawn signs, brochure printing, door-to-door visits, poster printing and other time-tested techniques.

Ed Holder, a former Conservative MP, was elected mayor after several rounds of counting. Elsewhere in Ontario, Kingston voted to adopt the ranked-choice method for the 2022 election.