What do the results of the 2018 ranked ballot question mean?

In response to the referendum question on the 2018 ballot, 13,488 people voted in favour of implementing a ranked ballot system for the 2022 Municipal Election; while 10,449 voted no. Total voter turnout for the 2018 election was 32.24 per cent and 27.27 per cent of all eligible voters voted on the ranked ballot question.  

Under the Ontario Municipal Act, referendum results are binding on the municipality when at least 50 per cent of all eligible electors vote on the question.

If this question had received a binding "yes" result, the new Cambridge City Council would have worked to implement the ranked ballot system for the 2022 Municipal Election. 

If this question had received a binding "no" result, Council would not consider or proceed with any change in the voting system to a ranked ballot system during the 2018-2022 term of office.

With voter turnout at less than 50 per cent of eligible voters, the results of the referendum are not binding on the municipality and Council may take the results under advisement and proceed on the matter as it chooses.

 

How does ranked ballot voting work?

Ranked ballot voting is an alternate to the traditional first-past-the-post voting system. With ranked ballots, rather than just choosing one candidate, voters rank the candidates according to their preference (first, second, third). The votes are counted and if one candidate receives a majority they win. If there is no majority the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated and their voters' second choices are used and the votes are counted again. This continues until one candidate achieves a majority. 

Visual of how ranked ballot voting works

Benefits of ranked ballot voting
  • Ensures no candidate wins without earning more than 50 per cent of the vote.
  • Reduces the need for "strategic voting" - voters can rank according to conscience without fear that they're "wasting" their vote.
  • Encourages candidates to broaden their appeal as they may wish to attract second and third choice support.
Drawbacks of ranked ballot voting
  • A change to the ranked ballot system may be confusing for experienced and new voters alike and may impact voter turnout.
  • Could make it harder for "underdog" candidates to win as they have to win a majority while this is not the case under first-past-the-post.
  • Does not always reflect the popular vote. A candidate can still win a majority without being the first choice for a large number of voters.
  • Voters whose first choices lose could still feel as though their vote did not count.
Frequently asked questions

About ranked ballots

 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.).
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.
Why has the provincial government allowed the use of ranked ballots?
Ranked ballots are an additional tool that would give municipalities more flexibility to meet the needs of their local communities.
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.

Please refer to the "Community Engagement" section for futher information regarding the City of Cambridge's open house and public meeting.

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.
What is the deadline for a municipality to pass a by-law 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.

Why is the deadline so far in advance of the next election?
Municipalities must have 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.

 About voting

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.
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.
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.

 About counting votes

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).
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.
Do the ballots have to be counted electronically?
Ranked ballots can be counted manually or electronically.
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.

For more information, visit the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing website.

Community Engagement

Ranked ballot for 2022 municipal election

There were two public open houses, hosted in September 2017, where it was communicated that Council will be posting a question to the electors in the upcoming municipal election on changing to a ranked ballot for the 2022 municipal election.

 

Public notice was given on January 4, 2018 advising that a by-law will be presented on February 20, 2018 to proceed with a question on the ballot in the 2018 municipal election. The question on the ballot will read as follows:

"Are you in favour of the City of Cambridge using a ranked ballot voting system for the 2022 municipal election?"

YES                     NO

Notice of Passing a By-law to Place a Question on the Election Ballot

Public notice was given on March 1, 2018 advising that at the February 20, 2018 Council meeting, Council approved By-law 28-18 authorizing and directing the City Clerk/Returning Officer to place the below question on the ballot for the 2018 Municipal Election in the City of Cambridge pursuant to the requirements of the Municipal Elections Act, 1996. 

"Are you in favour of the City of Cambridge using a ranked ballot voting system for the 2022 municipal election?"

YES                     NO

 

Under the Ontario Municipal Act, referendum results are binding on the municipality when at least 50 per cent of all eligible electors vote on the question.

If this question had received a binding "yes" result, the new Cambridge City Council would have worked to implement the ranked ballot system for the 2022 Municipal Election. 

If this question had received a binding "no" result, Council would not consider or proceed with any change in the voting system to a ranked ballot system during the 2018-2022 term of office.

With voter turnout at less than 50 per cent of eligible voters, the results of the referendum are not binding on the municipality and Council may take the results under advisement and proceed on the matter as it chooses.

Appeal Process
The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and any other person or entity may appeal to the Chief Elector Officer of the Province of Ontario on the grounds that the question:
  1. is not clear, concise or neutral, and/or
  2. is not capable of being answered by either the YES or NO options provided.

The deadline to appeal the question on the ballot was Wednesday, March 21, 2018.  No appeals were received.

Additional Information

 Reports and By-laws
Placing a Question on the Election Ballot - March 28, 2017

Direction to Proceed with Question on the Election Ballot - October 31, 2017

By-law 28-18 - Being a By-law of the Corporation of the City of Cambridge to submit to the electors a question pursuant to the Municipal Elections Act, 1996