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Frequently Asked Questions about Ranked Ballots

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  1. What are ranked ballots?

    Ranked ballots are used in voting systems in which voters are able to rank candidates based on their preference (i.e. first preference candidate, second preference candidate, etc.).
  2. Does my municipality have to use ranked ballots?

    No. Municipalities have the option to use ranked ballots in future municipal elections, starting in 2018, but ranked ballots are not mandatory for municipalities.
  3. Why has the provincial government allowed the use of ranked ballots?

    We want to allow more choice in how municipal elections are run. Ranked ballots are an additional tool that would give municipalities more flexibility to meet the needs of their local communities.
  4. Does the municipality have to consult with residents before deciding to switch to ranked ballots?

    A lower-tier or single-tier municipality must hold, at minimum, an open house and a public meeting.

    The purpose of the open house is to provide residents with information about how ranked ballot elections would work, an estimate of the cost, and a description of the voting and vote counting technology, if any, that is being considered (e.g. internet voting, vote tabulators, etc.) The public meeting gives residents the opportunity to provide feedback to council.

    An upper tier municipality is required to hold a public meeting. The upper-tier municipality is not required to hold an open house. The upper tier municipality must provide information about how ranked ballot elections would work and an estimate of the costs to the public at least 15 days before the public meeting is held.

  5. Can a municipality hold a referendum on ranked ballots?

    Council can put a question on the ballot, either as part of a regular election, or as part of a by-election during the council term. If council decides to put a question on the ballot, the municipality is still required to hold an open house and a public meeting before passing a by-law to use ranked ballots.
  6. What is the deadline for a municipality to decide to switch to ranked ballots?

    The deadline for lower-tier and single-tier municipalities to pass a by-law is May 1 in the year before the year of the election (e.g., May 1, 2017 for the 2018 regular election).

    The deadline for upper-tier municipalities to pass a by-law is July 1 in the year before the year of the election (e.g., July 1, 2017 for the 2018 regular election). An upper-tier municipality can only pass a by-law if all of its lower tier municipalities have also passed by-laws to use ranked ballots.

  7. Why is the deadline so far in advance of the next election?

    During our consultation, municipal clerks told us how important it is that the municipality have enough time to prepare for a ranked ballot election. This may include finding vendors to supply voting or vote-counting technology, and testing the equipment to make sure that it records and counts the votes accurately.

Voting

  1. Do I have to rank all the candidates?

    Council may decide the maximum number of rankings for each office. The default number of rankings is three, unless council decides on a different number.

    You are always free to rank fewer than the maximum number of rankings.

  2. Can I give all my rankings to the same candidate?

    Ranking the same candidate as your first, second and third choice (etc.) has the same effect as marking that candidate as your first choice, and not making any other rankings.
  3. Would it help my preferred candidate if I mark him or her as my only choice?

    Ranking a second and third choice will not affect the chances of your first choice being elected. In a single-member election, your second choice would only be considered if your first choice had already been eliminated. In a multi-member election, your second choice would only be considered if your first choice had already been eliminated or elected.

Counting Votes

  1. What happens if there is a tie?

    If two or more candidates are tied, the result of the previous round is used to decide which candidate will be considered to have the fewest or the most votes. If the candidates are tied in all of the previous rounds, the tie is decided by a random draw (i.e. by putting the candidates’ names in a hat or other container.
  2. What would happen if all my choices were eliminated?

    If all the candidates that you had listed as your preferences were eliminated, your ballot would become “exhausted.” Exhausted ballots are removed from the count, as they cannot be redistributed to any of the remaining candidates.
  3. Do the ballots have to be counted electronically?

    Ranked ballots can be counted manually or electronically. For instance, in their 2009 municipal election, Minneapolis, Minnesota (with a population of over 385,000 at the time) counted all of the ballots cast in its first ranked ballot election by hand.
  4. How long will it take to count the votes?

    The length of time it takes to count the votes may depend on whether the ballots are being counted manually or electronically. It may take several days to determine the results of the election.